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Think Past Product when You Think about Disruptive Innovation

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Author: Dermott Dowling @Creatovate (2016).

Now more than ever we need to think past new products and improved product performance when we think of truly ‘#disruptive innovation’ that upsets incumbents in industries and creates sustainable competitive advantage for the disruptive innovators.

How many types of innovation can you think of?  Have a go…write them down below as many as you can…can you see 10 or more distinct types of innovation examples?

  1. ……………
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  3. ……………..
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  5. …………..
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  10. ……………..

Often, when we think about innovation all we think about is new products or improving existing product performance.  This is very important, but one of the increasing challenges we face in a hyper-competitive fast-pace modern business world is the ability of low-cost fast-to-market competitors copying your innovation and reducing your margin on new products and improved product performance as quickly as you can bring these new products to market.

Take this comment from a former Australian PepsiCo® R&D manager – is it symptomatic of your industry as well?

We knew Smith’s Popped Chips was going to be a success as Popped Chips was doing very well in the US and our early prototypes tested very well with consumers and retailers.  What we didn’t expect was 3 other competitor brands and a private label retail brand launching at exactly the same time as we did!” PepsiCo® R&D & Innovation Manager, AIFST Innovation Reloaded Conference, Sydney, 2014.

The following extracts from articles and sources follow to help you think of multiple types of innovation so the next time you come up with a great idea for your business you might also think of some additional types of innovation to build on that great idea and ask your peers and customers and networks inside and outside your business for their ideas to help build a truly ‘disruptive innovation’.

Whatever your company hopes to do in terms of innovation, we suggest that the answer involves innovating within the following 10 distinct innovation areas, classified by the Doblin model:

  1. profit model,
  2. company network,
  3. company structure,
  4. company process,
  5. product,
  6. product performance,
  7. customer service,
  8. customer channel,
  9. innovative branding and
  10. customer engagement.

Let’s take a look at each of the 10 distinct types of innovation and an example of a company using that type of innovation as a key distinct advantage in their industry.  Note that you need to aim for at least 3 and ideally 5 or more different types of innovation to create a truly ‘disruptive innovation’ that can be sustained for a decent period of time in a highly competitive industry (Keeley, 2015).

Profit Model

How you make money | Innovative profit models find fresh ways to convert your offerings and other sources of value into cash. Great ones reflect a deep understanding of what customers and users actually cherish and where new revenue or pricing opportunities might lie. Innovative profit models often challenge an industry’s tired old assumptions about what to offer, what to charge or how to collect revenues. This is a big part of their power: in most industries the dominant profit model often goes unquestioned for decades. (Doblin, Deloitte Development LLC.)

Examples of companies that successfully altered profit models in established industries to include:

  • Gillette – the ‘razor and blades’ profit model has been celebrated for years and adapted to countless other industries from ‘printers & cartridges’ to ‘coffee makers & capsules’
  • Dell – reengineered the go-to-market delivery system when it first launched selling direct causing large share loss for competitors with traditional reseller business models.

Network

How you connect with others to create value | In today’s hyper-commercial world, no company can or should do everything alone. Network innovations provide a way for firms to take advantage of other companies’ processes, technologies, offerings, channels and brands — pretty much any and every component of a business. These innovations mean a firm can capitalize on its own strengths while harnessing the capabilities and assets of others. Network innovations also help executives to share risk in developing new offers and ventures. These collaborations can be brief or enduring, and they can be formed between close allies or even staunch competitors. (Doblin, Deloitte Development LLC.)

Examples of companies that have successfully created value through network include:

  • Target (US) – work with product designers and world-renowned fashion designers to create items only available at Target, other retailers to create Pop-Up stores for limited times only.
  • P&G – Connect + Develop – P&G connects with external innovators and companies who submit innovations to P&G’s Connect + Develop. Connect + Develop is P&G’s program for encouraging open innovation, also known as crowdsourcing.

Structure

How you organize and align your talent and assets | Structure innovations are focused on organizing company assets — hard, human or intangible — in unique ways that create value. They can include everything from superior talent management systems to ingenious configurations of heavy capital equipment. An enterprise’s fixed costs and corporate functions can also be improved through Structure innovations, including departments such as Human Resources, R&D and IT. (Doblin, Deloitte Development LLC.)

Some companies that have created value through network innovation include:

  • Whole Foods Market – is a ‘high trust organization’ where teams are everything from hiring which requires 2/3 team approval to P&L management, transparency is everything and decentralized innovations are amplified quickly instead of achingly slowly (if at all) (Keeley, et al, 2013, p. 28).
  • L. Gore – has used a ‘flat lattice’ organisation model where teams are deliberately kept small and every employee becomes a shareholder after 1 year of service.

Process

How you use signature or superior methods to do your work | Process innovations involve the activities and operations that produce an enterprise’s primary offerings. Innovating here requires a dramatic change from “business as usual” that enables the company to use unique capabilities, function efficiently, adapt quickly and build market-leading margins. Process innovations often form the core competency of an enterprise, and may include patented or proprietary approaches that yield advantages for years or even decades. Ideally, they are the “special sauce” you use that competitors simply can’t replicate. (Doblin, Deloitte Development LLC.)

Examples of companies that have created value through process innovation include:

  • Zara – using fast fashion trends and supply chain optimisation Zara can move from the sketchpad or fashion runways of this world to the shop floor in just 3 weeks, the clothes will hang from Barcelona to Berlin to Beirut (Helft, 2002).
  • Toyota – ‘lean’ production system reduced waste and excess, driving astonishing efficiency and continual product and process improvement across the business.
  • IKEA – ‘flat-pack’ furniture with no variation by region or country with the same hardware and instructions regardless of where bought or sold streamline internal production processes.

 

Product Performance

How you develop distinguishing features and functionality | Product Performance innovations address the value, features and quality of a company’s offering. This type of innovation involves both entirely new products as well as updates and line extensions that add substantial value. Too often, people mistake Product Performance for the sum of innovation. It’s certainly important, but it’s always worth remembering that it is only one of the Ten Types of Innovation, and it’s often the easiest for competitors to copy. Think about any product or feature war you’ve witnessed — whether torque and toughness in trucks, toothbrushes that are easier to hold and use, even with baby strollers. Too quickly, it all devolves into an expensive mad dash to parity. Product Performance innovations that deliver long-term competitive advantage are the exception rather than the rule. (Doblin, Deloitte Development LLC.)

Examples of companies that have used Product Performance innovation include:

  • Dyson – from vacuum cleaners to hand-dryers to fans Dyson continuously innovates on ways to deconstruct what is not working well in existing industries and then rebuild products on platforms that offer customers superior product performance and charge premium prices for the privilege of use of these products.
  • Mars – with My M&Ms people are able to add their own messages, logos, or images to specific colour M&M candies – personalising product and opening up new uses. Ferrero has done similarly innovative things to reinvent Nutella and put it back on the table at home or out and about in cafes and shopping malls.

Product System

How you create complementary products and services | Product System innovations are rooted in how individual products and services connect or bundle together to create a robust and scalable system. This is fostered through interoperability, modularity, integration, and other ways of creating valuable connections between otherwise distinct and disparate offerings. Product System innovations help you build ecosystems that captivate and delight customers and defend against competitors. (Doblin, Deloitte Development LLC.)

Companies that create product system innovations include:

  • Microsoft – Office – initially the products that went into MS Office like Word, PowerPoint and Excel were sold as individual products, now bundled together with Outlook and more they create an integrated system that is used as a productivity suite globally.
  • Scion by Toyota® – Scion allows consumers to build their own car choosing from a selection of models and colours, paint and tyre trim modifications, radio, and more.

Service

How you support and amplify the value of your offerings | Service innovations ensure and enhance the utility, performance and apparent value of an offering. They make a product easier to try, use and enjoy; they reveal features and functionality customers might otherwise overlook; and they fix problems and smooth rough patches in the customer journey. Done well, they elevate even bland and average products into compelling experiences that customers come back for again and again. (Doblin, Deloitte Development LLC.)

Some companies doing the obvious great are:

  • Zappos – who would of thought buying a pair of shoes could be so much fun and so rewarding for the founders – Zappos sold to Amazon for US$1.1billion in 2009. ‘Deliver ‘WOW’ through service’ is the first of Zappos 10 core values.
  • Sysco – one of the largest food distributors in North America with $43b in revenues, to elevate service in a relatively commoditized industry, Sysco created ‘Business Reviews’, a FREE consulting service helping clients to design menus or plan back-of-the-house logistics.

Channel

How you deliver your offerings to customers and users | Channel innovations encompass all the ways that you connect your company’s offerings with your customers and users. While e-commerce has emerged as a dominant force in recent years, traditional channels such as physical stores are still important — particularly when it comes to creating immersive experiences. Skilled innovators in this type often find multiple but complementary ways to bring their products and services to customers. Their goal is to ensure that users can buy what they want, when and how they want it, with minimal friction and cost and maximum delight. (Doblin, Deloitte Development LLC.)

An example of a company who connected their offer to customers in new and innovative way:

  • Xiameter® from Dow Corning is a web-based sales channel first launched in 2002 that assists customers with a new way to buy silicone. Cost conscious buyers without the need for technical support or advice were able to select from 1,000s of product options, choose pricing and terms that suit them and lock in price and volume commitments in a simple but effective no frills business model that ran alongside the mother company.
  • Nespresso® has retail stores and coffee shops worldwide, operates concessions inside department stores, online club for ordering capsules and machines, retail resellers for machines, partnerships with hotels like Ritz-Carlton & Hyatt, Airports and a Chefs and Sommelier program for harmonizing coffee with food and wine. Multiple channels are used to engage customers and consumers.

Brand

How you represent your offerings and business | Brand innovations help to ensure that customers and users recognize, remember and prefer your offerings to those of competitors or substitutes. Great ones distil “a promise” that attracts buyers and conveys a distinct identity. They are typically the result of carefully crafted strategies that are implemented across many touch points between your company and your customers, including communications, advertising, service interactions, channel environments, and employee and business partner conduct. Brand innovations can transform commodities into prized products, and confer meaning, intent and value to your offerings and your enterprise. (Doblin, Deloitte Development LLC.)

Companies that have used ‘brand innovation’ successfully to date include:

  • Virgin – starting as a mail order record business and now involved in planes, trains, rockets, telecoms, wealth and health management and more! Virgin is the elastic band of ‘brand’!
  • Aldi – have innovated using brand ‘exclusive’ or ‘destination’ branding that cuts out the middleman and goes direct to suppliers to find unique food products, beverages, and houseware.

Customer Engagement

How you foster compelling interactions | Customer Engagement innovations are all about understanding the deep-seated aspirations of customers and users, and using those insights to develop meaningful connections between them and your company. Great Customer Engagement innovations provide broad avenues for exploration, and help people find ways to make parts of their lives more memorable, fulfilling, delightful — even magical. (Doblin, Deloitte Development LLC.)

Companies using customer engagement innovation to excite and delight customers include:

  • Blizzard Entertainment – World of Warcraft has more than 11million subscribers worldwide who are actively encouraged to engage with each other using a multitude of technology and techniques and ‘team up’ to achieve higher rewards.
  • Apple – shows off its new hardware and software first to its developers and affiliates at its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) where tickets are distributed in a lottery system with prices of $1,599 a ticket for WWDC2015.

Winning innovations typically use multiple types of innovation – if you can get 3 or more that’s great and if you can get 5 or more in your next big bet that’s even better!  You are much more likely to create a sustainable innovation that endures when you innovate across multiple types of innovation.

An example of a truly transformational business and industry innovation that transcend many types of innovation follows:

Nespresso

  1. Profit Model – machines were first available widely across multiple channels and retailers at low prices but pods were only available direct from the club.
  2. Network – machine manufacturers were engaged to create truly great coffee and growers were engaged to source elite top quality coffee and retailers were engaged to get the machines out there far and wide.
  3. Structure – Nespresso did not start out as an idea from the inside the mothership Nestle but rather the opposite it was ‘incubated’ across the road from head office in a distinct and different building with a dedicated team set about to disrupt their existing instant coffee business
  4. Process – Nespresso® licensed a unique technology from the Battelle Institute that made coffee in an instant using an entirely new process (Silberzahneng, 2010).
  5. Product Performance – we all can remember the first time we had a good Nespresso and could not believe how good the taste was for a homemade coffee.
  6. Product System – build into the Nespresso club was the unique pods system with multiple types of coffee to suit different palates and desires.
  7. Service – with Nespresso® club and direct engagement of end consumers through the stores, direct mail, social media, etc. Nespresso® took delivery of a staple to a whole new level.
  8. Channel – Machines – sold everywhere Pods – direct from Nespresso®.
  9. Brand – Nespresso did not choose George Clooney as their ambassador – the 2 million friends on Facebook decided he was the ultimate spokesman for their most adored brand.
  10. Customer Engagement – from online to telephone to direct mail to Nespresso shops and stalls in busy hubs like airports, hotels, etc

Systematically determining what needs to be changed inside and outside your company to create innovation that transcends multiple types of innovation typically involves the following steps according to Keeley (2015).

Understand the beliefs, practices and truths. Start by just listing the unchallenged assumptions about rules, tools, techniques and ingrained habits about the industry.  Now think about ways to challenge these orthodoxies.

Starbucks sought to challenge its industry orthodoxies, the first one it faced was the assumption coffee was a commodity for which Americans wouldn’t pay premium prices.

What are your inclinations or predispositions towards doing business in a particular way today?

Imagine life without those assumptions. Consider a customer group that would not behave the way your customers typically behave.  Imagine a business that specifically does the opposite to what you are doing right now?  What would be some of the likely and unlikely outcomes?

Now think about different ways to rebuild the platform.

Now that assumptions are stated, think of all the ways to challenge them, from a new profit model to different customer-engagement tactics. Most companies stop at trying to do product innovation that marginally alters the offering. The big returns come from multiple approaches, (Keeley, 2015).

Think about Starbucks again. The company flipped its industry’s profit model orthodoxy by creating a premium experience. People may not pay more for coffee, but they certainly do pay more for a different atmosphere in which to drink it.

Start with one of the 10 types of innovation you find most interesting, start thinking of different ways you could innovate under that configuration on your business / category / customer today.

Ask questions. ‘how might we?….’ ‘what if?….’ ‘what’s frustrating you right now? ‘what’s frustrating your customers right now?’ ‘If you had a magic wand, what would you change?….’ Answers to the right questions can lead to an idea, an overview sketch of a new strategy, something to share and build upon.

Once you pick the areas you want to tinker with, how will you explain this new way of doing things to your mother? Where will you concentrate first, and then next? What does the new idea add that is fresh and valuable? What should be prototyped to help customers, users, insiders and partners?

Dermott Dowling is Managing Director @Creatovate, Innovation & International Business consultancy. Creatovate help businesses create, innovate and growth through sustainable innovation processes and spreading their wings outside their home base.

References:

James Janega, (2014), April 2 Larry Keeley, Doblin and the 10 categories of innovation  http://bluesky.chicagotribune.com/originals/chi-larry-keeley-doblin-innovation-strategy-bsi-20140401,0,0.story retrieved 12/04/2016.

Larry Keely, Ryan Pikkel, Brian Quinn, Helen Waters (2013) Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs, John Wiley & Sons, New Jersey.

Business Today, (2011), Dec 11 Cover Story: A Happy Marriage http://www.businesstoday.in/magazine/cover-story/innovation-toshiba-ups/story/20185.html Business Today online viewed on 12/04/2016.

Charles Fischman (1996) April 30, Whole Foods is all Teams http://www.fastcompany.com/26671/whole-foods-all-teams viewed on 13/04/2016

W.L. Gore http://www.gore.com/en_xx/aboutus/culture/ viewed on 13/04/2016

Helft, Miguel (2002) May, Fast Fashion Forward Business 2.0

Philippe Silberzahneng (2010) March 18, https://philippesilberzahneng.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/nespresso-complexity-innovation-process/ viewed on 15/04/2016


Think, Act, Adapt and Innovate like a Startup!

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Large companies’ size and culture make disruptive innovation extremely difficult (Blank, 2010). Despite this challenge many large food businesses today recognise the need to be disruptive innovators and test new business models in the digital world.

bat-in-face

 

Why change? Because the bat is coming…

Change is coming, it’s here now and there are many ways businesses can react to change.  They can duck and hide and hope the flying baseball bat misses them and takes out the competition.  They can look the other way and collect the full force of change to the face like the poor gentleman below at the Red Sox game or they can be brave anticipate the changes that are coming and reach out for the bat like the guy just out of shot.  Often its the startup that is just out of shot or sight of the incumbents.  Backed by passionate founders and astute investors they anticipate change, react to it positively and use innovative new business models and new technologies to literally land the baseball bat in the face of the incumbents and harvest the glory of fast growth in a new economy.

In this keynote address given at Food&Drink Business Live! Disruptive Innovation, Creatovate – Managing Director, Dermott Dowling takes the audience through some practical learning steps and lessons from local digitally focused food innovators leading the way in this exciting new land of opportunity.

Think!

Thinking is the first step in any business innovation. Alas, it’s hard in isolation. You sit and stare and scribble on the blank sheet of paper in front of you.  However, people as social beings need each other and our collective mind power to come up with breakthrough ideas to innovate. More often than not we scan the environment for what’s out there already and working? Alternatively, we look for problems – what’s bugging our current customers or potential new customers? We then map the value chain from inputs to outputs looking for – what can we take out? Where can we fit in? How we can create value for customers and ultimately our own business?

Think

 

Act!

Next step in the process of building an exciting startup or disruptive innovation is design & rapid prototyping our ideas into Minimal Viable Prototypes or MVPs. Rough and ready is fine here, what’s most important is we start testing & experimenting our hypotheses on existing and new customers ASAP.   Gone are the days we spend weeks and months in kitchens, pilot plants and focus groups with consumers.  The market demands we move at ‘tech speed’ now!  I can not wait as your customer or your boss for months while you toil and spend $$$ without any real customer or consumer feedback!  By that I mean people reaching into their pockets and paying for the food and beverage products, not just talking about how cool it is or whether they might like to buy it when it hits the shelf in 12-18 months time!  As we act, we simultaneously align as a team adapt to the changing customer feedback. We also measure & monitor early results for signs of customer acceptance and readiness to scale our new business model.

Business Model Canvas

Startups are not small versions of large companies. They need different tools for thinking and acting. Its important you create a common language in your company if you venture down the path of creating intrapreneurial startups inside your large organisation, so people are talking on the same page and not hearing Blah! Blah! Blah! when we mention new terms like Business Models. For this reason at Creatovate, we recommend a common approach to our clients hypotheses generation like the Business Model Canvas (Osterwalder, 2012).  This is an excellent thinking tool to get the team ‘on the same page’ in terms of understanding of terms, hypothesising ideas and creating a new Business Model for real market testing.

BMC Hypotheses

Adapt!

Once you have thought and aligned on your initial business model hypotheses “get out of the building” and ask potential users, purchasers, and partners for feedback on all elements of the new business model, including product features, pricing, distribution channels, and affordable customer acquisition strategies. If we accept that startups are engaged in the search for a new business model, we recognize that radical shifts in a startup’s business model are the norm, rather than the exception. For this reason rather than fire the executive team when the normal approaches to go-to-market are not working, we pivot and change tack (Blank, 2013).  Pivots are a completely normal part of the startup process as you first discover customers who will pay an acceptable price for your product and validate your minimal viable prototypes fit their needs and are worthy of scaling.  Venture Capital and astute investors understand pivots as an essential part of building a startup.  The question is does established incumbent business leaders understand they need to treat startups in their own company very differently to the normal go to market new product development that may go through an existing business process like Stage-Gate to existing customers using existing norms.  If you are going to create a breakthrough innovation and business model in the digital economy its highly likely you will be doing things very differently.  As such leaders need to be aware of a different set of behaviours and skills to encourage the startup founders and intrapreneurs to boldly push on and not be afraid to pivot as they learn and lean left and right to find the right business model and validate their multiple hypotheses.

Business Model Iteration

Innovate $

Private equity and venture capital are investing in disruptive startups in the food industry right around the world.  The top 25 U.S. food and beverage companies have lost an equivalent of $18 billion in market share since 2009. Some analysts are describing ‘big businesses in food’ nowadays as being like melting icebergs, every year they become a little less relevant to customers and consumers (Kowitt, 2015).

VC Funding for Food & Beverage Startups

Major packaged-food companies lost $4 billion in market share last year alone, much of it to smaller, more health-conscious companies.  Venture capital firms are taking notice. Over the past five years, they have invested nearly $570 million in food companies. Famous Australian VC/PE funded food businesses include Rafferty’s Garden (Anacacia Capital’s sale of baby food maker Rafferty’s Garden to PZ Cussons for over A$80m).  Notable trade sales recently of established food businesses that have been reinvented include Pacific Equity Partners’ sale of Peters Ice Cream to UK-based ice cream maker R&R (AVCAL Handbook, 2014).

Large multinational food companies are not taking the changes in their markets lying down.  Nestle founded Inventages in 2002 and has invested EUR$150m in 38 companies across a breadth of categories from consumer health sciences to CRM to supply chain to innovative packaging solutions.  Tate & Lyle established Tate & Lyle Ventures in 2006 initially with a £25M VC fund & currently has another active £30 million fund investing £1-2 million per tranche in each investment.  Coca-Cola Founders program was established in 2011 and already has 19 co-founders, across 10 countries, with 9 startups partnering with Coca Cola to provide much needed scalability to the startups and their co-founders.

Design to Grow

Large businesses need startups and vice versa. Is there some magic in the middle and what can incumbents do to learn to be lean and act and adapt and innovate like a startup! Established businesses are in danger of not being able to adapt quickly enough, while nimble start-ups fail due to their inability to scale. Tomorrow’s business winners will be the ones who know how to combine the two (David Butler, VP Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Coca-Cola).

Learn & Lean

Australia is seeing signs of life now in the land of digital disruption with several new startups from both existing food companies and new entrants.  Some digital disruption innovation leaders interviewed for this key note include Dish’d    Kogan Pantry and Marley Spoon  MDs & Founders.  Each business plays to its own unique space in this exciting new field of play, but there are several key common learning shared by their leaders for any business thinking about entering the exciting and highly disruptive digital innovation landscape in food.

dishdkogan pantryMarley Spoon AU

Challenges

Challenges of starting a new food business in the online world today in Australia include:

Sub-culture of a startup within a large business can be hard to swallow for staff and senior leaders alike in established traditional food businesses.  Patience is essential alongside persistence with payback horizons very long and initial sales may fall well short of what can be expected from taking NPD to market through traditional go to market retail channels.  Consumers want whole of shop/meal solutions rather than parts of the pantry stocked from several different eTailers, and they are looking for suppliers to make their lives easier, not harder when it comes to shopping online and/or cooking meals at home.  Inventory / demand / supply chain management is even more challenging in the online with demand for hot specials either going viral and off the charts or product being unappealing and not moving at all.  Never underestimate the response from incumbents who will fight back extremely hard with loss leading specials and pressure exerted on their existing suppliers to restrict supply of goods and inputs to the new entrants.  Go in eyes wide open – the online world requires the same effort if not more than a business in the bricks and mortar world of food and beverage manufacture, supply, distribution and marketing.

Why do it?

We get asked this question a lot from our clients!   Our first response, is to remember that whatever innovation or change you make it must create economic value to you and your business.  Change for changes sake is not innovation, it might be creative but its not innovation until it delivers economic return to your business.  This may not happen for significant time when testing new business models or startup strategy but we also ask our clients what are the possible consequences of doing nothing?  Going backwards? Getting hit in the face by a baseball bat?  You may be chasing additional demand and/or contributing back to your online community if you are already an established online entity.  You might be looking to engage and interact with existing and new consumers if you currently exist in the traditional bricks and mortal retail led food industry.  You may be seeking to grow into adjacent verticals. Whatever your strategic reasons, for action they need to be strong enough to survive the bumps in the road ahead as there will be many!

Advantages!

Some of the key advantages from entering the online world of food and beverage eTailing are the longer term potential scale advantage that can come quickly if you are successful.  Likewise the plethora of instantaneous data analytics like Google Analytics that can help you pivot and test and adapt much more quickly than through traditional customer/retailer feedback networks.   Recognise that Australian eCommerce market maturity could be as much as 5 to 10 years behind the US and our Australian eCommerce supply chain maturity has some considerable road to run especially in the area of chilled B2C food or meals solutions delivery to consumers doorsteps.  These are significant challenges and can not be underestimated but the early entrants will learn faster and be further down the field as new enabling technologies like drone deliveries or driverless vehicles become very real solutions to today’s very high cost of service to the Australian consumers doorstep.

Omni-Channel

Omni-channel could be a red herring – beware!  The economics are vastly different between off-line and online retail in Australia, however for incumbent off-line retailers who have online eTail offers the commercial incentives are quite simply not there to lower their online prices for their eTail offers such that it would cannibalise their healthy real world margins in bricks n mortar retail.  Let us not forget the significant sunk costs the incumbents have in ‘land banked’ property investments, the enormous number of staff on their books in their shops who would cost $$$ to layoff if their online services took off!

Food Supply to Disruptors

Food manufacturers, wholesalers and suppliers are aware of the current industry trends and have a strong willingness to supply new food focused digital startups.  That being said beware the earlier caution about incumbent retailers pressure to stop supply to new entrants.

Price Leadership

Price leadership is of paramount importance online and that could be in part due to the fact that Australian consumers have been trained to expect deals online.  Brands matter online and deep cut discounts bring traffic!

eCommerce US 2013.jpeg

 

Groceries look like the last to take-off in the land of digital commerce.  Online suits small, expensive, commodity driven categories hence why it has disrupted so intensely in travel, music and electrical goods.  Wastage is an important driver in eCommerce in food. Consumers care about their household (average 20%) and supermarket waste (average 35%). This can be a compelling emotive and commercial value proposition for digital disruptors.  Consumers also expect their food in the same condition they find it in store when they get home and see it at their doorstep.

Clearly, we have a long way to go in terms of digital disruption and disruptive innovation in the food industry in Australia and what is around the corner is the million dollar question for startups and incumbents alike.  When an intelligent member of the audience from Nestle Australia asked “what’s the next big thing in terms of disruptive innovation in the food industry in Australia?” to the panel of experts on the stage she got 6 very different answers ranging from predictions of drone and driverless vehicle meals and drinks delivery to consumers demanding a direct interaction with their favourite food producers not only in the social media landscape but in terms of direct purchase and order-to-delivery-to-doorstep.

One thing is certain, the businesses that can have the foresight to anticipate change and react positively to it will be the ones who avoid the baseball bat to the face and will seize the opportunity our new tomorrow brings to us all.  The multi-million dollar business question is which of the incumbents or venture backed startups has both a) the foresight and b) the resilience and bravery to not only see the bat coming but to calmly stand up, reach out and catch it!  When everyone breathes the collective sigh of relief and the startup sits back down in the stands, they will have banked the profits on the table and will be the new incumbent. Go Gators!

MITCH-DAVIE-BAT-Catch

References & Bibliography:

http://businessmodelalchemist.com/tools

AVCAL (2014) Australian Private Equity & Venture Capital Association Ltd

Blank, Steve (2010) Crisis Management by Firing Executives – There’s A Better Way Nov, 18. http://steveblank.com/category/customer-development-manifesto/page/2/

Blank, Steve (2013) Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything, May, Harvard Business Review

Danielle Gould (2014) Food & Ag Investment Sources Explode in 2013  http://www.foodtechconnect.com/2014/01/02/food-ag-investment-sources-explode-2013/ viewed on 11/8/2015

Kowitt, B (2015) Special Report: The War on Big Food Fortune May 21.

Montgomery, M. (2015) How The Tools Of Venture Capital Are Revolutionizing Food July 14 Forbes

Osterwalder, A. Pigneur, Y. Bernarda, G. Smith, A. (2014) Value Proposition Design Wiley.

Osterwalder, A (2013) A Better Way to Think about Your Business Model

Phillips, E. (2015) Food ‘Accelerators’ and the $10 Bag of Pasta The Wall Street Journal Jan 6.

Kolodny, L (2014) Will Investors Still Back Food Startups As Competition Heats Up?

Wall Street Journal July 25.

http://coca-colafounders.com/

http://www.coca-colacompany.com/innovation/

http://www.iamdigital.com.au/2015/02/coles-woolies-vs-kogan-pantry.html


Persistence & Determination are Omnipotent

In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins; not through strength, but through persistence.”  — Buddha

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The leaves are browning, the mercury is dropping and the rains are more frequent.  Rather like the changing of the seasons a lot of businesses in traditional industries with traditional ways of working are finding sales, margins and profits are fast browning off like the autumn leaves.  Today many businesses caught in a sales, margin or profit eroding death spiral the typical management reaction is “restructuring or rightsizing” or “cost reduction” which inevitably forgets the most important R – “Rethinking” how we can remodel businesses to be more innovative and ultimately more profitable.

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Starting Creatovate two years ago I decided to focus our consultancy services and efforts to help client’s growth through what I personally believe is the most sustainable growth pathway – Innovation and International Business expansion.  At its most basic definition innovation can be described as “change that creates economic value”.  You must be either reshaping value chains to remove cost and / or create value i.e. reduced cost and/or increase prices to customers and consumers.  You can also typically expand your business into one of 3 new quadrants using the Ansoff matrix – new products or services development to existing markets (bottom right quadrant), enter new markets with existing products or services (top left quadrant) or take the bravest bet which is new products and/or services to new markets (top right quadrant).

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Ansoff Matrix:  http://www.quickmba.com/strategy/matrix/ansoff/

Standing still is not an option in business today.  You will get run over by new entrants, or incumbents who are running faster than your business or sideswiped by other businesses you did not even see out of your peripheral vision who enter from completely different market spaces with new products and/or services that better meet your customers’ needs (top right quadrant innovators).  Starting any new business is not easy and having worked for large multinationals for over 15 years and with well-established clients over the past two years I can honestly say that no one business is safe in the ‘new economy’.  Complacency will be the seeds of your business demise.  From the Board level to the mail room roles will continue to be constantly restructured and re-scoped and I am afraid to say often without enough upfront ‘Rethinking’.

“Industrial Relations” was a widely used word in the 1990s which later became “Human Relations” and is now more commonly titled “People & Culture” in large progressive modern organisations. During my post-graduate Bachelor of Commerce in Management Honours thesis study I examined Industrial Relations in the Airlines Industry and quickly discovered here was an industry that would always be placing immense pressure on the ‘People’ component in the Value Chain of the Airline industry for the simple reason the typical airline cost structure is divided into 3 almost equal components: 1/3 on planes, 1/3 on petrol and 1/3 on people.  As much as an Airline would like to negotiate a good deal on planes that is going to be difficult when your choices are limited to either a Boeing or Airbus Jet plane and as much as Airlines would like a better deal on their fuel bill that negotiation will also be difficult as Shell, Exxon Mobil and BP will have a view on fuel prices and continued upwards direction.  So People become front and centre in the ‘cost reduction’ eyes of management and to this day Airlines management are still in a constant struggle with how to get the best out of their people for the least possible pay!

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Scattered throughout the many loss making Airlines globally there are a few stars making money and my bet is they will have a better strategy and culture to differentiate themselves and possibly a better business model e.g. Southwest Airlines or Air Asia.  Walking into the Ansett NZ head office in 1996 to talk to the Airline Pilots Association union representative I noticed immediately a quote on the wall from Sir Reg Ansett the founder of the Airline that has gone the way of many today post his time in the cockpit “Nothing in this world can take the place of Persistence.”    That quote was on a plaque with Sir Reg Ansett name attached to it but its origins came from the late U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and its full quote is “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.  Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.”

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President Coolidge quote and Buddha’s quote brings me to one more thing I have come to realise over the past 20+ years studying, working and consulting.  In the ‘East’ businesses persist and are patient.  Suntory management in Japan became famous for its willingness to wait a long time for results. The company took 46 years to make a profit on beer and 14 years for one of its biotechnology units to genetically engineer a blue rose, thought to be a symbol of the impossible (Kachi & Dvorak, 2014).  Compare this approach to the one most common in the ‘West’ where the constant demands for 10%++ top line and bottom line growth year on year is simply put “unsustainable”, especially if all we are doing is running on the spot and demanding ‘more for less’ from our ‘People’.  Where is the ‘Culture’ that says, ‘persist’, ‘explore’, ‘adapt’, and ‘go again and again and again’ until you turn a dollar, convert a customer, open a new market or create a product or service that solves a new or existing customer’s problem?

Today, with technology front and centre in our lives and as ‘software eats up the world’ around us and computers, apps, robots and systems replace the ‘people’ in many business processes it is doubly and triply important business leaders and their people, Stop! Think! And take a leaf from the wise men and women of the East.  Pause, take the time to reflect, think and then Act! Be brave in your restructures, remodel your business models and take controlled bets with new businesses, new products, and new services into new markets and new and existing customers.  You can no longer win in the bottom left quadrant of the Ansoff matrix and if you are not already moving to the top left or the adjacent right and planning and implementing a manageable bet into the top right quadrant you risk facing the same fate as the late Ansett Airlines.  Every industry is rapidly becoming another Airline industry.  Strategic choices rest with everyone in your business from the boardroom to the factory floor and whether you are a winner or loser in the long race to the finish line depends on how you get the most out of your ‘People’ and create a winning ‘Culture’.

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Dermott Dowling is founding Director @Creatovate, Innovation & International Business consultancy.  Creatovate help businesses create, innovate and growth through sustainable innovation processes and spreading their wings outside their home base.

References:

Hiroyuki Kachi & Phred Dvorak (2014) Wall Street Journal, January http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303819704579320470878396540, viewed on 8th May 2014


How to… think differently to solve problems and capture opportunity

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Lessons shared from serial innovator Evan Thornley @ACBC12

Did you know that the first 6 years of a child’s life are fundamental to its social outcomes and achievements in life? Have you heard of the politics of the radical centre?  How can you and your business look at problems differently and think differently to solve problems and capture opportunity?  These are some of the lessons shared from serial innovator and entrepreneur Evan Thornley at the Australian Chambers Business Congress 2012.

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Evan Thornley was appointed Chief Executive of Better Place Australia in January 2009.  Evan is a successful technology entrepreneur who has also served in public office.  Prior to that, Evan co-founded and served as chairman and CEO of Look Smart Ltd. (NASD: LOOK), an Internet search advertising company that remains one of the few Australian technology companies to be taken public on the NASDAQ Stock Market and to have delivered a 100x return to venture capital investors.  Evan was also the founding Chair of the Board of Per Capita, a public policy think tank and served on the board of the Brotherhood of St. Laurence, and was a Founding Director of GetUp!, an online activist network with 400,000 members.

There is now an overwhelming amount of evidence that the first 6 years of a child’s life are by far the most important to his/her adult success.  Medical professionals and economists agree that an investment in early childhood health, education and development have an overwhelmingly positive influence on a nation and provide a very healthy return on investment.  This seems like general knowledge to us all but what may not be so general knowledge is that Australia’s investment in early childhood is one of the lowest levels in the OECD.  While debates raged on private vs. public funding of education and the decline of tertiary education, Eddy Groves and ABC Learning borrowed billions to roll up a host of child care centres with less than optimum outcomes for the children and staff in those centres that resulted in a collapse into voluntary liquidation in the midst of the GFC.

Good Start

What may be less well known is what happened to those child care centres after the liquidation and how a consortium on Not-For-Profit businesses, The Benevolent Society, Mission Australia, The Brotherhood of St Lawrence and Social Ventures Australia rallied together to resurrect the business from the ashes paying two times earnings and beating off private equity for a vital piece of Australia’s human capital economy and have been doing a vastly better job of giving Australian children the Good Start they deserve investing all of the earnings back into early learning initiatives, for the benefit of every child.

Why should this matter to you and your business?  For two simple reasons; firstly, if your business is not set up right from the start similar to a young child you will not overcome the inevitable challenges and grow sustainably.  Secondly, it is an excellent example of how to solve problems, by looking at them differently and coming up with creative solutions to uncommon challenges.  Thornley, calls it ‘the politics of the radical centre’ or using an ‘AND’ thinking approach, to overcome challenges or capture opportunity.

No Thinking

So what is the ‘politics of the radical centre’ or how do we think differently to solve problems and capture opportunity?  To understand how… you need to understand the different thinking styles used and the pitfalls of some of the most common used in business today.  The simplest and most common thinking style all too often encountered in the business context or boardroom is the “NO” thinking style.   ‘Thanks for your idea, but we tried that one before,’ or ‘NO thanks as great as your idea or opportunity is for our business it simply will not work for these reasons….’  NO thinking is a common all too easy default style of thinking to fall into and it comes out very early in a group setting as it’s a common human behaviour to see risks, cautions, red flags before it is to naturally build on a person’s input or seek clarification to understand why they have suggested a change in the way we do business around here.

Or Thinking

The second thinking style is “OR” thinking.  This is binary thinking or two-dimensional thinking.  It’s better than “NO” thinking but it’s very black or white and as we know the world and the challenges and opportunities we face are never black or white.  An example, shared by Thornley of classical binary “OR” thinking is the traditional view of Industrial Relations in Australia of ‘bosses’ v workers’.  Another classic example of “OR” thinking is ‘profits’ vs. ‘the planet’.  OR thinking dictates it is EITHER profit OR environmental protection when in fact the two are not mutually exclusive and Better Place is a good example of a business pursing both profits AND an environmental benefit.

When Thinking

The third thinking style is “WHEN” thinking.  It is better than “OR” thinking in that it requires knowledge, wisdom and intelligent judgement to come up with a conditioned response to a problem or opportunity.  For example, “WHEN” worker X does ABC, boss Y responds with actions DEF.  This type of thinking presupposes some knowledge and experience by those taking the action ‘WHEN’ the problem or opportunity arises.  It also presupposes that what worked last time will work again.  WHEN thinking has some pitfalls in that we are constantly confronted with new and different problems than previously experienced and it can be dangerous to expect that past solutions work for today’s problems.

Grameen Bank

The forth thinking style is “AND” thinking.  This is the most powerful type of thinking to solve problems and capture opportunity because it is inclusive in creating innovative solutions to problems.  Why choose between ‘profit’ and the ‘planet’ or ‘public’ vs. ‘private’ business models, when you can have both.  Some of the organisations that Evan has been involved with like Better Place and Good Start are good examples of organisations that have used ‘AND” thinking to solve a problem and capture an opportunity.  Likewise, Grameen Bank , founded in Bangladesh used ‘AND’ thinking to come up with creative solutions to systemic issues and problems, using unconventional and highly effective social business models.  Thornley would describe the Grameen Bank as an example of the ‘politics of the radical centre’.

There was no radical ideology, “OR” thinking or “NO” thinking.  There was “AND” thinking and “How can we…” questioning to come up with creative solutions to making microcredit available to the people who needed it most to start their own businesses and lift their standard of living.  An example closer to home that Thornley sited was the Australian road toll which used to be one of the world’s worst 30 years ago and is not one of the world’s best.  There were no protests, radical rules and regulations but a concerted “How can we….” approach across the public, private and community sectors to bring the road toll carnage down.

Whilst, Thornley opened his talk with the profound need to ‘confess’ why he has taken the turns in life he has that seemed ‘unconventional’ or strange to others around him at the time but completely natural to him in his professional career he shared with the audience a simple and effective way to approach problems and capture opportunities.  There was NO ‘radical ideology’ AND there was some ‘politics of the radical centre’ AND there were demonstrable examples of businesses starting and growing sustainably that are achieving great commercial and social outcomes.

NoOrWhenAnd

You can see a short video summary of these thinking styles here…

Dermott Dowling is founding Director @Creatovate Innovation & International Business Consultancy.  He is passionate about building great businesses, brands and teams with extensive experience across cultures, countries and companies.


Aim, Fire! Adjust :-) Lead, Learn & Innovate like an entrepreneurial startup

You don’t have to be a start-up to learn, lead and innovate like one…

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1. Entrepreneurs are built, not born 

By correlation we can imply all businesses have innovative capacity and building that capability can be through strategy, resource allocation, process, culture and leadership.  Most importantly having a go!  After all is not the best form of learning the practical as opposed to the theory.

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2. Start-ups are unique

They are not small versions of large companies and hence traditional business thinking tends to stifle the start-up.  Likewise if a large organisation is looking to innovate and ‘learn by doing’, they need to be open to start up ways of working, managing, funding.  Less ruling by command & control and more by seeking, solving, encouraging and seed funding.

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3. The Search for a Business Model

Under lean start up models the founders search for repeatable and scalable business models, rather than settling on one when the venture is launched.  For larger corporates they tend to apply new ways of doing things through existing business models more often than not as the ‘status quo’ police of middle management apply traditional ways of reaching customers and consumers.  Instead a healthy start point might be a small venture team based diverse group of individuals starting with a blank sheet of paper literally and saying ‘without constraint’ what is the best way we can create value from this idea/insight/trend/unmet need and take our product or service to customers and consumers in new and innovative ways.  Senior leadership should give encouragement for the venture teams to take this approach and be open to growing some babies or children outside the corporate home or traditional business model.

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4. Run Fast

Successful start ups observe when their business model is struggling, respond to new facts, decide which parts of the business model require urgent change, and act.  Less time on detailed business planning and more time on testing in market with real live tests.  How often do you sit in board rooms with your peers either a) presenting or b) picking apart detailed business cases on products or services with 5 year business revenue and profit projections that could be better spent on inquisitive questioning like “how can we test this for small dollars to get large learning”.  What are some creative entrepreneurial ways we can find out if this is going to work before we scale it and go full blown national launch for example?

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5. Pivot and Turn

Pivoting is about iteration, testing and validation, and can be as simple as realising you have priced a product or service incorrectly.  Start up founders realise that several pivots maybe required in the early years to reinvent the venture.  They ensure the culture and staff are flexible enough to turn on a dime if required.  By correlation in many corporate cultures its often launch and leave or launch and run in case things don’t go well.  Culture is an integral part here of creating a testing, learning and adaptive team based culture where the venture teams are kept together post product/service launch and report back in frequently with learning and recommendation to pivot, stop, start again, push harder, invest more/less, etc.  Some large businesses realise that traditional leadership structures or meetings and forums do not allow for this type of learning and iterative process and set up incubators, skunk works, or get senior grey haired veterans to run these entrepreneurial business units.  Cell based structures may also be appropriate and leaders will need to work out how and when the satellite businesses are brought back into the mother ship or scaled and grown by the battalion as opposed to continuing to operate like the special forces.

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6. Lean and Learn 

True learning comes from testing aspects of the business model and market hypothesis early and quickly. Rather than spending months researching start ups get their minimum viable product (MVP) to market quickly and let their customers inform them.  Speed is the imperative and their most precious asset.  In the age of ‘accelerate everything’ where we live by the mantra ‘I want it now!” and I can find it in 7 seconds or less on Google this is a very potent message to large corporations.  Research is often done to reassure internal stakeholders and appease layers of management the homework has been done before the big artillery of $$$ of Advertising and Promotion are spent in the market to support this new product or service.  More thinking can and should be devoted to how multiple controlled live tests can be launched simultaneously for e.g. 7 different products in 7 different states and review and learn after 6 months which 1 or 2 continue and we invest redevelop and roll out.

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7. Feedback Loops 

Start up entrepreneurs create feedback loops to measure customers response to new products, at least at the very start, to decide whether to ‘pivot or perserve’ with their business model.  They constantly source customer feedback and let it  shape their business model.  With the advent of social media this process of continuous feedback loops should arguably be much easier for the larger corporates than the start ups.  They have the millions of likes on Facebook constantly feedback criticism or favourites on new products and prototypes.  Corporates often have very sophisticated customer engagement models and survey tools as well through third party providers.  Turning these tools towards active engagement on product and service beta development, controlled market tests and post launch analysis with equally prompt redesign and redelivery will increase customer and consumer engagement and arguably make the large corporates a more nimble and liked business by their customers.  The challenge is on the big to be ‘small & nimble’ far more so than the other way around in the modern age of instant gratification, response and listening.

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8. The Critical Formula 

Under lean entrepreneurship thinking, chaos + speed + pivots = success.  Start ups  realise they need to operate in environments of extreme unpredictability (chaos), use great skill to change quickly as circumstances dictate (speed) and reinvent aspects of their business model (pivot) to respond to threats and opportunity.  This seemingly choatic, manic, back flipping or zig zagging appearance will not sit well inside many corporations where the mandate is often 10% topline and 10% bottom line growth year on year.  However, entrepreneurship be that corporate or start up is never 10% steady year on year growth and its up to senior leaders to create ‘gambling funds’, set aside intrapreneurial seed capital and manage their own intracompany adventuring like a venture capitalist.  Not all bets come off and provided the company accepts that some bets and teams are like the house money in the casino but that it could be the next one or the next one that comes off they are on the road to learning and the more they learn by doing the more that appearance of fast, pivoting, chaos will start to feel like the new normal around here and that will be a demonstration that culture has come to match the business innovation strategy, they have succeeded in allocating scarce resources to new ventures and they have a process that is producing results.

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9.  Entrepreneurship is Management 

While it may not sit well with many strong minded entrepreneurs or creative innovators, Ries notes entrepreneurship is essentially another form of management.  The start up management style recognises the uncertainty of entrepreneurship with its increased risk and reward profile and the need to adapt and develop a stream of constant innovation.   For many large corporates like conglomerates who operate across different industries, geographies or have multiple business units they are already a great example of using multiple business models and management styles.  To them entrepreneurship may not be new and maybe something we have been doing for years without the name tag e.g. Wesfarmers, Tata, China Resources Enterprise to name a few.  For other large corporates who have not yet tackled this head on or are thinking about tackling it head on I can recommend a couple of immediate things to do.  Step 1 Pick up a copy of Lean Start Up and note down everything as you read that is interesting and new, anything you learn and lastly but most importanly, what you can take and apply to your own context.  Step 2 immerse yourself in the learning process.  Go and see some start ups in action in your industry or adjacent industries.  Go and seek to understand how large conglomerates can operate with multiple entities and entrepreneurial divisions inside a large business structure.  Step 3 and the most important step.  Get the strategy out, make sure it has an innovation strategy component and invest some ‘gambling chips’ into starting some ventures.  Back those ventures and applaud their bravery across the business until what seems unnerving, unnatural and unreal becomes the new ‘way we do things around here’

It might take a lot of guts, determination and persistence but then again so does starting your own business as any entrepreneur out there will tell you over a coffee or cold beer or glass of wine.

Create Innovate Grow 

Dermott Dowling @Creatovate


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