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Advertising Age has a story about how Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison is seeking greater innovation and nimbleness by encouraging "company staffers to break down into smaller cross-functional groups to develop new product ideas," and has even rebuilt company headquarters to create "open spaces" where these teams can meet.

According to the story, "To get inspiration for new ideas, Campbell often looks outside the company. The idea of working in smaller groups, for example, came from a consulting company called Ideo. Morrison also cited Apple founder Steve Jobs and his willingness to take risks and challenge the status quo."

Morrison also says that in order to get a better understanding of how Millennials might engage with its products, Campbell sent teams out "and they lived and they shopped with Millennials and they ate with them and they cooked with them. They went to pop-up bars; I couldn't get them to come back to work. It was really something. But listening to the consumer and getting inspired by what the consumer needs before they know they want it is a big spur for innovation."

She says, "There's such a gravitational pull when you're a 140-year-old company to do things that you were comfortable with, that made you successful in the past. So, we came out with this mantra when I became CEO [in 2011] of focusing forward—focusing outward to consumers and ahead to create our future. So, we had to think outside the can."
KC's View:
I've actually found that I often do my best thinking and innovating when I'm in the can ... but maybe I'm talking about something different.

I would point out here that while all of these efforts make sense, the proof is in the execution. Tesco, for example, sent teams of people to live with consumers in Southern California and the best it could come up with was Fresh & Easy ... which I think is fair to say has been an enormous disappointment. Watching and listening to consumers is important - in fact, it is somewhat extraordinary that doing so can be seen in any marketing organization as breaking new ground - but you have to see the right things and then make the right moves in response to gained knowledge.

I also think the challenge to Campbell cannot be underestimated. Saying you want a culture that takes risks and challenges the status quo is one thing, but the status quo has way of smacking down innovators and outliers. Vigilance - and a system that rewards fresh thinking - are necessary.