For an innovation to be developed and become visible, marketable and usable, it takes a lot of different competencies
In our experience, a network comprised of people with various competencies is a conditio sine qua non if you want to take an idea to market or are seeking to provide the market with new ideas.
Here are our TOP SIX innovation-enabling competencies:
Ideas rule the world. But how many ideas have never gone beyond a brief flash of thought due to a general lack of imagination. Especially in today’s times of efficiency and acceleration we rarely allow our imagination to run free and envision ‘crazy‘ options, that is, options that are beyond our current reality. After years of re-engineering, cost cutting, process optimisation and change, however, a few new priorities would do us good!
For many experienced industry insiders, this isn’t easy, though. That’s why pioneering and disruptive innovations are often created by outsiders, career changers or dissatisfied consumers.
Current mega trends such as the digital transformation, the demographic change and new patterns of consumption (see [englischsprachige Quelle, z.B. http://www.frost.com/prod/servlet/cpo/213016007]) have also changed many paradigms within the agro-food sector, forcing us to pay close attention to get a proper idea of where we ought to be headed, now and in the future.
2. Direct communication
Have you also heard people saying in response to the launch of some new product or technology, “That was my idea! I should be credited for it …” Should be – isn’t it a synonym for a life unlived? Obviously not everybody has an idea has the means to bring it to life, too. But you can make a first big step by starting with a small one: By articulating your idea and share it with others. Here are three tips for those who are considering this:
- Don’t be afraid your idea will be stolen immediately. Ideas need feedback; they want to be developed; like a piece of dough, they need the right conditions to rise.
- Consider carefully who to discuss your idea with: People who keep criticising and whinging are not exactly supportive to the development of an idea. Rather seek out people you know who are curious and keen on exploring the unknown.
- Do the ‘housewife’s test’ and check yourself: Can you make an industry outsider understand your idea in three to five sentences? Yes – it’s them who need to get the gist of it.
During your lab or test phase you’ll definitely need – next to appropriate facilities – stamina and endurance. Which is a competency often disregarded. Endurance is the touchstone of your faith in your idea. Keep at it. Try it. Improve it. Get feedback. Weigh criticism. Go at it again … For anyone who is an engineer, researcher or developer with heart and soul, this attitude will be second nature. For the more analytical economist and consultant, though, this can be a true challenge!
Food safety is an important issue in our industry. In addition to unconventional ideas and communication skills, we thus also need expert knowledge in our mix of competencies: People with deep knowledge about the matter itself but also about how to comply with relevant standards and regulations.
5. Courage and confidence
Baking a new type of bread in the lab and producing it at the industrial scale are quite different things. To make a successful step from the prototype to mass production, you’ll need reliable and trustful relationships between your development and production partners.
And it takes the courage of the decision-makers concerned to utilise production facilities not only with an eye to efficiency in today’s sense but also to long-term sustainability. We much too often see initial enthusiasm being choked to death by endless discussions and preliminary pre-analyses; we see absurd decision paths preventing anything unknown; we see teams demoralised by accusations and people’s attempts to cover their backs.
Fortunately, there are still doers! And they do it differently.
6. Money! Or: what’s the value of an innovation that never sees the light of day?
Many researchers and developers overestimate the value of their ideas: after all, what’s the value of an innovation that never arrived in the marketplace? Innovations cost money. More often than not, a lot of money. If, for instance the development until test production costs roughly 1 million Euros, bringing it to market will cost another 10 million in terms of marketing, sales and distribution expenses.
At the same time, the money market itself is undergoing an interesting transformation: What are companies doing with profits? Will they reinvest them in future innovations? Some do; many don’t: Most profits go into royalties and dividends. When managers and shareholders have satisfied their needs for expensive cars and such and there’s still something left over, we should seriously ask ourselves what to do with that money? Here’s an idea: We could – at least partially – put it into new financing modes such as crowd funding. Today, this is most common in the online economy. But why shouldn’t it be in the agro-food business as well?