How to protect your core with real world innovation
By Wilbur Strickland, VP, chocolate R&D, Mondelez
What does innovation success look like?
A maverick visionary bringing a completely new idea to market, and defying everyone’s expectations to make it a massive hit?
Sure, that happens sometimes. But for every headline-grabbing innovation, the road is strewn with dozens of failures. The fact is that truly breakthrough innovation successes are few and far between – and they’re as risky as they are rare.
Big businesses like Mondelez need more than that.
We sell in more than 170 countries, so we’re looking for innovations that we can roll out on a global scale. The factory equipment that makes our products represents many millions of dollars of investment. We can’t just throw all that out and replace it whenever we come up with something new. Rather, we want to make sure that when we come up with something new, we can continue to use those same production assets.
So while breakthrough innovations are fantastic, in the real world we also need innovation ideas that are closer to the core of what we already do, so we can pursue them with confidence, and at scale. It’s a less sexy type of innovation, perhaps, but just as commercially significant.
The way I see it, the smartest innovators aren’t just blue-sky thinkers, they’ve also got their feet firmly on the ground. They make the effort to get under the skin of our business and understand the realities of how products are made. If that means rolling up their sleeves, donning a hairnet and spending time on the factory floor studying production lines, that’s what they do, and they’ll be proud to come up with innovations that are inspired by what’s possible.
After all, if a new innovation can help grow a multimillion dollar brand or business by one or two per cent, that’s a massive opportunity. Companies like ours need to understand that innovation success can take different forms, so ideally you want a mix in your portfolio: innovation ideas that build on what we do now, and others that take us somewhere totally new.
A lot of a little can be just as significant as a little of a lot.