6 Ways To Change Your Mindset About Innovation Before The Marketplace Passes You By

6 Ways To Change Your Mindset About Innovation Before The Marketplace Passes You By 960 640 C-Suite Network

My organization has spent several months rebuilding our web site…again. Not just the look and feel but reviewing my value proposition and services to make sure they align with our existing and new clients’ needs. It’s a simultaneously tedious, invigorating, insightful, time consuming, and painstaking process on a macro and micro level. It is in a word: exhausting.

In my last article, I talked exhaustion, specifically about why the conversation around diversity is so exhausting. But in order to grow and evolve in uncertain times and an age when competitors emerge faster than ever, we should expect at least some exhaustion if we want to keep recreating growth. No matter how deep our relationships with our clients and customers or how venerable our brands are, we can’t simply manage the growth we have or maintain the bottom line and expect to survive.

This is what I was thinking when I came across an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal: “So Long, Hamburger Helper: America’s Venerable Food Brands Are Struggling” by Annie Gasparro and Saabira Chaudhuri.

In the article, the authors lay out how major food brands are struggling in the face of customer preferences for fresh fare and lower-priced store brands. Kellogg’s cereals, Aunt Jemima pancake mix, and Hamburger Helper are among the brands that failed to anticipate the unexpected and missed the need to innovate. Meanwhile, companies like Chobani saw the growing demand for Greek yogurt leading to double-digit sales declines for Yoplait.

“The plight of the packaged-goods companies is a classic business tale. An industry creates winning products, carves out strong market positions and enjoys reliable, sustained revenue—only to be too slow to adapt to changes that threaten those cash cows,” the authors write. Today, they continue, companies like General Mills are working to “to cater to evolving consumer preferences” including removing artificial ingredients and sweeteners, fat, and dyes and cutting time for new products to come to market. But is it enough? Too little too late? According to the authors: “Hamburger Helper, and the other Helper varieties owned by General Mills, declined to 40% of sales of dinner mixes in the U.S. last year from 61% in 2007, according to market researcher Euromonitor, and Conagra Brands’s Chef Boyardee’s share of shelf-stable ready-meal sales fell to 23% from 25%.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean these brands and products aren’t still profitable but their legacies are in peril. That’s what happens when you spend more time managing growth and less time innovating to recreate it.

The story this article told resonated with me beyond the fact that these are iconic brands from my childhood— with jingles I could sing even if I rarely ate the products. Most of my corporate and entrepreneurial careers were spent in food and beverage trying to compete against established brands. At Sunkist, I handled the expansion of private label brands on the shelf,…