Reconsidering innovation in the midst of uncertainty

KANSAS CITY – Successful innovation is hard to come by even in the best of times. This is greatly complicated in the midst of a global pandemic that exacerbates a number of uncontrollable factors that could hinder product release.

“Depending on whose statistics you believe, somewhere between 60% and 90% of all food and beverage innovations fail in two years,” said Jeff Grog, founder and managing director of JPG Resources, Battle Creek, state. Michigan. “If you’re innovative, you’re going to have some mistakes.”

These are far from ideal times for innovators. The supply chain crisis caused by the pandemic is creating significant barriers for early-stage brands that lack the scale and resources to compete with well-known companies.

“Small companies sometimes have trouble even calling retailers, and it all comes down to the fact that retailers feel that many small brands are having a hard time working, especially innovation and especially new things,” Mr Grog said in a statement. presentations at Winter. The Fancy Food show on Feb. 7 in Las Vegas. “They cope with their pain and struggle on their own, and they want to have full shelves.”

In conditions of uncertainty, it may be wise to suspend innovation. Mr. Grog pointed to Ilona Maska, co-founder and CEO of Tesla, Inc. and “the most hyperactive innovator of our time,” who recently announced that the carmaker won’t be introducing new models this year because of the global car market. chip shortage.

“It’s okay if we don’t promote innovation now,” Mr Grog said. “If necessary, focus on your core. Focus on reducing your SKU. Focus on losing weight. Focus on winning where you play. ”

Against the backdrop of complexity, product developers need to accept simplicity “in the process, in your product and in the way you get to market,” he said. Now is not the time to launch “some exits from there,” he added. Consumer data can provide compelling information, but can also be distracting and misleading. The product must meet the obvious needs of the market and match the brand. If that’s not the case, brand managers need to move on – and celebrate that decision.

“One of the hardest things about an organization is to stop what you’ve invested in,” Mr. Grog said. “It is very difficult for someone to understand the concept of sound capital … At some point you need to be able to say,“ This is wrong. It won’t work. ” … Whatever work you’ve done so far, you need to disconnect. There is no reason to continue to pursue this. You have to reward your team for making a difficult challenge. ”

Creating a culture of innovation within an organization requires building trust and openness, eradicating toxicity and fear, encouraging different perspectives, and encouraging contributions from everyone.

“If innovation only exists in marketing, you get a very limited lens,” he said.

In developing the new product, Mr Grog said: “right is better than fast”. Brands often market a concept to stay ahead of competitors and generate feedback for subsequent iterations. The “minimally viable product” model that has emerged in the technology industry is not the best approach for food and beverage brands, especially now, Mr Grog said.

“Companies use this as an excuse to launch things that aren’t good enough,” he said. “I would urge you not to do that … That should be good. It should be what people want, and too often we are in a hurry and not getting good results. “

No two companies are alike, and it is known that not every business has the luxury of a business enjoyed by Mr. Musk. However, many successful entrepreneurs in difficult situations find ways to “slow down the burning” to a more convenient time. This is an approach that deserves careful consideration in the current context.

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