Unconventional strategic process
Strategic processes call to mind lengthy business meetings, wordy debates and results presented in fat documents. With the help of Nofima Mat, Nortura has chosen a completely different way of selecting which path to choose for their innovations in the following years.
Nortura wanted a process with a high degree of involvement when selecting their new strategies for innovation. As they have cooperated with Nofima Mat for many years, they were offered the chance to be a pilot company and use the experience and methodological tools of Nofima Mat for their innovation planning sessions. By using trend statements and mentometer polls they produced results based on participants’ opinions and priorities for the food industry in 2015.
"In order to carry out innovation planning sessions with a sufficient focus on the future, solid analyses of trends and marketing opportunities have to be carried out in advance. The data material that participants will vote on must be realistic but at the same time sufficiently futuristic, as high risk and high costs are both involved in innovation. The analytical phase itself is therefore highly important, and when developing trend materials we use information from various marketing analyses and research institutes both in Norway and abroad. We also carry out one or more pilot sessions as quality assurance of the trend material to ensure that it incorporates the most important development trends," says Hilde Skotland Mortvedt, Head of Strategy and Analysis at Nofima Mat.
This way of working with strategic development is a typical "outward in" process. The most favourable element of the method is the high degree of involvement. The method is highly suitable for involving various professional parties within the company as well as including external parties in the strategic development.
Voting for trends
"Part of the method involves forcing participants to choose between potential developments. It’s important that these choices are made, as not all trends will be equally important to Nortura’s innovations. Strategic development is all about taking choices for the future, ie. selecting which choices to go for and which to reject. The process itself and the quantitative and qualitative data produced through innovation planning sessions are in our experience a good basis for the identification of which direction to choose and strategic choices to select," Hilde Mortvedt continues.
At the innovation planning sessions, participants were presented with several trend statements in areas such as "focus on experiencing food", "focus on environmental issues throughout the value chain" and "new ways of collaboration". Participants were asked to prioritise trend statements based on how likely they are to occur and how important they would be to the profitability and innovative abilities of Nortura in 2015. The poll was carried out using mentometer buttons and the result immediately displayed on a big screen.
"Visualisation is an important concept when describing this type of strategic work. Visualisation is efficient and creates an interesting dynamic for the process. There isn’t much of a tradition to use it in innovation processes, but there should be," says Anita Mikalsen, Manager of Product Development and Quality at Nortura.
"Voting for trends with mentometer buttons is thrilling and fun, and promotes discussions and creative cooperation", adds Project Manager Ellen Freberg.
Participation from many professions
The project team invited selected representatives from Nortura’s entire value chain to their innovation planning sessions. Thorough analyses are a prerequisite when seeking to describe future trends and market developments, and enables innovation planning sessions to be carried out efficiently.
"It’s been incredibly useful for us who are working on the process to receive so much constructive feedback. The participants felt that they were able to express their opinions in subjects where they are normally not heard, such as marketing and sales. We often choose people who are similar to ourselves for such processes. It’s my personal opinion that improved processes and added creativity are made possible when we dare to go for differences instead," says Anita Mikalsen.
A culture promoting innovation
One consequence of the strategic process is that Nortura is planning to fortify the innovative aspects of its corporate culture. "We wish to work closer with parties from other industries and increase internal cooperation. We will focus on an open corporate culture promoting innovation here at Nortura. This is a new way of working for us, which will be rewarding to work with," says Mikalsen.
Faithful to new strategies
Strategic processes often follow a set pattern. First, a committee is appointed, often with administrative staff, in order to produce a draft. This draft is sent on a hearing process, and then adapted into a document. We wanted to work with innovation strategies in a different way, and we have definitely succeeded. "We will be faithful to the new strategies we have arrived at through this process. They will govern the way we spend our resources in the time ahead. There’s no point in innovation unless we make money on it," concludes Ellen Freberg.