Dr. Andrew Abraham, Orgain Founder and CEO, and Mark Schneider, Nestlé CEO reunite in the latest installment of 'The CEO Digest' to delve into strategies for swift innovation for our consumers.
While their career paths have been distinct, they share numerous insights on cultivating an innovation-driven culture, embracing failure, and the power of continuous learning.
Mark Schneider: Andrew, one of the things I'm deeply impressed with at Orgain is the whole culture of innovation: rapid prototyping, getting things out fast, and experimentation.
How do you make that happen, how have you created that environment, and how do you keep it alive?
Andrew Abraham: For us, it's making sure that we're okay with failing. We understand that with rapid innovation and being nimble, we're never going to get it right the first time or the fiftieth time.
I think the most important thing to make sure that you're successful is taking innovation piece by piece, being able to try new things, pushing the boundaries as much as we can on taste and texture, and trying things that other companies wouldn't dream of trying. And in that, we're able to create magic in our products that we launch.
How do you approach innovation, running such a large company like Nestlé?
Mark Schneider: The most important thing is that innovation isn't just the job of the R&D department. It's the job of the entire company. We also believe like you do, in rapid-fire innovation. Failing fast and then moving on from there, learning the lessons, applying them, and hopefully doing it better next time around.
It's one thing to create that culture. How do you keep it alive over time?
Andrew Abraham: For us, it's making sure that we are relentless, not only in innovation but continual improvement. For example, our flagship plant-based protein product is now on its 55th formulation. So, not only are we looking to launch a project, but we're also looking to ask ourselves, 'What can we do to make it better?' on a regular basis. I think if we maintain that, that allows us to sustain our innovation and keep our products as relevant as possible.
Mark Schneider: Amazing! That's the job we all have as leaders, and we need to bring that thriving force into it every day.
What are some of the key attributes that you see a leader needs to display to foster innovation?
Andrew Abraham: You have to be fearless. One of the results of being fearless is you're going to push the boundaries, and things will go wrong. You have to be calm and cool for your team.
And I'd say, making sure that you're relentless or persistent. That's extremely important for me. I don't mind failing, but I don't have any regrets because I'll continue to pursue it until we figure it out.
So, Mark, what about you in this case?
Mark Schneider: Number one is to take the risk because, without that, there's no progress. For the stuff that does go wrong, pardon yourself and pardon others. And then, obviously, keep going. For me, success in life is getting up one more time, dusting off your clothes, and you keep going.
How do you keep yourself from getting stuck, refresh, and think outside the box?
Mark Schneider: As hectic as your schedule may be, don't let it completely take over. Always preserve a few pockets of time that I call 'learn time.' Read something that's of interest to you. When you learn something on the internet, you try something, you experiment. And whether that's the latest nutritional technology or whether it's some other aspect that you're interested in doesn't matter.
Andrew Abraham: I feel the same way, and I think being able to not only decompress a little bit, but continue the learning process is extremely important, right? So that's a nice balance.
Mark Schneider: What do you do?
Andrew Abraham: I like going to different grocery stores and spending two or three hours just learning about products, reading the ingredients, reading the nutrition facts, and seeing what's out there. For me, it's relaxing. And at the same time, it really allows me to keep my finger on the pulse of the industry.
Mark Schneider: We do the same! When I go for a market visit internationally, usually rather than hitting a meeting room, we hit some supermarkets first and not only look at our own products, but also everyone else's, and get a sense of what's out there and what's new.
Andrew Abraham: I love that. Hopefully, someday we can make a grocery tour together!