In the past decade the race to innovate changed entirely. As soon as the first smartphone hit the market, consumers flocked to the brands that could deliver the most powerful digital experience, even if it meant severing a lifelong customer relationship. The digital revolution motivated even 200-year-old financial institutions to transform their way of working. Companies had to learn how to out-innovate the competition – quickly – to survive. Those who held out too long went the way of Blockbuster Video.
This provoked business leaders to ask one confounding question – Why do some brands consistently produce groundbreaking ideas faster than others?
The answers came from a wide variety of teams, researchers, and field experts in every industry. Their work led to the rise of agile development, enterprise design thinking, and popular innovation treatises like Loonshots.
Across all of these studies and movements, a few central innovation tenets have held true. Now they’re being leveraged beyond the digital product world, for consumer packaged goods like cosmetics, automotive, and food and beverage.
What happens when the food and beverage industry takes a page out of the digital innovation book? Here are three of the underlying causes of consistent innovation, and how CPG companies can reap the benefits.
Innovation principle 1: More ideas, and stronger ideas, come from groups of people with diverse disciplines.
Even experienced product designers can’t compete with diversity of thought. Consistent innovation requires developers, marketers, researchers, engineers, finance managers, and anyone else who can be tapped to throw an idea in the ring and offer feedback. The leaps in innovation happen in companies where designers share their design thinking tools with non-designers across the organization, empowering everyone to innovate in the context of their daily work.
When voices from across the organization are invited and enabled to contribute, ideas begin to flow much more quickly, from unexpected places.
Innovation principle 2: Test small, test fast, iterate.
Breakout products are rarely the ones that are planned years in advance. They are much more likely to be successful when companies adopt a rapid experimentation practice. They follow agile methodologies to ideate, prototype, test, and iterate quickly. Not only does this lead to greater consumer satisfaction and ultimately market success, it reduces the risk of costly product failures.
Having teams and processes synced in a PLM solution makes rapid iteration much more attainable, even in highly regulated industries like food and beverage.
One Selerant customer, a major global bakery, reported this acceleration effect at the 2019 Selerant User Conference: “We didn’t realize how much email and Excel went around before. Now we just add it to Devex. It keeps happening, and the pace keeps growing. Now it’s the hub for project information. We don’t have to wait for an email saying a gate was approved, because within seconds that key product info shoots out as soon as it hits the right stage. We can’t believe we used to pay for someone to type that and send it.”
Innovation principle 3: Break the silos – free the data.
Innovation begins with information. Unless teams across the organization have access to both product data and business goals, they won’t have the raw materials they need to innovate. Because consistent ideas require voices from many disciplines, all teams need a central hub where they can access as much information as they are authorized to handle.
PLM software helps with this as well, offering fine-tuned permissions, dashboards, and data to the people in the best position to make vital product decisions. It reduces the need to pause and hunt down some other department’s spreadsheet or folder, and puts people firmly in the flow of working, ideating, and iterating as fast as possible.
Selerant customers found this to be true as well. “With Devex we were able to make six different changes to a good product that needed more moisture, and get immediate feedback, and know it would be right. We could never have done that many changes at this point in the process without that rapid feedback. And we could see costs as we went. Very powerful.”
CPG companies certainly don’t need to adopt every new buzzword that arises from the digital product sector in order to outmaneuver the competition. But with a few cues from the digital revolution handbook – like diversity of contributors, agile iterations, and central access to data – they can start to benefit richly from its lessons.