Don't be afraid to go small and build up


David Lowings Managing Director, 42 Brand Consulting Sir; It was good to read Tim Nicol's essay on innovation ('Innovation success: hard to reach but vital to strive for', The Grocer, 22 March, p22). Innovation is critical to business success now and into the future. In a recession it becomes harder to allocate financial and staff resources, but historical evidence indicates companies that remain committed to innovation hit the ground running, and are stronger as a result, when the economy improves. Companies are very good at 'talking the talk' - but poor at 'walking the talk'. Innovation is a word chief executives are fond of trotting out at speeches to shareholders and staff, but without a deep and visible commitment to making it happen at all levels of the company, it's just words. Nicol is right that most launches are merely line extensions. When big companies try to do something new it often turns out like the proverbial camel - a horse designed by a committee. Witness the failure of Unilever's Adez - unconvincing and obscure to most shoppers. One solution is not to be afraid to start small with a small, empowered, cross-functional team. Focus on a clearly defined opportunity that is new to the consumer. Then get more people in the company involved - and enthused. Achieve success the first time and it becomes so much easier the second.