What large brands can do to break down barriers and innovate like a startup

Former director of marketing at Nestle USA and current Ferrero executive urges marketers to do a ‘sprint process’ to reveal innovation opportunities


Daniela Simpson
Daniela Simpson

3 key obstacles to success  

But before businesses - particularly large players - can even begin to embark on a similar sprint process, they need to know what they’re up against. Simpson flagged three main obstacles blocking innovation and growth.

One huge innovation barrier for marketers, particularly in large companies, is a “lack of flexible processes that enable speed”. “The processes are well intended, but often times they become very rigid and slow us down versus propel us to innovate.”

Just a few years ago it would take 18 to 24 months to get a new idea or innovation - even just a new flavour of a snack - into market, Simpson continued. “That was because we had very slow processes and they were very rigid, and we had to follow them.”

The second big barrier is risk adversity as it relates to the pursuit of perfection in testing and validating ideas.

“I want to perfect this new innovation and test it over and over until I remove all of the risk, but it becomes very cumbersome and in the way of speed and agility and flexibility,” Simpson said. 

The third obstacle revolves around not having the “right cooks” in the innovation kitchen. Simpson said she’s encountered two extremes, both of which don’t produce the right outcome.

“You either have the right people in innovation, but a small group of people and a lack of involvement from the rest of the functions across the company like sales, finance or operations. So you’re doing your thing in isolation from the rest of the stakeholders in your company - and that’s usually dead on arrival. The innovation is never going to go anywhere.”

The other extreme is when you have the entire leadership team and many people from many different functions all wanting to be very involved as the marketer tries to create new product or services. “That can become very frustrating because they’re now micromanaging and getting in the way,” she said. 

At the same time, marketers need to recognise how important it is to become demand creators.

“In order to sustain a modern marketing function at the macro level, we need to become incredible demand creators, either in creating demand for product or for services, which will ultimately result in company growth," Simpson concluded. “One of the best levers to create demand is innovation."

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