MSc Insights and Innovation student Eva Sarai gives us an overview of her placement with East Coast Bakehouse, a large scale start-up that manufactures biscuits for their own label as well as private label and contract manufacturing customers.
“Innovation is at the core of the company’s ambition, yet formalized innovation structures had yet to be fully developed. This was where my involvement came into play. The coursework element of the Insights & Innovation programme provided me with the backdrop and tools to integrate the critical pieces of an innovation process and strategy into the company’s day to day structure. A couple of the most impactful aspects of the course modules were:
Innovation Strategy – This module prompted the big questions, such as: What phase of growth is the business in currently? Do the innovation ambitions clearly align with the company’s purpose and vision? How do we differentiate from competition?
In my experience with East Coast Bakehouse, we prioritized these conversations about innovation strategy as it helped to set the framework for our actions. We even created an Innovation Wish List, which details the outcomes of innovation each new opportunity should bring to the business. Seeking clarity around the innovation strategy also helps to illuminate where the strengths are, or where the gaps might exist. For example, we determined that a more insight-rich research process was necessary to forecast and meet customers’ needs as well as create strong selling propositions backed up with evidence and fresh thinking.
Design Thinking – Practices associated with design thinking revolve around a customer or user-centered approach, with an aim to understand a problem and create solutions that are iterative based on continuous feedback.
Because we identified that insights and collaboration were key to our innovation process, a design thinking method proved to be helpful in creating a structure for the company’s innovation process. We implemented three phases of early-stage innovation: Discover, Ideate and Develop. These phases now offer a framework for identifying the gap or opportunity area, generating insights, brainstorming, creating a strong business case for the concept, and prototyping. Furthermore, it ensures that innovation remains consistent, but also with the necessary time to explore and experiment in order to produce unique concepts that might precede a customer or consumer’s needs.
In practice, we have implemented a myriad of new structures, namely a method for sourcing insights, ideation workshops, and ‘Thinking Days’ for diving deeper into the category trends in order to build a strong foundation for new concepts.
From my experience throughout the program, I have found that innovation is not linear. It requires pivoting and employing different resources along the way to reach outcomes that are often unexpected but quite exciting a lot of the time. What I also experienced was that the side-by-side modules and work experience offered an invaluable platform for implementing the learnings and tools from the coursework, and which I will undoubtedly carry into my future career.”
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