By Jacqueline Wilson-Smith, Head of Innovation & Marketing, Gourmet Garden & FAN director
Through my experience as an innovation project leader over the past 20 years both internationally (Hardy’s Wines, Echo Falls, Starbucks, Kraft) and locally, (Gourmet Garden, Nutworks, Wimmers & Buderim Ginger) I have learnt the hard way. To take a good idea and to transform it into an innovation, the harsh reality is you need to figure out pretty quickly who you need collaborate with. This means both within your business and most importantly outside of your business too, with partners, customers, distributors and advertisers, just to name a few.
Interestingly, I have also discovered that when I collaborate with people who offer diversity of thought, I not only end up with better, more unique and creative solutions, but also end up finding different and more interesting problems to solve, including uncovering latent needs. I must be a bit of a nerd on this topic as finding latent needs – problems that people don’t even know they have yet – is the kind of thing that really gets me jumping out of bed each morning.
I love the quote from Raymond Belbin, “Nobody’s perfect – but a team can be”. This builds in the premise of collective intelligence. When I team up with complementary people who are wired differently to me, I find collectively we double or triple our intellectual capacity, to not only solve problems, but also to find problems.
Over the past 5 years I have become a practicing advocate of “Design Thinking” and this has become the backbone to the innovation program at Gourmet Garden.
So what is it? Essentially “Design Thinking” emerged out of the design world in the 70’s as a process used by architects, designers & engineers to innovate using “solution-focused” ideas and then testing them. In the 1990’s, the founders of IDEO adapted it for business purposes. In Australia, Professor Sam Buculo at UTS leads a team investigating the value of it to the Australia economy.
Here’s a couple of video clips from Sam Buculo to explain. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S26AQtntzNY
I believe that design thinking processes can be used in practical sense for the FAN membership base to fast-track the art of collaborating within the network, help shift mind-sets from being just problem solvers into being problem finders too and to creatively visualize solutions that can be tested with customers through storytelling.
So instead of saying, ok I’ll work out how to sell my locally grown strawberries better, it’s asking why do people want locally grown strawberries anyway? When do they want them and why then? What is the problem you are trying to solve? Imagine what their latent needs could be? Is there a more creative solution that we haven’t thought about?
I believe there is a strong link between diversity of thought and creativity. If you are always looking at your business problems and opportunities either in solo or with the same people, who are similar to you, the chances of coming up with an idea that is unique is pretty bleak, because nobody is there to challenge the ingrained beliefs. Being a part of the FAN network may give you a chance to find people who think differently.
On the 26th July, at the FAN breakfast and ½ day workshop, I look forward to transferring some skills to FAN members that go hand in hand: Innovation & Collaboration.