Barry Calpino, vice president of breakthrough innovation at Kraft Food Group Inc., recently noted in a radio interview that there is an effort within Kraft “to push our organization and our innovation teams to shoot for bigger opportunities, more incremental white space, new categories and new usage occasions.”
While he admits that driving innovation was one of Kraft’s “weaknesses” in the past, it is “now one of our biggest strengths,” he says.
Part of that strength comes from hiring more innovative-thinking employees to join the company, which has more than 22,500 workers.
“Our people are our competitive advantage. When we recruit, we’re always looking for a diverse profile of talent. Our objective is to bring together diverse talent and unique perspectives … which, in turn, drives innovation that reflects the needs of the consumers we serve,” Calpino says. “With our big push toward Innovation, we’re particularly focused on finding creative, conceptual thinkers – especially for roles that involve ‘white space’ innovation.”
Such “white space” innovation means looking for new opportunities in a crowded marketplace, an initiative that has proven successful for the company. Calpino points to Kraft’s leadership as making a “huge difference” in that effort.
“Our business unit leaders set the tone and set the example with their sponsorship of innovation – and innovators. It’s important to have empathy to what it’s like to work in white space, given the high rate of failure,” he explains.
In addition, Kraft has created dedicated innovation teams in all of its business units, “which helps keep the fire lit red hot all the time,” he says, noting teams “feed off each other.”
Further, Kraft takes seriously its commitment to innovation by providing training, speakers and town halls, which “again, keep that fire burning,” he says.
Calpino acknowledges that while innovation can be exhilarating, it can also be difficult. One concern is ensuring that Kraft workers don’t feel they’re taking on too much.
“We have a strong stage-gate process that is designed to help teams (read more here)
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