Happy Innovation Day!
Strauss has been considered an innovative company since its inception, and has been actively involved in innovation throughout its history. Since 2000, these activities have become increasingly structured and formal; and since 2011, following the establishment of Alpha Strauss – and even more so with the establishment of our incubator, The Kitchen Hub – we have also been active in technological innovation in the food industry, FoodTech, alongside our business innovation.
In honor of International Innovation Day, I wanted to revisit with you the basics of the meaning of “innovation” and the differences between innovation and “continuous improvement” or, if you like, “evolution” as opposed to “revolution”. If you find this a little too philosophical, please forgive me.
I will demonstrate the difference between these terms with help of a “product”. Every product is imbued with values and/or properties that are imprinted in its material and form, thus attempting to deliver value to consumers or to solve the problem they face.
While continuous improvement refers to the attempt to refine this set of values and features and bring them to perfection, innovation is the creation of a set of new values and features, or a change in the relationship and balance of intensity between the different values within the product and, sometimes, delivering those same values and properties via a different material and form.
Strauss has several wonderful examples of continuous improvements, such as Tapuchips and Turkish Coffee, for example. Those of us who are old enough still remember that opening a bag of Tapuchips was accompanied by misgivings that the potato chips would be burnt, damp, or oxidized, whereas today, consumers can be sure that the product will be perfect.
With the “old” Turkish Coffee, we had to hope that it would smell good – or that it would have any smell at all – and that it wouldn’t be burnt. Today, opening a bag of Turkish Coffee is a celebration of freshness. Making continuous improvements takes qualities like professionalism, diligence, learning abilities, competitiveness, etc. But a company that is active only in continuous improvement won’t survive.
When it comes to innovation, the situation is more complex, because while “continuously improved” products have already found a set of values and feature that the consumer wants and all they have to do is improve them, innovative products must create a new set of values that suit the consumer, or in certain cases, take a giant step in the quality of those values.
In both cases, the challenge is a tough one. This is why, despite countless attempts, most innovation fails, and it is most certainly the reason why to innovate successfully, we use new knowledge and technology. New technology is like a new letter in the alphabet; just imagine how many completely new words you could create if you only had one more letter at your disposal.
To innovate, we need more imagination than professionalism, no less creative idleness than diligence, and no less vision than competitiveness.
And finally, I will say that we need both faster horses as well as cars, or to use a current paraphrase – we need to improve milk that is produced by cows as well as milk that isn’t.
Happy Innovation Day,