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The client is an SME in the food industry with approx. 360 employees. The interim management contract was awarded due to an empty new product pipeline and a variety of projects that had been started, but not completed. I took charge of the national Innovation Management department, with my job being to ensure a sustainable stream of regular new products and product ranges for launch in food retailers. It was particularly important to quickly identify new ideas and products.

Another part of my remit was to establish an ongoing innovation and product management process for the long term. The goal was to develop a long-term strategy and related processes that would give rise to a continuous stream of new product launches. My position was incorporated within a staff department that intersects with Marketing, Product Management and Technical Product Development.

Market evaluation of innovations

The first phase of the project focused on analysing the status quo. Why were new products not achieving the desired success? Why was there no continuous supply of new products? What could we build on? It transpired that the company’s structures were fundamentally very professional. There were plenty of ideas, strong project approaches and a professional product development system. There was, however, a shortage of mechanisms to evaluate ideas and projects in a way that reflects market needs. Instead, development extended well into the sphere of product development focused solely on internal decision-making criteria.

My job was therefore to encourage the organisation to get to grips with the market and review, at an early stage of the development process, how much potential an idea has before investing in it. Another key objective was to reinject momentum into project development, as this had been lost given the low number of past successes.

Launch of instruments to assess market potential

As part of the next phase, I introduced instruments that made it possible to examine and assess the potential of ideas and projects quickly and efficiently. These instruments included early-stage concept development, online consumer surveys and analyses of potential and, over time, have led to increasingly precise results. The result is an intelligent system that is improving all the time. As the findings of the instrument reflect the market environment, the organisation spares itself considerable risk of conflict. Investment in an idea within the product development phase is also easier to evaluate.

Working together on innovative ideas boosts motivation

I also initiated a central database, which brings together all innovative ideas. I involved many parts of the organisation, as well as key service providers, in this process, with numerous in-house departments ultimately collating ideas over a period of several weeks. This gave rise to new impetus and identification with the company’s products, while sharpening awareness of the fact that innovations need to be embraced by the whole organisation.

Innovation management put on a sustainable footing

In the final phase, I bridged the gap between national innovation management and the international ideas pool. I perpetuated the discussion about potential by ensuring that national projects were initially tested on the national market and only given the green light internationally if successful.

In order to put this approach to innovation into practice beyond my tenure, the company followed my recommendation and appointed an Innovation Management Officer. I gave this person an in-depth onboarding, supporting them until they took over their duties in full.

The project at a glance

  • Innovation management in the food industry
  • Market evaluation of innovations
  • Launch of instruments to assess market potential
  • Working together on innovative ideas boosts motivation
  • Innovation management put on a sustainable footing
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