I was at an industry event recently, and the speaker was talking about courage and how he’d like to have more courage this year in order to listen more carefully, to be a better boss, to admit he didn’t know something and to do something different.
We all want to know what the next big thing will be, but there is the fear we’ll bet on the wrong horse. And that fear is very real when you are betting millions of dollars on product development.
It would be so easy just to continue to do the same things, especially if they have worked really well for many, many years. That was the position Andria Long, vice president of innovation & consumer insights at Johnsonville, found herself in when she was working for a company that had 50-plus years of consecutive growth.
Long recently spoke at the Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network’s Innovation Breakfast Series and shared lessons learned from her 20-plus-year career in the food and beverage industry. She said this particular company didn’t want to change, because its past efforts had been working so well. She calls this the “winner’s curse.”
“The arrogance of success is thinking what you did yesterday will be sufficient to do what you do tomorrow,” she told the crowd. “But what worked 10 years ago does not work today; even five years ago doesn’t work today.”
Long said companies must differentiate or they will die, and that to stand still is to create a burial ground.
But change can be one of the most difficult and terrifying things to people, which those of us who have had to give up something or stop a habit already know. And that is when we have been doing something that we know is not working for us. What about a company changing course when it has had success?
I heard this same message from Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, in her interview on Freakonomics about the company’s shift to healthier foods. She spearheaded this change back in the mid-2000s. It’s a switch that seems pretty sensible now, but at that time, people were not convinced PepsiCo should focus on something it hadn’t done before. Nooyi said she had to ask her employees to look at how their eating and drinking habits were changing and then challenge their beliefs that consumers weren’t changing as well.
Nooyi observed the shift first hand and knew PepsiCo would have to develop food and beverages that people wanted at this moment in time, not what they wanted 10 years ago. To enact that change, when a whole room of your own employees are second-guessing it, takes not only courage, but guts.
So, what are you going to do differently in 2018?