Innovating in a constrained world can be a risk. But even if not all of your ideas are successful, it’s a risk worth taking. This is a topic that our co-owner and CEO Meabh Quoirin explored in-depth at Advertising Week New York, alongside two Foresight Factory clients: Jennifer Brace, Chief Futurist at Ford Motor Company, and Camilla Medeiros, Vice President Global Innovation and Insights from Edgewell Personal Care. Below, in the first part of our two-part blog series summarizing the event, we highlight three insights from the conversation:
1. Failure is okay
It’s no secret that the failure rate is high in innovation. From supply chains to budgeting to changing consumer needs, there are plenty of constraints that could potentially cause new ideas to flop. But this should not discourage brands from taking those big leaps.
“We expect failure in everything we do,” said Camilla Medeiros. “That’s just part of how we plan. Failure is okay, so long as we can learn from it.”
Jennifer Brace agreed. She explained that there is a dedicated arm of Ford that’s focused on testing out new ideas on a smaller scale, with a deliberately startup-like culture. “Innovation doesn’t need to be planned,” she said. “In fact, it’s kind of better when it’s not. It’s part of everybody’s job.”
2. Constraints are inevitable
Today, the economic context is difficult, the global political context is complicated, and in many ways, the world is still recovering from the effects of COVID. Innovation is all about growth and moving forward, but brands face the challenge of doing so in the face of constraint and uncertainty. How can brands drive a continuous pipeline of innovation, against all odds?
According to Camilla Medeiros, it’s key to remember that constraints are not new, and they’re not going away any time soon. “We see them all the time,” she said. “We see constraints in terms of how we can price something, and where we make enough margin to make it worth launching a product. And there are constraints in terms of really meeting a unique, unmet consumer need that hasn’t been met before.” Even before COVID, constraints were there, disruptor brands being a big one for Edgewell. Sustainability, too, is a challenge the brand needs to contend with.
Jennifer Brace added: “The constraints are always going to be there… but the need to innovate and keep evolving and getting better and bringing new things to the market will always be there too.”
3. It pays to be a “polite contrarian”
While some challenges and constraints are obvious, many are unforeseen. Jennifer’s Trends and Futuring team at Ford deals with these by constantly paying attention to what’s happening in the world, and challenging other teams to think about what the future could look like.
“We like to call ourselves the polite contrarians,” she explained. “Because sometimes we kind of rain on [other teams’] parade and say – But did you think about this? But what if that happens?”
By doing so, they are able to unlock a “future of choice” instead of a future of constraint, because they’ve considered different paths and have developed A, B, C and D plans for different scenarios. “A lot of what we do is try to get ahead of what those might be,” she said. That way, “those teams are at least thinking about how they would react in some of these situations or scenarios.”
Does your brand have a solid grasp on the different outcomes that could shape your future commercial and operating landscape? Our scenario planning service helps you to identify and prioritize the signals that matter in a sea of ever-evolving constraints. By spotlighting early warnings of emerging risks, we empower you to future-proof your brand against long-term change. Get in touch today to learn more about how we can steer your brand towards a future of informed, strategic innovation.