“Innovation is a mindset”: this was the 3rd edition of Ceci n’est pas un webinar
How do we innovate? What does ‘accelerating innovation’ mean, exactly? And how do we create value when we’re forced to adapt in the blink of an eye? For the third edition of Ceci n’est pas un webinar, we welcomed industry experts Dr Dag Piper and Niels Cransberg to discuss innovation, weak signals, and the exquisite joys of failing.
Before we plunge into the many interesting conclusions of this vibrant exchange, let’s first introduce our expert guests. Dr Dag Piper is a renowned Innovation specialist. Still, he prefers to describe himself as a “corporate child”, a “design-thinking coach at heart,” and an avid VW van enthusiast. Niels Cransberg is the current Global Head of Partner Marketing at Just Eat Takeaway and the ex-General Manager of FutureBrands BLX , an innovative future-focused division within PepsiCo. With this extensive background, he brings a healthy dose of growth acceleration knowledge and corporate entrepreneurship to the table.
“Top innovators set aspirational goals that are aligned with corporate strategy, but also offer value creation targets that inspire teams to dream.”
— Niels Cransberg
The true nature of innovation
To define how we can accelerate innovation, we first need to align on what innovation truly means. For Niels Cransberg, innovation dwells in the meeting point between two worlds. “Start-ups have the disruptive mindset to conceive ideas and set things in motion. Larger corporations have the resources to bring those concepts to life. The collision of those two universes is where the magic happens.” Niels likes to find inspiration in local and sustainable initiatives like craft breweries or bio bakers, businesses he considers to be a prime example of breaking through corporate limitations and bringing unique value to the market.
For Dr Dag Piper, true innovation can be more mundane than we think. “When talking about innovation, people usually think about a technological advancement, like the iPhone,” he says. But it doesn’t have to be quite so flashy. According to Dr Piper, innovation lies in everything that makes your consumer’s everyday journey even slightly more efficient, joyful, or effortless.
Start with your own systems
When it comes to accelerating innovation, our experts agree that it’s about more than speed. “Of course, time-to-market is key—you need to analyze consumer needs, formulate a product to fulfil that need, and preferably do it faster than your competitors,” Niels admits.
But he also emphasizes the importance of creating the right context. It’s better to anticipate different scenarios than to force quick reactions. To react fast, you need to prepare well, and that preparation lies in mapping out multiple strategies and responses from the get-go.
At FutureBrands, which served as an incubator for the brands of tomorrow, Niels also learned that accelerating innovation might mean setting up new internal structures.
“The secret lies in creating a community of like-minded, passionate, and entrepreneurial people. In changing mindsets.” At times, it’s more efficient to set up small, dedicated teams to operate relatively free of corporate guidelines and test things out on a smaller scale. “FutureBrands was all about building an agile venture with a new, accelerated governance model. This smaller-scale division didn’t only enable us to take lessons from funky, young brands and experiment to our heart’s content; it also allowed us to evade the reluctance consumers often feel towards larger corporations these days.”
“Start-ups have the disruptive mindset to conceive ideas and set things in motion. Larger corporations have the resources to bring those concepts to life. The collision of those two universes is where the magic happens.”
— Niels Cransberg
Dr Dag Piper agrees that rather than just being fast, it’s about being agile—getting things done quick and easy, but in a systematic and structured way. “We need to forget everything we knew about market research back in the 80s and 90s. Instead of only asking questions, let’s also observe, listen carefully, and adjust our strategy.”
Spot the weak signals
So you’re setting up a dedicated team and adopting an agile mindset. Then what? Do you dive into a trend report to spark the next fresh idea? Quite the opposite, says Dr Dag Piper, who admittedly isn’t a big fan of trends. “As soon as a trend has a name, it’s too late.”
“Digital is great, but it only triggers the visual and auditory aspects of our consumers’ psyches. In the future, physical experiences will gain terrain once again.”
—Dr Dag Piper
Rather than keeping up with trends and compiling trend reports, we need to spot what he calls “the weak signal”. As consumers, we all have invisible filters to look at the market—things we intuitively respond to, and other things that go right over our heads.
Being able to detect and define the weak signals of your target audience helps you anticipate what's coming, rather than jumping on a trend that’s already on its way out.
- Dr Dag Piper
Give us a story
As humans, we like to think we’re rational creatures. But the truth is that humans feel rather than think their way through life, and that holds true for the marketplace as well. We buy things because they sell us an experience, a memory, or a story. After all, “everything we do is about telling stories”, Dr Piper says.
To boost brand perception and brand relevance, we’ll need to offer experiences rather than products or services. According to Dr Piper, experiences are all about memory, and our unconscious memory is what truly defines the way we look at brands. To make a lasting impact on consumers, a multi-sensorial approach will become radically more important. And that’s an interesting evolution, because it also challenges our digital-first way of thinking. “Digital is great, but it only triggers the visual and auditory aspects of our consumers’ psyches,” Dr Piper explains. He predicts that “in the future, physical experiences will gain terrain once again.” Whoever’s preparing for an exclusively digital approach might soon be drawing the short end of the stick—a hybrid strategy that speaks to consumers on multiple sensory levels will be the way to go.
What we’ve learned
“Innovation doesn’t come from outside—it’s a mindset,” moderator Cedric De Smedt concludes. And that’s exactly what this meeting of the minds has taught us. To accelerate innovation, we need to spot weak signals, sell stories and trigger our consumers’ unconscious memory. We need to innovate our own internal structures and build dedicated and committed teams that aren’t afraid to embrace failure, learn fast, and move on to the next new thing. Or, in the ringing words of Niels Cransberg: “top innovators set aspirational goals that are aligned with corporate strategy, but also offer value creation targets that inspire teams to dream.”