Woman listening to a man conversation discussion office team work

What can you do to enable quality thinking in our fast-changing world? I talked last time about how the right work environment will help - optimise your work space, get outside the workplace, get to the coalface and keep up with the outside world. But it is equally important to make maximum use of perspective. 

First, take the consumption chain perspective. For food, that means the perspective of the shopper, of the person taking the product home and storing it, of the cook, of the eater(s) and of the person clearing up. But don’t think you always “need to do the research” to understand the consumption chain. Most organisations in our industry already have enough data and knowledge about the chain (sometimes too much). In any case, simply thinking your way along the chain may be enough.

Second, seek an industry expert perspective. The vast majority of your problems are occurring elsewhere in our industry. Established sub-categories with high margin but in decline vs emerging sub-categories, on trend but with lower margin? Amazon and other disruptors taking chunks out of your most profitable customers? Difficulty driving decent sales without huge promotional investment? You are not alone in tackling these issues. Industry experts have seen other companies with similar problems, seen solutions that work, and seen attempted solutions that do not work.

Fundamentals of category management, 7: Building processes to support innovation

Third, seek an idiot perspective. As in ‘idiot savant’ - don’t literally seek out an idiot. Someone who knows next to nothing about your brand, the category, or the industry. Someone like your mum or dad, your partner, your kids. You can suffer by getting too close to things. For example, during a pack redesign, you might be fixating on the emotional subtleties of your new brand positioning. Your ‘idiot’ helper might point out that he or she can’t easily identify the flavour variant any more. That’s probably more important.

Fourthly, seek a cross-functional perspective. Ask stakeholders in every function to help you create the thinking. Don’t think of them as hurdles to be negotiated once the thinking is done. We were shocked when we heard about a big fmcg that visibly blanched at the idea of getting its sales and marketing leaders together to help kick off the thinking for a category strategy. It was considered too likely to create a row. It shouldn’t be like that.

So to arrive at quality thinking, you need to think in 4D - four perspectives. The consumption chain perspective, the industry expert perspective, the idiot perspective, and the cross-functional perspective.

Jeremy Garlick is a partner of Insight Traction