When it comes to innovation, constraints can set you free
Facebook famously tells its employees: “Done is better than perfect”.
The idea is that staff should complete projects quickly and move on – rather than agonising forever over details, and letting other tasks pile up. The mantra comes from an appreciation that we operate in a fast-moving world and that being first with new products, solutions and features, counts for a lot – even if it’s not completely flawless on launch day.
An appropriate adaptation of Facebook’s mantra for consumer goods companies might be: “Doable products are better than dream products”. In other words, don’t pursue the theoretically perfect innovation if the obstacles are too great. Instead, start with what you can do, and take it from there.
Happen puts this thinking into practice through Asset-Out – an innovation framework that harnesses the potential in your factories, identifying product features that you can produce with little or no investment in new equipment or processes, and working out how they can be used to meet consumer demands.
Costas Papaikonomou of Happen advises companies to look at it this way: “Think of your business as an operating system. Your company’s app developers have to develop apps that work with your OS. If you’re Apple, there’s no use your team creating Android apps.”
Some might balk at the idea of choosing to put boundaries on creativity, but these limitations can actually help innovation thrive, by challenging us to think differently and see the bigger picture. It’s a concept that’s well known in the world of art: unexpected obstacles often spur artists to create their greatest work. Poets rely on restrictive poetic forms to spark inspiration, while visual artists spur creativity by working within the bounds of a particular discipline or setting their own arbitrary limitations.
Clients of Asset-Out often surprise themselves with the new ideas they generate by considering their production assets first. Karina Mikkelsen, head of product technology development at Arla Foods, says: “With Asset-Out, we could ensure that NPD opportunities were tied to feasibility in our supply chain structure, so we didn’t have to go out and ask for extensive investment for a new idea. And the supply chain ideas actually improved the quality of the innovation sessions.”
For Arla, this resulted in B.O.B Milk, which has become one of the company’s most successful launches ever, and has been named Product of the Year.
Who wouldn’t want that kind of success?