Innovation – How Does it All Begin?
My sweet tooth, known to all my friends, goes back to days when I was a child. Today, as Innovation Manager, I try to bring this old hobby of mine to the professional worlds. In my very early years I loved to try and taste unfamiliar combos, and one of my favorites was eating pretzels with chocolate cubes. I remember myself as a child eating two pretzels and immediately finishing off with a chocolate cube, then another 2-3 pretzels and again a piece of chocolate. Sometimes I was really bold and took a bite from both the pretzel and chocolate at once.
Back then it seemed quite unusual, but today it is a trend – the sweet-savory combination is becoming increasingly popular in all kinds of familiar products (take, for example, the savory puffed corn snacks with chocolate filling- an Israeli favorite). Maybe chocolate-coated pretzels could have been a new product idea a few decades ago (without giving away my age, of course)?
Where Do Ideas Come from?
Some of us experience it in the shower, or while walking through the supermarket isles between the various shelves. Others become inspired by watching children and the special mixes they create, but ideas can often result from reading online or talking with friends.
In short, new ideas are everywhere. However, an idea is just the “tip” of the process. Once you have an idea, the hard work begins – processing it into a tangible product, turning it from just another fictional fantasy into an existing reality.
Turning an Idea Into a Product
This is the moment when important questions need to be answered. Who does this “thing without a name yet” suit? How can it be produced? Who would want to buy it? Why would them?
When we engage in our idea, it undergoes changes, goes different directions, and takes on new shapes, until we have something concrete that can be brought to discussion. Then comes the phase when we choose someone to talk to – to present our idea to and receive feedback, fine-tuning, improvement and sometimes an input that will bury it forever …
We say about new products that one out of the ten is considered a success, while the rest typically have short-term wins at best or fail altogether at worst.
In case you were wondering about the percentage of ideas implementation, I will have to disappoint you. There are no statistics about ideas, but an idea presented to an external person already bears a greater potential.
Sharing and Implementing
Because there is no better way than sharing to bring ideas one step closer to becoming a reality, we make a point of holding an annual Ideas Fair at our Fun & Indulgence division. By doing so, we increase the range of possibilities and choose new products to introduce on the market.
Typically, on this day we turn to external experts for help in diversifying the ideas raised, but this year we decided to use in-house experts only – our development technologies are an endless source of ideas, creativity and curiosity.
Ahead of this year’s fair, we asked each technologist to think about new product ideas to present in the fun & indulgence field (or as people like to call it: “sweets”), rather than the fields they routinely engage in.
The initial sorting process included a series of pre-defined questions and ideas: Product description, the idea behind the product (inspiration, how we arrived at this product), the technical challenge, operational feasibility assessment (and estimated time-to-market) and a production line in the plant.
Based on the answers to these questions we arrived at 35 interesting and unique ideas which we wanted to introduce in the Ideas Fair. Some rely on existing technologies, while others require development of new technologies and complex technical cracking. Some can be quickly implemented, while others take longer to complete.
Then the real work began. Each technologist tried to produce a prototype of their suggested products in the development labs. You can probably imagine that this involved many long hours of tests, tasting, and more tests, until they each achieved satisfactory results. All these tests and trials were filmed, put into a presentation, and brought to the colorful fair where ideas were presented, samples were tasted, and, of course, the most interesting and promising ideas were selected.
As the Ideas Fair came to a close, I had a strong feeling we were left with some guaranteed successes, including products with interesting sweet-savory flavor combinations that follow the current trend, and which I had already discovered as a child in my personal experiments with pretzel and chocolate.