Dan and Tobi welcome Orchid Bertelsen, Head of Digital Innovation for Nestlé USA, and they talk about how to avoid “shiny object syndrome” and pitch your innovation ideas (successfully) to stakeholders.

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About Labs Live

Labs Live is a stream hosted by Detroit Labs’ very own Dan Ward and Tobi Adebisi, where they bring on guests from the Labs team and our clients to talk about the latest in technology, software design and development, and whatever else comes to mind. Labs Live streams live on LinkedIn and YouTube each month.

Transcript:

Dan:

Welcome to Labs Live, very special episode. We’re really excited. Before we get into it, make sure you go to our social channels; Linkedin, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, all of those, like us, follow us. You’ll get notifications when we have these shows. We are paying attention to comments coming in and we’re happy to answer those when we can. And we encourage you to ask questions.

Dan:

This episode is all about the why. Figuring out why you should build something, avoiding those shiny objects, and then ultimately having to sell to stakeholders. We all have bosses, right, Tobi?

Tobi:

We do.

Dan:

Right. That’s why your Tobi buck might not be worth anything, but we all have bosses and we all have to sell into our bosses and sell those ideas. So without further delay, today we’re joined by Orchid Bertelsen. She is the head of digital innovation for Nestle USA and pretty much has to live through probably an inundation of ideas. Inundated? That’s the right word, right? Can you-

Tobi:

Yeah, that’s it.

Dan:

… add action on it? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter, but we’re going to bring her in. Orchid, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

Orchid:

Well, thank you for that intro. I was going to say that I’m very excited to be here, but that’s when I thought Tobi was going to play me in.

Dan:

You see-

Tobi:

Whoa.

Orchid:

So now I don’t even know.

Dan:

Well, Orchid, what we’ll do is he offered the Tobi buck to Dave and I, but we will pass that onto you.

Orchid:

Wow. That’s exciting.

Dan:

So in any future episode, if you want to comment and redeem your Tobi buck-

Orchid:

Oh!

Dan:

… I think he’s okay with that. Is that accurate, Tobi?

Tobi:

That is accurate. Yes.

Orchid:

That’s great. Who knew Tobi buck? It’s going to be Ethereum, it’s going to be Bitcoin. That is the currency of the future.

Dan:

There it is. Who wouldn’t want… Anyways. Okay. All right. And Lauren already commented, trying to understand the conversion of Tobi bucks to Stanley Nichols. It’s probably an age old debate that we will never be able to-

Orchid:

It depends on the price of gold, I think.

Tobi:

Exactly.

Dan:

Yeah, we should get back on the gold standard and then that way we can really assign value to the buck. All right.

Dan:

If you are unaware, if you are hiding under a rock, Nestle is… They make some things, they make a few things.

Tobi:

They make a lot of things.

Dan:

You can pretty much wake up in the morning, have a cold brew from Chameleon, add a little Coffee Mate. Maybe have a Hot Pocket for lunch, wrap it up with Digiorno for dinner and then have a Toll House cookie for a dessert. Right? So your whole day could be covered with Nestle.

Orchid:

Yes. Yes, absolutely. Yeah, it’s funny with Nestle we are the world’s largest CPG. We have about 2,000 brands worldwide. And as part of Nestle USA, my portfolio, I like to call it the human adult food portfolio because we’ve got Gerber, we’ve got Purina, but that’s not what I’m working on. What I’m focused on is a collection of about 40 brands.

Orchid:

You already named some of our most beloved ones, I would add Buitoni, Nesquik. There’s all kinds of brands who you probably enjoy hopefully regularly that are part of the Nestle family. So it’s really fun to be a part of that because all the different brands have their own communities, have their own challenges, so every day is a little different. But yeah.

Orchid:

About my role, so I’ve been at Nestle for about five years. I came in as the digital strategist for ice cream division, which at the time consisted of Haagen-Dazs, Skinny Cow, Drumstick, again, really amazing brands. We actually divested that business at the beginning of this year. So about three years ago, our CMO at the time created my current role for me because when you have a portfolio of about 40 brands, everybody’s off running their own tests and learns, right?

Orchid:

They’re working with various agency partners or testing, whether it’s new ad formats or just emerging tech. And it’s great that there’s a lot of activity, but I think the downfall of a model like that is that there’s no… You don’t share the learnings, right? And so when you have a corporate group that’s that large, you could be testing the same thing on various brands and trying to learn from each other, but you’re just have your day-to-day and you just don’t really think about it.

Orchid:

So my role was created to say, “All right, what is our overall Nestle USA portfolio strategy? What are we going to look at? How do we think about this emerging tech? And then which friends do we test it on?” And we’ve talked about this before with those of us on right now, is that the challenge isn’t when your pilot fails because you just write a wrap up report and you’re like, “Cool. We tested that, we’ve learned some things and we get to move on.”

Orchid:

The challenge actually comes with success, because if you’re testing one thing on one brand and let’s say just delivers beyond your wildest dreams, now all of a sudden you have to scale it across the rest of the group and that tends to be a bit challenging for a variety of reasons.

Orchid:

So that’s a little bit about what I do. I focus on emerging tech, there’s a little bit of new business model innovation sprinkled in in there, but at any time we have about eight or nine live projects right now. And yeah, those are all delivering soon-ish, sooner than before COVID hit for sure.

Dan:

I have to imagine being in this role and part of such a large brand, you’re probably inundated with ideas constantly, right?

Orchid:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dan:

How do you approach those ideas? One of the slides you had showed us earlier was the great quote from Gordon Moore of “Change has never happened this fast before, and it will never be this slow again.”

Orchid:

Yup. And that was in 1965.

Dan:

How do you utilize that… What was that now?

Orchid:

And that was in 1965.

Tobi:

Wow.

Dan:

So this mindset, how do you apply that to the fact that everyone has an idea? You’re in charge of so many brands, do you use this to filter some of those ideas?

Orchid:

Yeah, we definitely have… A lot of people have a lot of ideas and also when an article comes out about a competitor or about something that’s emerging in this space, know that I’m getting that same article emailed to me about 20 times. It literally just happened last week. So for us to really be focused because change has never been this slow really.

Orchid:

So for us, it’s like using a couple of different models to evaluate what’s in bounds, what’s out of bounds, how mature is the technology, stuff like that because, and I think we can probably… Let’s pull up that the IDEO slide. And this gets into like the starting with why, right?

Orchid:

How many times have you guys had someone come in and be like, “Hey, we need to do something with Blockchain.”? Or, “We need more AI.”? And you’re like, “I don’t even know what that means.”

Dan:

Right.

Orchid:

And so for us, it’s really about, what is the problem you’re trying to solve because technology’s just a solution. And so for us, I think a lot of large companies are taking a cue from Amazon and the idea around consumer obsession. It’s really about like, what is the consumer’s problem that we’re trying to solve? And ultimately, if we build this, do they want it?

Orchid:

I think a lot of times do you have a conversation where you get down a certain path on a solution and people are like, “Oh, we can build this and we can make money off of it.” And I’m usually like, “Cool, cool, cool. Do people actually want it?” And they’re like, “Hmm, good point.” And so you really ultimately want to start with the consumer.

Orchid:

And then you go into like, can we build this? So this goes in, speaks to like technology maturity. So what I like to come… An example I like to use is QR codes. QR codes, when they came on the scene, when was it? Like seven years ago, at the time everyone’s like, “QR codes are going to be on everything and they’re going to be amazing.” And it turned out that at the time you had to download a QR code scanner, so you had to find one, download it, activate it.

Orchid:

The scan that you do all of that, you scan the QR code, and then you just end up going to like some optimal website experience. And so there were things about that technology at the time where it’s like, “Yeah, we can see the promise of it, but the technology’s not there.” Now you fast forward to today and you have a QR code scanner just built right natively into your phone.

Orchid:

And so for us in terms of like, “Can we build this? It’s like, “Yes, it’s the technology available, but also is it mature enough for us to implement it and also integrate it into our systems?”

Orchid:

And then lastly, to be perfectly honest, is it financially viable? It’s not ultimately about like, “Oh, how much profit can we get from this?” Or how much money we can make, it’s like if you think about it and you have a consumer problem that you can build a solution to, it’s got to make some kind of money so that you can either expand that solution, or maintain it, or support it.

Orchid:

Because in innovation roles, I think across companies, sometimes it’s not a formal role, and so innovation is everybody’s job. And so innovation ends up being like a passion project where you’re like, “All right, well, I’ve already 100% committed with my time. I love this, I’m going to spend an additional 10 to 20% of my time building it out.” But ultimately that’s not sustainable, a company can’t keep that up.

Orchid:

And so the problem that we’re trying to solve or why are we doing this, really sits at the intersection of those three things.

Dan:

Well, and it helps… We talked a little bit earlier and you mentioned shiny objects-

Orchid:

Yes.

Dan:

… and we talked a lot about AR/VR. Those are very much the shiny objects that everyone talks about. But I like this mindset because it does help you avoid those. I have to imagine people are constantly coming with those shiny objects-

Orchid:

Yep.

Dan:

… and just walking them through, you mentioned QR codes.

Orchid:

Yeah.

Dan:

If you just sit down and really think about what your day looks like and how you would walk through, and would you use that, immediately you start seeing those holes.

Orchid:

Yup, totally. Totally. And I think timing is everything, so in innovation, people think like, oh, if you have a good idea, it’s just a good idea, you should be able to make it work, but timing a lot comes into play too. So if you actually bring up the hype cycle, you can talk about AR and VR, we actually had a project a few years ago around Haagen-Dazs and calling the sustainability story because we were doing a lot to support, to build pollinator habitats and really helping our honeybees because what is not…

Orchid:

The story that’s not usually told is that every year… We don’t have enough honey bees to pollinate our crops, and so every year these honeybees, every commercial beehive is packed up on a truck, and that truck goes from farm to farm across the U.S., and they release the honeybees for about two weeks at a time so they can pollinate everything, and then they’re packed up back into these trucks. And that’s obviously a very stressful situation for our pollinators.

Orchid:

So at the time we work with an almond orchard in California, and if you’ve never seen an almond tree before, it’s like a cherry blossom tree. So in the spring when they all bloom, it’s really the most beautiful thing that you’ve ever seen. And we decided to plant hedgerows for year round habitats for our pollinators, so that we didn’t have to go through this trucking process and create stress for them.

Orchid:

And at the time we’re like, “All right, well, this is an amazing story. We really want to bring awareness that this is a problem and that there are solutions that everybody can contribute to. So what is the right medium to tell that story in?” And when you think about truly immersive experiences that are essentially like a transportation… Or not, what is it? Yeah. Transportation device, I think VR comes to mind.

Dan:

Yeah.

Orchid:

So we built something with our agency partner at the time, reached based in Santa Monica. We had these drones flying over the almond orchard capturing footage, and we really told the story from the bees perspective. So think like magic school bus. And we got a grant from HTC because our project aligned with UN sustainability principles and the project was announced at Davos, and it was all very cool, but ultimately, I think our timing was a little off because when you think about content distribution and that VR headset ecosystem, it just wasn’t there for mass adoption.

Orchid:

So that’s something where I’m like, “I’m really proud of that project,” but if you just get the timing a little off, it’s the difference between amazing adoption and just a couple of cool headlines, right?

Dan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Orchid:

And so we tend to use, and why I wanted you to bring up this Gartner hype cycle is that every emerging tech moves along this curve. And so Innovation Triggers when it comes on the scene, Peak of Inflated Expectations is usually when the media, the tech media writes about something. It’s also when consulting firms will buy a lot of paid search terms around it, so you saw Blockchain exploded probably a couple of years ago.

Dan:

Sure.

Orchid:

And that’s when everybody can see the promise of a technology, but the truth is that there’s a large gap between the promise of the technology and the maturity of the technology. So usually someone will… People will test a bunch at the peak of it, and then they’ll slide into this Trough of Disillusionment. So in the QR code case, everyone was like, “This is going to be amazing.” And then they’re like, “Oh, well, actually having to download a separate app,” and Dan, to your point, the consumer experience is full of friction like maybe this isn’t a great use case. Right?

Orchid:

But even though you’re looking basically like buzz about the technology is moving along this curve, the technology is actually improving at a constant rate, upwards into the right. And so what we think is, what I find really inspiring is you actually test around the Trough of Disillusionment. People have moved on, but the technology is actually better than it was when it was overly hyped. And so if you can really find some amazing learnings there, you can actually slingshot ahead of your competitors.

Orchid:

So I think when it came to VR, technology like that where there’s a software and a hardware component, the hardware was mature enough, but software and content distribution wasn’t. So that’s in hindsight, I don’t know, at least we learned something out of it.

Tobi:

Yeah.

Dan:

And I think… Go ahead, Tobi.

Tobi:

Yeah. Now I was just curious, looking back in hindsight now, how do you know going forward with like a project when the timing is right? Which part of the Trough of Disillusionment? When do you know, this technology, maybe we should start looking at it again? How do you know?

Orchid:

Yeah, yeah. No, that’s a great question. It’s innovations, you’re trying stuff that people haven’t tried before, or try to apply it to an industry where they haven’t before, so you’re never going to get the timing right. But I’ll use Blockchain as an example. So that’s when I started looking into it a couple of years ago when everybody… It was like when CryptoKitties was around, everyone’s like, “Oh, cool. Let’s just…” is it buys Bitcoin or buy a CryptoKitty.

Orchid:

So at the time, it was honestly a lot of research, a lot of talking to different startups in this space and trying to understand what was happening between the media buzz and also on the ground, who are the players and what are the applications are actually focused on? So it’s not like a… I know there are a lot of vendors and tools out there where they’re like, “Oh, you can just look up this information and it’s readily available.”

Orchid:

But the reality is that when it comes to innovation and really trying to find new solutions to traditional problems, and Dan, if you want to pull up our working definition, it’s a lot of hard work. Honestly, talking to different communities really helps. I talked to people in different companies all the time, in startups, in platform partners. And so it’s really just trying to get consumers many data points as possible, and analyzing it, and coming up with your own interpretation.

Dan:

So we do have a-

Orchid:

Sorry, it’s the definition slide for digital innovation.

Dan:

Yeah. That second one def.

Orchid:

Oh yeah.

Dan:

Oops. Or a third, I mean. Yeah.

Dan:

We had a question come in from Shannon on LinkedIn, which I think is… Well, I’ll bring it up.

Orchid:

Okay.

Dan:

She’s asking, “What is the value, would customers want this versus trying to anticipate future needs and wants?” Which I think that the the emerging technology, hype cycle comes into play there.

Orchid:

Yeah. Absolutely, we absolutely want to ask, do… Yeah, I see. It’s like it’s a balance between… There’s a couple of projects we’re working on where one of the big questions is like, are consumers ready to use this? Is like the solution that we’re looking at to advanced for the core problem?

Orchid:

And so ultimately the problem is going to remain the same, you can and problems can be divided into like, is this a current problem that we need to solve for immediately versus is this an unmet need and there’s an opportunity? So there’s always a balance with those two and it’s not binary, it’s not either or.

Orchid:

We definitely have projects that are more focused on like, “Hey, here’s an immediate problem that we need to solve today.” Versus, “Here’s where we see the trajectory of, let’s say grocery E-commerce going, and we think that it’s going to hit this in two years, and so let’s start to figure out how to solve that.” So even from a problem perspective, you have like different time horizons.

Orchid:

But ultimately, you can either solve something that people need today or try to meet an unmet need. And it’s just up to you and your organization, what your purview is and what you want to focus on because ultimately, I think the opportunity with solving a current problem is that you’ll have more data points to prove out a business case for it, versus an unmet need, it’s more like opportunity and a little more amorphous.

Orchid:

From a solution perspective though, let’s say you have a problem that you want to solve today for your consumer, two solutions. One solution widely adopted can absolutely turn it on today. Okay? You should probably be doing that anyway. And then the other solution is further out. It’s much more advanced from a technology perspective, it’s pretty low in adoption, people don’t really use it yet.

Orchid:

And so this is where some companies have a gambling fund. They’re saying, “Hey, from our central budget, let’s place a couple of bets.” But again, in that model, you got to place a couple of bets. You can’t just put all your money on black or whatever it is. Right?

Dan:

Right.

Orchid:

I don’t play roulette, but I hear that something people say.

Dan:

True.

Orchid:

so it just like unfortunately… ANd I hate this, I hate not giving really clear answers because it really just depends.

Dan:

Yeah. We talked earlier, there’s no really predefined way to do any one thing, and I think even coming back to this, the definition of digital innovation, I think oftentimes you hear innovation and you think world-changing technology.

Orchid:

Yeah.

Dan:

Instead it’s very much the small things. Sometimes even a process change-

Orchid:

Yup.

Dan:

… down the road can make a big difference.

Orchid:

Yeah. I think it’s a very U.S. mindset because we’re very individualistic as a society. And so in the U.S., when you think about innovation and think about the people in the space who you really look towards like a Zuckerberg or an Elon, those guys… We value things like ideas that have never been thought of before. They built something out of nothing and it just like they’re the first in their space, right? And that’s amazing.

Orchid:

But there’s also a lot of opportunity and Dan, to your point, optimizing or fixing something that’s broken today or doing something a little more efficiently and a little more effectively. So when you think about customer service systems, one thing is like the tagging of conversations. When you are dealing with tens of thousands of consumer inquiries every year, you have people, the phone operators tagging the conversation.

Orchid:

So they’ll say, “All right, this one was about flavor, this one is about packaging,” but sometimes a question will come up and they’re like, “Oh, well, I don’t have a tag for this. I’m going to create a new one.” And then all of a sudden your structured data becomes unstructured. And so if you were to say, “All right, we’re going to use artificial intelligence and just make sure, and maybe some natural language processing to understand the nature of the conversation,” and tag it appropriately, by just automating that one function so that your data integrity is better than it was yesterday is amazing. It really is.

Orchid:

It’s not as sexy as like, “Oh, I’m going to build the world’s first social media platform.” And I think what you also see with our culture of needing to come or generate ideas out of scratch, China, there’s so much innovation coming out of China and all they do is just copy each other. They’re like, “Oh, well, that’s an interesting thing that you did, but I’m going to do these other different things and make it even better.” And that’s innovative too.

Dan:

I was actually going to… Excuse me. I was going to ask your personal opinion on, and you touch on this, first-to-market versus best-to-market.

Orchid:

Yeah. It’s funny because I think a lot of people do focus on, I just want to be first, right?

Dan:

Yeah.

Orchid:

First in comments. It’s like why aren’t first in comments, by the way? I really just genuinely don’t understand that. I think they just want to say that they were side before anybody else. And so if you want to be first-to-market, I think that’s fine. I think there’s value in it. If you’re saying, “Hey, I just want to show that we are ahead of the curve. I want to get some PR buzz around it.” Maybe it’s good for recruiting, maybe it’s good for our overall brand equity, is to be first. Totally fine with that.

Orchid:

But when you’re talking about change that is sustainable and scalable, I think you can be a fast follow. That actually ends up being a little more successful in a lot of cases, again, because of the adoption curve. Right?

Dan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Orchid:

If your first, that’s when the hype is the loudest. Let’s say if we had offered an ICO like two years ago, people would have been like, “Cool, that’s interesting blip on the radar.” But would we have actually put it into practice and could we have built on it over time? I don’t think so because it just like the technology wasn’t that mature. There wasn’t a problem we were trying to solve.

Orchid:

And what’s that problem was like, “Hey, we look like we’re behind and we just need to create some buzz.” So I think there’s value in both. Again, I think we end up having a lot of false choices where we think it’s an either or, but it’s an and.

Dan:

I do like the slight… Sorry, Tobi, you’ll jump in in a sec. I do like the slight distinguish though between first-to-market could be a little bit more, I’m not going to call it a stunt, but a little bit more of a PR play-

Orchid:

Sure.

Dan:

… within in itself can certainly have value.

Orchid:

Totally.

Dan:

But that fast follower, the best-to-market, that’s where it’s sustainable, it has a thought out model. You hope at least-

Orchid:

Yeah.

Dan:

… but you always hope, but Tobi, you’re going to add something?

Tobi:

Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I was just thinking that just as we talked about companies having a gambling fund where you place bets on multiple projects and you have a lot of this innovative ideas how some ways that you can de-risk them? Even if you’re doing a couple, I know you’ve talked about iterative, proving, validating. I just wanted to touch on that a little bit. How do you do this to those ones you choose?

Orchid:

That’s a great question. This goes into our selling in of ideas part two, right? Because again, I think a lot of people think, all right, I have this great idea. It is world-changing. It is amazing and anybody who hears about it is going to want to jump on. But if you’re talking about true innovation or even solutions that have not been implemented before, there’s a ton of risk.

Orchid:

And I was actually reading an article in Harvard Business Review a couple of weeks ago, although time’s a flat circle, so maybe it was a couple months ago, but it was all-

Dan:

So true.

Orchid:

… about corporations risk appetites. So when you talk to someone one-to-one, and if you ask them their high risk, and you’re saying like, “Hey, if we were to do this, there’s a 60% chance it’s going to work. Are you comfortable with that?” One-on-one, they’ll be like, “Yeah, that’s better than half so, cool. Yes.”

Orchid:

But when you actually do that in front of a group or if you look at their actions, it’s actually more like an 85 to 90% success rate that they’re looking for. So they’re actually, they think they’re higher risk than what their actions say.

Orchid:

So ultimately with innovation, innovation dollars are always a little tricky because every company is short term focused. If you go from a startup to a large corporation, if they don’t make money today, they can’t pay their people. Right? Or they can’t satisfy their shareholders. So inevitably every business has to look at the short term.

Orchid:

Innovations hard because you’re asking for an investment in a possibility. It’s not proven out because if it’s proven out, why aren’t you just already doing it? Right?

Dan:

Right.

Orchid:

And so you are asking people to take a leap of faith in a way that can really, really benefit them with outsized outcomes, but if they fail, people are afraid to fail. That’s the reality too. So ultimately, every project we have, there is this process of de-risking. And so Tobi, to your point, being iterative means that every time you iterate, you’re learning something new that you didn’t already know, so in effect you’re de-risking it.

Orchid:

The whole plan though, what you need to have is in the upfront say, “All right, these are the known knowns, these are the known unknowns.” And then what you get to is like unknown unknowns. We’ve never done this before. So maybe there’s something came up where you’re like, “Well, this was my assumption. I actually thought that this was something that a solution already existed, but it turns out we need to build it.”

Orchid:

And so good news, de-Risking it, found out something you didn’t know before, bad news, got ask for more money. So inevitably, it’s just all de-risking and it’s all just learning.

Dan:

In part of that de-risking process, I’m sure this happens multiple times, but you mentioned, you have to sell, so you may go to the first person and say, “60% chance,” and they may be interested, but then going to the next group needs 85, 90.

Orchid:

Yeah.

Dan:

We all have stakeholders, we all have bosses, right?

Orchid:

Yeah.

Dan:

How do you approach that? Are they just colleagues that you’re winging things to or are you treating them like true investors?

Orchid:

Yeah. It depends. There are definitely… It’s such a large organization, we are a global company and we have multiple layers. We have various innovation teams, whether at the global level or at the regions, whatever it is. A lot of our innovation also focuses on product innovation, so like new flavors, new formats, new packaging, stuff like that.

Orchid:

So over time you start to essentially build your own little panel group inside the company. And what I found helpful is if that panel exists of cross-functional stakeholders, so maybe you have someone from finance, you have someone from legal, someone from procurement, someone who’s a peer, someone on a different team who you just trust. I don’t usually prepare anything formal for those conversations. I think it’s a little easier to have something to speak to because ultimately what you want them to do is pressure test it.

Orchid:

You’re not going to have. We would all like to think that the first version of our idea is the best one, but that’s not true. Right?

Dan:

No. Right.

Orchid:

What you want to do is have people who you trust, pressure test it. And then before going into executive meetings, I’ll actually pull people and be like, “Hey, what were they saying before? You guys just presented to them recently, what questions came up?” And what I also do is have a lot of our executive team, they’ll post on internal videos, so I’ll make sure I watch those because they’ll always usually address something that they’re interested in. So you have to do your research.

Orchid:

So that’s like the first stage gate is like, “All right, I’m going to pressure test this with people who know me, who trust me, who I trust and let’s see what they say about it.”

Orchid:

And then in terms of the selling in, when you’re talking about stakeholders who are either allocating people resources, or money resources, or even with the executive team, what we wanted them to do is remove barriers. There is a specific action that you want them to take. That’s when you have about 20 versions of the same deck because everybody, and I liken this to Game of Thrones, ultimately it’s a little less dramatic, but you really want to understand what would that person’s motivation is, what they care about because you want to sell this thing into them in a way that is mutually beneficial.

Orchid:

So if you’re pitching the CFO for dollars, better show him savings, better show him efficiency. Maybe it’s an alternate revenue stream, maybe it’s how long it takes to pay back the investment because they’re not giving me money for projects, they are loaning money to me for projects and I got to show a return. And that return could be a monetary, but it could also be, and we touched on this a little bit, return on insights.

Orchid:

If we do X, what are we going to learn that we didn’t know before and is it worth that investment?

Dan:

We talked a little bit beforehand and you talked about watching some people that will pitch an idea and just assume that because it’s a great idea in their head that everyone will just see it completely the way they see it and love it. And what did you call it? You say thanks for your excitement. Is that what it was?

Orchid:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally. Totally. When someone’s like… They’ll pitch you something… I’ve seen this before, I’ve done this before where you and you’re like, “This is so obvious. 

Dan:

Typically, all have.

Orchid:

… going to say yes.” I have literally never had a meeting where I pitch something to someone once and they’re like, “Yes.” Honestly. Except for maybe my boss because he sees the world similarly. Right?

Dan:

Sure.

Orchid:

But you have to say… When someone comes in and they… You know when they haven’t pressure tested their idea, right? Because one of the first questions too is like, “Hey, did you talk to anybody about this?” And they’re like, “Oh no. I just saw this problem.” Like, “Is it really a problem or is it just like this cool thing?”

Orchid:

So then you’re just like, “I appreciate the excitement.” I love when people are passionate and when they’re excited about something because that’s something you can’t teach, but you do have to direct it in a productive direction. And so people think that there’s value in the idea, and there is, but ultimately people aren’t going to give you funding for the project because they like you. For sure.

Dan:

It’s funny, we all hope that to be the case.

Orchid:

Yes.

Dan:

And until you get into that room and then you just see a lot of blank stares.

Orchid:

Yeah. Yeah, because when you think about it, and I’ve been in those situations before, I actually I had a project pitch where I was in front of a bunch of our executive stakeholders. And the thing is like sometimes you walk in and you get down into the details because you’re like really nerding out about this things, so it’s like, “Hey, like Blockchain. Let’s talk about like hashes, and hey, this is the application is like an ICO,” Whatever.

Orchid:

And then you forget that when you have a very diverse group, all of their starting knowledge base is different. So a lot of people overthink it and you’re like, “Actually I have to do a… This is the definition of what it is, so we’re all on the same page. This is where the opportunity is, this is where some other people…” You have to do a one-ob-one almost.

Orchid:

And some people freak out about that because they’re like, “Well, I don’t want to tell them something they already know.” Ultimately you’re the expert in it, right?

Dan:

Right.

Orchid:

And so if you’re the expert, just explain it in a way where people who have no exposure to crypto or to Blockchain can easily understand it. That is your first thing that you have to do is level the playing field.

Dan:

I like that. I’m going to bring up the last slide here and summarizes the… You start with why, avoid the shiny object. And then ultimately we’re always selling everything. We’re selling ourselves, our ideas, a product. It doesn’t matter what we’re selling.

Orchid:

Yup.

Dan:

So I have to ask, with this in mind and considering your role, obviously, I’m going to spring this question on you here.

Orchid:

Oh, okay.

Dan:

If someone wanted to get into innovation and particularly innovation at a larger company, if you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?

Orchid:

Yeah. I think you charter your own path. I think that… My background, I’ve always worked for really large companies. I was at McGarryBowen before and they’re a Dentsu company. I was at Skadden, which was a global law firm. I’ve only ever worked for really, really large companies. And I think a lot of people when they get into a role, they think that… A common misconception is that your manager or people higher up than you are sitting there one, charting out your career path.

Orchid:

I think that does happen in some organizations, but in my experience in large companies, there’s so much going on that you’re going to be the person who cares the most about your career. That’s a piece of advice I got early on and I think it’s really served me well. And so when it comes to innovation or anything that is outside of your scope of work, what you have to do is you have to just really kick ass at your job. You do.

Orchid:

That is what you have to deliver on and any kind of innovation projects or side hustles that you have at work are just passion projects, you can do those, but know that you got to do the other stuff you were hired to do well. I think we talked about this, I’ve been in situations where I’ve had people in my team say, “Hey, I would really… That special assignment you gave me or that I wanted to do, I really loved doing that. How can I do more of it?”

Orchid:

And the response is usually like, “Hey, but there are a couple of things where it’s your day job you could really improve on. So I would love to give you more, but you’re not showing me that you can already deliver on what you were signed up to do.”

Dan:

I like that.

Orchid:

So it really does have to be an above and beyond. And I think one thing too that people don’t realize is that in order to get that next job, whether it’s a promotion or a growth opportunity, you have to start doing it before anybody’s ever going to formalize it for you.

Tobi:

Absolutely. And just to follow up on that real quick, I think you’ve just talked to like the individual interested in innovation. Now I think the followup is for companies that are just huge, how do they foster this kind of innovative environment?

Orchid:

Yeah. That’s a really hard question. Is really, really hard because when you have large companies, a lot of the activities are towards execution, right? It’s not necessarily for new idea generation, and normally they don’t have the agility or the culture because they’ve been doing something the same way for over 100 years in some case. Nestle’s been around for over 150 years.

Orchid:

I think a lot of it, and we have an amazing CEO, so a lot of it is leadership and it has to come from top down saying like, “Hey, these are the expectations. We want to think differently. We want to act differently and our focus is on improving our consumer’s lives. Improving their experience with our products, that is what you should focus on.” So a lot of it is cultural.

Orchid:

And then a lot of it is just again, starting with the why. I think that you’re probably seeing digital transformation pop up a lot. I think if you do a quick Google search, probably consulting firms are buying that right now.

Dan:

Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Orchid:

And my question is always like, “Why are you transforming and what are you transforming into? Why are you doing this?” And the answer, there can be many, many different answers. It could be that there’s a lot of new competition in this space, and so if we don’t transform, we can’t keep up. It could be that the consumer is demanding it and we’re not meeting or exceeding their expectations.

Orchid:

The answers could run the gamut, but ultimately you want to know why you’re doing something, and then that’s when you can start to say like, “all right, in order to solve this thing, there are different solutions here.” And maybe there’s a team that is more specialized to focus on that than another team. So yeah, so that’s the billion dollar question, Tobi.

Dan:

And I’ll ask one more question before we wrap up and it’s both a followup to Tobi’s question of trying to get large companies to be innovative, but also builds on something that we had talked about, I think it was last week. Oftentimes with large companies, they say, “Well, we already have this model so we can’t do this or that.”

Orchid:

Yeah.

Dan:

Is it an or, or is it an and?

Orchid:

Yeah. It’s an and, and when you can do too is what I call the… It’s like how you sell an insurance policies, it’s not the cost of doing it, but it’s the cost of not doing it. Right?

Dan:

I like that. Yeah.

Orchid:

So what you can do is… And data is your friend. I know that tends to be more of a creative endeavor, but people, again, just because… Someone’s not going to fund you because they like you, although I think that does happen, but it just as it happen to me.

Dan:

We’re funding Tobi’s ideas at all times, probably like Tobi.

Orchid:

That makes sense. He’s getting paid in like Tobi bucks, so-

Dan:

Yeah, right. It’s really valuable, Tobi. Enjoy your paycheck.

Tobi:

You’re welcome.

Orchid:

But yeah, for when people say, “We already have a group dedicated to it,” or, “We’re already doing that,” again, do your research. If it is a cross functional group where you’re like, “I see an improvement in how they do business,” you should talk to them first to validate that. How annoying is it to go in and pitch an idea and be like, “I don’t think what they’re doing could be better.” Because like, “Did you talk to that team?” It’s like, “No.” Like, “Okay.”

Orchid:

So do your homework and data’s your friend and just really think about how you’re selling it through and how you’re positioning the project.

Dan:

All right. Well, Orchid, thank you so much for joining us.

Orchid:

Yeah.

Dan:

We really appreciate it. This has been a great conversation. We’re really passionate about understanding the why as well, making sure to focus on the right things when being innovative, and that your idea doesn’t need to be world-changing, which is really important. Because you joined us today, we are passing that Tobi buck onto you, so yeah, it’s exactly. So in any future stream, if you want to ask for something in the comments, we’ll make sure Tobi does it because that’s what he promised. Right, Tobi?

Tobi:

Yes, yes. Absolutely.

Orchid:

Tobi, what I’m listening to on Spotify right now is just a playlist of the most popular songs on TikTok.

Dan:

Ooh.

Tobi:

Oh wow.

Orchid:

So I may request a medley of some kind.

Tobi:

Whoa.

Orchid:

I’m putting it out there so that you’re prepared. Okay?

Tobi:

So I stay ready so I don’t have to get ready.

Orchid:

It’s not going to be as easy as draws. Okay? It’s way more valuable than that.

Dan:

But if he bails out on a tune again, he might end up owing you another Tobi buck, and then-

Orchid:

I’m totally okay. Oh yeah, this is like stump Tobi. Okay, great.

Dan:

We’ll put it right on the Blockchain, Tobi. It’ll be perfect. We’ll make sure that we don’t replicate them. It’s-

Orchid:

Yeah. A Tobi coin. I will probably buy a Tobi coin.

Tobi:

I see you’re incoming.

Orchid:

Yeah.

Dan:

All right. Well, Orchid, thank you. As we wrap up, don’t forget to go to our social channels. Subscribe, follow all of those good things. You’re going to be able to see this episode later. If you are watching it later then that message really doesn’t matter to you. But we’ll have more, I don’t know when the next one’s scheduled, but we will be live again on Friday, for Friday 15. And Dave, do we know the topic yet for Friday 15?

Dave:

Yeah, cereal bracket.

Dan:

Serial brackets, so-

Dave:

Cereal brackets.

Dan:

… we are putting together different Cereal brands that we will have go head to head, 16 of them to see who wins in the bracket and to listen to a lot of people complain because we won’t pick the cereal you like, and that’s okay.

Dan:

All right. Thank you for tuning in.

Tobi:

Thank you.

Dan:

We’ll talk to you later. Thanks, Orchid.

Orchid:

Bye. Thank you.

Tobi:

Thank you. Bye.