Cooking up Innovation

C&I Issue 4, 2017

Cooking up Innovation


Douglas Leech

Title: What we mean when we talk about innovation, Authors: Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove, Publisher: Infinite Ideas, Year: 2016, Pages: 144, Price: £9.99, ISBN: 978-1908-9-8457-9

Innovation means many things to many people and is probably over utilised in the business world. However, there seems to be an increasing realisation that innovation is not just product-specific, it also relates to organisational structures and management styles.

I have worked for a number of companies in R&D where formulations were modified and ‘made better’ but this was usually driven by cost, efficiency or customer requirements rather than by any true innovation. However, they were still innovative if they represented a departure from the normal ‘product stereotype’. A change in the chemistry required innovation in the equipment and processes undertaken as well as the way the products were marketed.

The mantra of this book seems to be ‘learn by experience’.

For me the most intriguing section of the book was chapter 18 which identified that kitchens were probably the best example of innovation in the business world. So, as the author explains, in a restaurant it is not the cost that is the most important consideration, it is the dining experience as a whole. You can have a brilliant menu, fantastic food and surroundings but if your staff are not organised and/or rude then the overall experience could be tainted. It is the same in business in relation to customer service. Many companies spoil their ground-breaking innovative product or service by failing to understand the customers’ needs or requirements believing they will triumph.

The book contains several case studies and the ‘holistic approach’ seems to underpin many of them. The underlying message seems to be that innovation should not be a ‘one time only offer’, it should be a mantra or culture within an organisation and should not just be driven from the ‘top down’ – it is vital to get buy-in from all levels. Hence the authors’ analogy of the kitchen. Everyone on the process from the pot-washer to the vegetable peeler, to the chef are responsible for the overall experience. They need to understand their role and rely on the passion and commitment of all to deliver a ‘flawless just in time experience’.

Inevitably such innovation ‘adds value’ to the process or product and helps stay ahead, or at least up, with the pack.

Douglas Leech is technical director of the Chemical Business Association based in Crewe, UK


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