Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Live from FEI EMEA: Why should you consider a separate Research team?

Alfred Yoakim, Head of Nestlé System Technology Centre, addressed in his presentation the Nespresso Story. At the beginning Nestlé had a great product, but they had no clue about the coffee machines. In 1986 a new group was set up as an independent group - with freedom to innovate in the traditional areas.

The original team was working from 1986-1993, e.g. developing the Nespresso original machines and system, filling the pipeline and developing new capsule generation. The team has been replaced in 1993 until 1998, mainly focusing on quality improvement and production aspects. The original team was called back in to stimulate innovation.

In the following years several different coffee machine types have been launched. Several proposals for new launches were originally not supported by the Top Management, which were very successful after launch, several times under a new management.

The total team didn’t have even 10 members and worked as a mix from different disciplines and age. They developed more than 300 concepts and 5000 patents over time.

The common process went in a loop from Idea Generation to Prototyping further to Concept Testing, closing again the loop for new Idea Generation.  After the concept tests the step of getting Marketing & Commercial buy-in towards industrialization always needs to be passed.

Guiding principles of the team included the realization of quick wins; Innovations doesn’t necessarily mean Invention or complex technology which helps to speed up. But also putting the consumer into the center and acting with defined End-Dates, making sure to have a leadership vision and a common sense. But also beware of short term imperatives and going for renovation instead of Innovation.

In2011 the organizational change was made to transfer the team from a hidden group within Nespresso to a recognized force within Nestlé.

Alfred Yoakim closed his presentation by providing success factors based on his lessons learned:
Make sure that the team works stand-alone and protected, is empowered and funded, is free to innovate and explore and has Champions in addition to Management support.

About the Author:

Frauke Lohr is running her own consulting business named Comsciencia, targeting customers from industry, academia as well as politics with special focus on innovation topics. She is currently attending the 6th annual
Front End of Innovation EMEA in Zürich, Switzerland on February 27-29, 2012, and covering the event live via the FEI Blog and Twitter.

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