Friday, April 11, 2014

From healthy to well'thy - insights regarding the new definition to health

The consumers in the rich part of the world appear to experience even growing pressure. You may think it has something to do with the conflicts around the world, the pressure of finding work-life balance or climate change. All those things probably hold true... but in addition there is a challenge of a more personal and physical matter.

The mother of a friend described the situation vividly following a recent visit to Thailand. At a popular Scandinavian hotel she witnessed mid-aged Scandinavians in their prime. Their beautiful toned bodies, bulging muscles and tight six-packs were on show by the poolside while watching their young kids having fun. Being of an older generation and with different priorities she was amazed by their healthy and toned bodies. But beyond the surface she also noticed that in their beautiful healthiness, they did not look or seem particularly happy.

This was an insightful observation which I've since thought about it whilst working on the creation of a deep understanding of consumer needs and insights related to health.

What remains as an important consumer health need is of course the long-standing impact of a healthy lifestyle. The feeling of being able to turn-back the clock and live longer. Another reason for embarking on a healthy lifestyle is the impact that good nutrition has on energy levels and on the ability to handle everyday life. And thirdly of course the want to ‘look-good’ and perhaps lose some weight. However, beyond these typically vocalized health needs and reasons emerged a more unarticulated ‘meta’ need. I would claim that this need has the power to change the view on health and the health foods territory as a whole. And perhaps this ‘meta’ need is the one with the strongest impact on the people by the pool in Thailand. This ‘meta’ need is to show your status in society through a healthy looking body. We call it ‘Health is the new status symbol’ and in the terms of Maslow it can be summed-up to ‘self-actualization by looking truly healty’.

I am convinced that this strong desire to demonstrate ‘status through health’ will have a strong impact on the food industry. It probably already has when you witness the strong growth in categories such as health snacks and the many launches of protein yogurt. In the fashion world Marc Jacobs has dropped 15kilos and is now selling his version of a sport on the catwalk. Swedish retail giant H&M has opened up their own sport stores well aware that ‘Health as the new status symbol’ is desired state that sells. It is only a matter of time until retailers give health foods an even larger share of space.

Out goes the envy of the Oligarch flexing his Rolex or the ‘beauty fake’ of Hollywood quick-fixes. In comes a desire and praise of the toned bodies of international sportsmen and sportswomen. Never before have such serious effort, time and money being spent on personal trainers, health foods, running gear, bicycles and health retreats. Health is the new status symbol – and for the food industry this realization will open up many opportunities. But let us try to be a bit more cheerful than the Thailand crowd in our endevours to achieve status through health.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Strategic Innovation Management

It’s only during the last few years that I have heard Nordic companies talk about innovation from a more strategic and business growth oriented perspective. Maybe this shift to what I would call a more sophisticated approach to innovation is linked to the last few years of European recession where companies with a strong innovation pipeline have proven that growth is possible - despite the economic gloom. Or could it be the result of a new generation of senior management with the growing awareness that innovation doesn’t simply pop-up from nowhere but is rather a business growth discipline with opportunity to learn from the likes of the 3M’s and P&G’s of this world.

No matter what, it’s with great anticipation I see this growing awareness and first foundations to a more sophisticated innovation approach. I hear of companies that employ innovation leaders, build innovation teams and invest in tools and processes for how to manage innovation successfully. It’s early steps and a new discipline for many, but I believe that these early steps of approaching innovation as a business discipline may soon be compared to the quality movement of the 90’s.

When it comes to the HOW of innovation, I would like to raise the importance of top management leadership and ‘Strategic Innovation Management’. In my definition this relates to the importance of raising innovation to the higher management agenda, to act as a continuous steering tool with focus on identifying and managing the projects leading to organic business growth. Some of the important elements to consider in that respect would be to:

Establish a top management ‘Innovation management’ forum
oThis is a decision and steering forum for all innovation projects, where projects are established, gate decisions are taken, and particular steering is given on the request of the project lead or owner.

Identify future growth drivers or opportunity platforms
o Growth drivers or opportunity platforms are identified and promising innovation territories in a market. These are used to help focus innovation efforts in the direction that the business feels would be the most promising.

To actively manage and balance the Innovation Portfolio
o This is the classification and continuous analysis of innovation projects, to ensure that there are enough projects and project breadth in the innovation portfolio to secure future profit streams. With innovation project breadth I mean the mix of more easy wins, low risk and less groundbreaking initiatives VS projects that are truly big opportunities but also with a much higher risk profile.

An innovation process with direction, steering and clear decision points
The classical Innovation stage gate funnel is a commonly used approach that makes sense in my world but each company would of course have the opportunity to create its own process, and a process that is fit for the business and market environment. The key thing is that there is a framework for innovation with clarity on why projects are run, who gives direction, who makes decisions and when in time each of the previous points should be handled.

The above factors I would consider being core of the discipline of ‘Strategic Innovation Management’. And once those are in place a good foundation for promising innovation projects would be in place.