I first met Ben when I was Director of Insight & Innovation at 2 Sisters Food Group back in 2014 and was immediately impressed by his vision and drive to effect change in this field. I knew nothing about Agile Innovation at that time nor was I very savvy about the accelerating digital world, but I was curious to learn. Ben’s background, rooted in retail, meant that he was able to not only explain in words I understood but also provide an extremely practical and grounded approach in an area that to me previously had felt overly theoretical. I met Bill some years later and was struck by what a brilliant team they made together, with fantastically complementary but diverse experience and personalities that just worked. Privately, I also loved the fact that they were ‘Bill and Ben’, but couldn’t be more different from the originals if they tried!
When Ben told me he was publishing this book it hit me that it was a brilliant time for this. In my thirty-year career I have never seen customer attitudes, needs and behaviours change so rapidly as they have through Covid-19 and lockdown. Never before have we needed to innovate with more pace and keep our fingers more firmly on the pulse of what customers are doing and thinking. There are more new opportunities for problem-solving with great innovation than ever before. Combined with the fact that we are all tightly controlling our costs, none of us can afford to launch products that fail to provide a good return.
I’ve spent many years in the food world and always in the fields of insight and innovation. The success rate of new product launches has barely budged in this time, both within the industry and as regards my own personal track record. Does that mean I am no good at my job? Surely I must have picked up some experience along the way? No I think it is more because of the way we do innovation. The old adage that if you do what you have always done you will get what you have always had has never rung truer. Even before Covid-19 there was a need to change the way we work, and for me Agile Innovation offers a great new direction.
When Ben asked me to write this foreword, I was a little hesitant. Did I really want to share the knowledge I had of this when it was giving me a competitive advantage? But I feel passionately that the industry needs to change to ensure less waste in terms of time, costs and resources. Agile innovation can massively help with this, but you will always need good people who have great gut feel and business nous; that, combined with Agile Innovation thinking, can help transform our industry.
Ben and Bill can take you through what Agile Innovation is and what it has the power to achieve much more eloquently than I ever could, and I truly encourage you to read this book. For me, we need greater pace, objectivity, data and the customer deeply ingrained in the process if we are to become more successful in the innovation world. This will save time and money, and it is precisely this that Agile Innovation will help you to achieve.
Retailers, manufacturers, brands agencies and even the hospitality industry, which we know more than anyone needs to reinvent itself in this challenging time, will benefit from all this book has to offer, and I would recommend it to anyone in the food world who wants to drive growth through new products, concepts, propositions and inventions!
Be curious, be open and seek to drive change for the better of our whole industry … This book is not the silver bullet, but could well be the best gun you ever buy. Just don’t forget that you will always need great people to fire it!