Campbell Soup Company was struggling mightily and was ready for business adaptation. They had already has tried just about everything in its efforts to jump-start growth in the last few years under CEO Denise Morrison. And now the packaged-goods giant decided it was going to try more of just about everything in a bid to finally get over the stagnation hump. Their adaptation to change goal … supercharge revenues by 20 percent to become a $10 billion company within five years.
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Morrison plan included reaching that goal with a flurry of new products, greater leveraging of Campbell’s recent acquisitions and the likelihood of more acquisitions ahead to counter the slow-growth.
Their plan included a blitz of more than 200 new products to include protein bars and shakes to capitalize on the protein trend, the first organic varieties of Campbell Soup including flavors such as chicken tortilla and garden vegetable, and a new range of V8 flavors.
In other words, Campbell was trying to leverage the R&D, product development and marketing assets in all of the many categories it occupied in new and different ways. She wanted to tap into better-for-you trends where it has been behind. Its goal was to finally break through the stagnation that has been afflicting much of its industry for the past several years.
A special focus for Campbell’s efforts were the Millennials. A couple of years ago it tried to attract Generation Y members with a new product line called Go! Soups. These were soups in zesty new flavors, packaged in aseptic pouches, which were meant to attract young adults that otherwise had grown into a reluctant audience for traditional soups.
This goal was different, however. This approach was trying to look closer at the Millennial demographic and focus on the increasing number of parents as this generation ages into its later twenties and thirties. They were seeking the potential to become the most populous generation of parents in American history. The new products include a line of fresh-packaged kids snacks—parcels of fruits and vegetables—and ready-made smoothies.
Campbell’s has always been identified with its old tagline, “Mmm good!” If the Campbell leadership had truly achieved 20 percent revenue growth within five years after a decade of the company casting about in the corporate doldrums, the company’s performance could deserve the same kudos as its soups.
But adaptation eluded them again, and the winds of change were two steps or more ahead of them.
Adaptation … keep trying new things
There’s another phrase I’ve been thinking about: “Keep trying new things.” On the surface, it sounds so normal – duh, of course, I should keep trying new things. But think about our daily schedule: Most of us go to work, come home, maybe work out or watch TV, then do it all over again…for the rest of our lives. Maybe there’s a 1-week vacation thrown in there every year.
And yet a tiny change can change everything.
Let’s examine some other adaptation experiments.
Ziba, a top innovation consulting firm in Portland, has an “Ambassador Program,” which allows employees to spend three months working in other disciplines, known as “tribes.” During that time, the Ambassador team member participates as part of those teams. This helps to create an understanding of another world. That diversity of thought and perspective, in turn, fuels connection and adaptability. It also translates to better business results.
Diversity in all its shapes, colors, and flavors helps build a culture of change. The diversity of people and thought; diversity of work experiences, religions, nationalities, hobbies, political beliefs, races, sexual preference, age, musical tastes, and even favorite sports teams. The more diversity, the better.
Adaptation examples … start small
ITW is a diversified manufacturing company that produces a wide array of products from industrial packaging to power systems and electronics to food equipment to construction products. It is a highly profitable company nearly 100 years old. This big, old company, which is nestled in a traditional industry, thinks small.
The leaders at ITW believe that being nimble, hungry, and entrepreneurial are the ingredients for business success. As a result, any time a business unit reaches $200 million in revenue, the division “mutates” into two $100 million units. Like an ameba, the unit subdivides, so it stays hungry and nimble. The company would rather have ten independently run and innovative $100 million units than a single, bureaucratic, and clunky $1 billion unit. Guess what? It’s a great environment of change and adaptation.
Companies that can stay more curious and nimble have a better ability to change and adapt more easily. They have a stronger sense of urgency and are not afraid to embrace change. They put their curiosity, imagination, and creativity to work
Foster risk taking
Zappos as a company is known as much for its culture as for its innovative business model. The company has built a business that is growing rapidly by allowing individuals the freedom to take creative risks without that overwhelming sense of fear or judgment. They tell their employees to say what you think, even if it is controversial. Make tough decisions without agonizing excessively. Take smart risks. Question actions inconsistent with our values.
Another interesting example: A software company in Boston gives each team member two “corporate get-out-of-jail-free” cards each year. The cards allow the holder to take risks and suffer no repercussions for mistakes associated with them. At annual reviews, leaders question their team members if the cards are not used. It is a great way to encourage risk-taking and experimentation. Think this company comes up with amazing ideas? Absolutely.
Readily accept mistakes and failure
There is no success without failure. Ask any successful person, and they will confirm that they have failed in life but that their failures made them stronger and even more determined to go on. It is perfectly OK to fail as long as we learn from our mistakes. Your employees should not fear failure because it will kill their desire to create new and unusual ideas.
In many companies, people are so afraid of making mistakes that they don’t pursue their dreams. The simply follow the rules and keep their heads down, which drives nothing but mediocrity.
James Dyson, the inventor of the Dyson Vacuum cleaner, “failed” at more than 5,100 prototypes before getting it just right. In fact, nearly every breakthrough innovation in history came after countless setbacks, mistakes, and “failures.” The great innovators and achievers weren’t necessarily smarter or inherently more talented. They simply released their fear of failure and kept trying. They didn’t let setbacks or misfires extinguish their curiosity, imagination, and ability to change.
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Failing means taking risks and increasing the rate of experimentation… and exploring. Some bets will pay off; some will fail. The key is to fail quickly. The speed of business has increased dramatically and every minute counts. The best businesses try lots of ideas and let the losers go quickly and with no remorse.
The bottom line
To be effective in this new era, we as business leaders need to see our jobs differently. No more just focusing on metrics like clicks, video views, or social media shares. We must successfully integrate our function with other business functions to create entire brand experiences that serve the customer all the way through their experiences throughout the business.
We can do better. Much better. But first, we need to stop seeing ourselves as crafters of clever brand messages and become creators of positive business experiences.
There can never be enough focus on continuous improvement on business success, independent of how well the business is doing. It seems we all are looking to take our success to a new level. This is an excellent time to make a statement with their brand marketing. Changing before you have to is always a good idea.
So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is entirely up to you.
It’s up to you to keep improving your continuous learning. Lessons are all around you. In many situations, your competitor may be providing the ideas and or inspiration. But the key is in knowing that it is within you already.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that struggle gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.
When things go wrong, what’s most important is your next step.
Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Are you devoting enough energy to improving your continuous learning for yourself and your team?
Do you have a lesson about making your lifelong learning better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change. We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.
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