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Food Innovation – Building a Creative Culture

We all want a creative and innovative working culture and it is especially vital in food innovation, but how do we create that? Karen Green, food mentor and consultant for food and drink businesses, gives us her view on what can be done…

Most food businesses are governed by the necessary structure and rules to ensure consistent quality and maximum health and safety.  So how do you enable the culture that allows people to go beyond their view of reality and really live their imagination?

Here are a few ways to a creative and innovative culture:

Take it from the top!

Within the majority of innovative businesses, there are strong leaders such as Mark Zuckerberg, James Dyson and Richard Reed, who are obsessed with driving creativity and newness in their business.  PA Consulting undertook a survey of 821 senior executives about innovation and found that 81% of successful businesses had leaders who offer their employees an inspirational sense of purpose when it comes to innovation.

Creating the flow

Giving people the time to be innovative is key.  Often day-to-day pressures get in the way of the innovation projects so we need to ensure that we build innovation into everything we do rather than it being the project that gets looked at on a Friday afternoon.

It is important that everyone in the team is aligned and enabled for evolution and innovation. Taking risks and accepting that some will fail needs to part of the culture – and encouraged not punished! Ways of encouraging the creative passion include:

  • Innovation incentive scheme – most of my clients have an incentive scheme whereby great innovative ideas are considered and the idea generator is rewarded with a percentage of the money saved.
  • Off-site creativity days – It’s good to go off site and focus on new ideas and innovation planning. Ensure part of that day involves going to inspirational sources such as Liberty and Paperchase for design and colour themes. Go to a gift show or art exhibition or just walk down the street and look in shop windows. Be a magpie and steal ideas from wherever you find them.
  • Creative play –some of my best ideas come to me in the shower, when I am out shopping or at three in the morning when I can’t sleep i.e. when I am not thinking about work! It is great to create a play area where you can take time out from the computer – read magazines, doodle, and generally let the creative mind run free.

Use of fresh eyes

Sometimes bringing fresh eyes to each job role can really help to give a fresh perspective. This can be:

  • Rotating people from their traditional roles in the business and getting them to challenge traditions in other areas.
  • Ask suppliers to present inspirational ideas for your business
  • Subscribe to newsletters such as thefoodpeople.co.uk, www.foodbev.com/newletters etc.
  • Use a consultant or interim on a short term basis who has a different set of experiences and will be able to look at your business with a fresh and innovative perspective.

There is no doubt that innovation drives business value and profitable sales growth.  And by following some of these ideas and creating an innovation culture to enable and motivate your team and by keeping a strong source of new ideas and viewpoints, you can drive food innovation that keeps your business ahead of the pack – and of course winning Quality food awards long into the future!

Karen Green works with food businesses to ensure their continuing success.