Innovation tips from a serial CEO

ONE MINUTE BRIEFING: After executive positions spanning FMCG, frozen foods and music, VC founder Elio Leoni Sceti says success lies in a focus on culture and consumer need.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 14 Dec 2018

Businesses spend a lot of time talking about the importance of innovation. Affirming the need to quickly adapt to changing markets is one thing; putting it into practice is another, especially in large companies.

If anyone knows what successful innovation at scale looks like, it’s Elio Leoni Sceti. He spent ten years running innovation at FMCG giant Reckitt Benckiser (now RB and one of Britain's Top 5 Most Admired Companies) before top seat stints at music firm EMI and frozen food group Iglo. Now he heads up The Craftory, an investment house for challenger brands.

He explains what companies often get wrong about innovation.


"A mistake that many companies make is that they don’t define exactly what innovation means to them.

"Innovation is a consequence of culture. You need to know exactly what you are working towards and what it means for your business model. Is it simply adding a sprinkle of lemon to your existing strategy? Or is it the delivery of a new form of product or consumer benefit?

"At Reckitt Benckiser we had the goal of renewing our portfolio every three years, so this meant we needed a 30% rate of new products every year. Every sector has its own pace for changing consumer needs and it’s about finding what works for your business.

"It’s also vital to ensure that there is genuine consumer relevance.Very often innovation can become an internal exercise to justify people's daily contribution rather than to serve a genuine business need.

"The only way to truly innovate a product is by measuring the consumer response, so businesses should shorten the process behind getting the product to market. The biggest stifler of entrepreneurship is bureaucracy. Create a venture arm that is as removed from the big machine as possible within which people are rewarded for their entrepreneurial risk."

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Innovation is strategic -- Define what innovation is, paint your target and then remove any barriers that could stifle its development.

Innovation has changed -- For years big companies have talked to consumers about consumption, but now customers care far more about the consequences of that consumption which brings a whole new opportunity for innovation.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

What does a culture of innovation look like? This article explains more. To find out the benefits of using your network to innovate, read this piece and for an example of how white goods giant Miele brought innovation to its sales process, click here.

 



Image credits: Pavel1964/Getty images

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