Making Innovation Happen

C4RI: Key learnings

The Campaign for Real Innovation - Blue Yonder Research

Blue Yonder hosted a live panel discussion on the challenges of innovation within large FMCG companies. This session was part of our ongoing Campaign for Real Innovation (C4RI), aimed at providing practical advice for driving impactful innovation.

Featuring John McAughtrie, Michelle Roberts, and our very own Richard Heath & Kate Binner, this session brought together decades of experience across major consumer brands to share key insights on how to make innovation happen in the real world.

From the very beginning, this discussion highlighted that despite innovation being imperative for growth, companies struggle to consistently take ideas to successful market execution. As the panel repeatedly emphasised, there are countless steps spanning strategy, research, product development, and marketing where missteps can lead to disaster.

So what leads some innovation attempts to flourish while others flounder?

C4RI: Making Innovation Live Webinar Discussion

John McAughtrie, Michelle Roberts, Kate Binner and Richard Heath at Blue Yonder Research

Aligning on success metrics

Our panel stressed that ambiguity around what constitutes success early on causes issues later. An innovation might aim to drive volume, deliver strategic brand impact, address consumer pain points, or meet other goals. Without explicit conversations, assumptions go unchecked and teams work towards mismatched priorities. Post-launch, ill-defined metrics also make fairly assessing performance difficult. The key is clearly defining desired outcomes with stakeholders right from the start.

Revisiting marketing fundamentals

When exploring the reasons behind the failure of many innovations, the discussion consistently circled back to the marketing basics. The creative efforts invested in conceiving innovations and refining aspects like pricing, retail placement, and messaging, are ultimately essential in influencing the performance of a product. Yet big companies often treat these as secondary, rushing exciting ideas to launch without optimised commercial foundations. The lesson here was clear – innovative does not mean the normal rules don’t apply. Sweating these fundamentals remains critical.

Research powering stakeholder alignment

Consumer research arose continuously as a tool for securing internal stakeholder support. To capture attention amidst packed agendas, the panel suggested bringing cross-functional leaders directly into research. Experiencing the consumer voice first-hand through shop-alongs, in-home interviews, and prototyping sessions is simply more vivid than reading reports. Additionally, observing real-life usage uncovers issues early while fuelling team passion. Of course, this immersion requires extra planning compared to standard reviews. But for driving consensus and spurring advocacy, the panel viewed this time investment as invaluable.

Taking an agile approach

Beyond securing buy-in, the experts also pushed for applying agile principles in research itself. Today’s rapidly changing environment means long product development and one-shot testing is unrealistic. Instead, quick iterative prototype tests, while starting small in scale, can indicate flaws, learnings, and performance much faster. Critically, this agility depends on teams embracing a test-and-learn mindset focused on acceleration versus perfection. Leadership must foster a culture where the goal is quickly reaching the winning product through trial-and-error, not having initial concepts work flawlessly.

Streamlining stage gates

Lastly, the panel touched on how overhaul of gating processes also positively impacts innovation velocity. Clunky documentation procedures lead to repetition, delays, and misaligned cross-functional teams. Suggestions here included maintaining one core project document updated across gates versus new presentations every cycle. Additionally, skipping or fast-tracking gates for on-track efforts avoids unnecessary bureaucracy. Fundamentally though, taking a critical eye regarding what questions truly need answering at each assessment marks a philosophical shift – one which meaningfully improves downstream efficiency.

Key takeaways

While covering considerable ground, several clear themes recurred regarding the innovation formula. Firstly, early strategic alignment is vital for preventing wasted effort and establishing metrics. Secondly, amidst the rush of ideas, revisiting blocking and tackling remains essential. Thirdly, leveraging research for securing stakeholder support and accelerating learnings is invaluable. Finally, introducing agility across testing and gating unlocks speed.

Of course, translating these lessons into positive outcomes still requires systemic change across complex organisations. However, with a methodical approach and the right leadership prioritisation, the potential for innovation to drive sustainable growth comes clearly into focus. The insights from veterans of the consumer arena make this promise abundantly clear.

If this resonates with you and you would like to talk through more specific detail around driving impactful innovation, we’d be delighted to help you. Please email me at [email protected].  In the meantime, we look forward to seeing you at the next event as we continue our Campaign for Real Innovation.

Meet the speakers

John McAughtrie
R&D Director and Consultant
Piper Kennett Ltd

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Michelle Roberts
Brand and Innovation Strategist
Red Line Foundry Ltd

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Richard Heath - Managing Director at Blue Yonder

Richard Heath
Managing Director
Blue Yonder Research

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Kate Binner Head of Sense:lab Blue Yonder Research

Kate Binner
Head of R&D Insight
Blue Yonder Research

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Watch on-demand

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A C4RI discussion: Making Innovation Happen
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