Six Insights for Innovating Amid Disruption

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In many ways 2020 defines the idea of disruption: the entire world went into lockdown, markets fluctuate, and every university and R&D department raced to innovate. There were many who lost; entertainment venues, and swarths of food vendors vanished within weeks. Contrarily, Ford pivoted to making face shields, masks and ventilators within weeks and Zoom became a household term. It’s hard to imagine an industry that coronavirus hasn’t affected in some way. What makes the difference between success and failure when the status quo falls apart? Last November, Stella Peace, Chief R&D and Quality Officer, of Nomad Foods and our CEO, Tim Bernstein sat down to try and answer just that question. Here are the key insights.

1.Launch Your B’s while You Build Your A’s

Most of the new innovations that came to market in the first stage of the pandemic were products that had already been developed but were tabled for some reason; maybe insufficient demand or there was some missing requirement. Six months passed before we started seeing most of the innovations developed directly in response to COVID-19 hit the market. Look to products that might not have been a perfect fit before but can be adapted to the moment while you start the direct innovation process.

2. Ready Resources

Last October, we submitted a couple tech leads to one of our clients. They were good solutions, fit scope, and were definitely actionable. Our client liked them, agreed with the value and quality of the leads, but said they couldn’t possibly begin the process of roll out for six to twelve months. They were already inundated. If you do not have the resources allocated ahead of time, then opportunities will slip by. These funds must be ready and available when the disruption hits. If you can’t bring resources to bear, good ideas are going to wither on the vine.

3. A Developed Pipeline

A key component of a readiness strategy is a tested approach to move new products and ideas through to market quickly. At the lowest level, individual innovation teams at Nomad Foods use an agile development method running two-week development sprints. This lets teams stay nimble and focused. For larger scale evaluation, they use five major strategies:

  • Big Bets – Outside of the box game changers
  • Core stretches – Extending core capability within existing categories
  • Tactical launches/Product Rotation – Natural SKU rotations in the market
  • PPA Price adjustments – Packaging and price
  • Renovations – Ensuring products remain superior for consumers

Nomad Foods then evaluates each innovation in terms of the amount of resources needed to effectively launch or maintain product lines based on the demands on the moment. Under Covid, focusing on fewer, bigger, and better innovations let Nomad reduce factory resets and retooling, which in turn reduced disruption to production lines, and risk to their workers.

4. Stay Committed to Innovation

It’s not uncommon after a disruption like this for companies to allocate funds and set up a readiness plan for future upsets. Yet during the interim periods those funds and personnel are gradually siphoned off by the normal demands of business until once again the company is caught unready. Maintaining an ongoing commitment to innovation and development will serve not just in disruptive periods, but also keep the company fresh and moving forwards.

5. Top Level Buy In

We’ve seen over and over that innovation only really works in companies that prioritize it from the top down. Usually someone in the C-Suite manages the entire portfolio of innovation, tracking bets on new tech, ROIs, and maintaining a buffer so they can direct resources as needed. Nomad in particular manages this by having leadership engagement in innovation practices all the way to the top of their company hierarchy.

6. There will be Natural Winners and Losers

Disruptions will support or hinder different industries. Under coronavirus there have been a few obvious beneficiaries: Health, hygiene, nutrition and sustainability. In food industries, the overall trend of consumer interest in healthy eating accelerated. Based on their portfolio, Nomad was particularly well placed to leverage this demand. Being in the right place at the right time matters, but it’s not the only deciding factor. Had they not been able to increase production and innovate appropriately, Nomad would not have experienced as much a boost in market penetration and retention.

We will continue to be surprised by disruptions. It is the nature of life that unexpected challenges will appear in our path. Being able to zig with the zags and make it over the rocky patches with a committed innovation practice can make all the difference in whether a company survives, let alone thrives.

Want more information? Watch the recording of the webinar.



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