In a recent Innovation Leader Live call, General Mills executive Jim Kirkwood discussed how the $17.6 billion consumer packaged goods giant creates “minimum viable products” and gets them on shelves to see if consumers will toss them into their shopping cart.
You can hear a short audio excerpt below, or get the complete audio and transcript of the conversation here.
We have really tried to put together some streamlined processes within our organization to be able to get to small [tests] quickly. We have what we call minimal viable product, the MVP, that we go for in this instance.
What do we need to put in this product to be able to get it out there as fast as we can and learn about it?
This minimal viable product can [be] everywhere from close to completely done to very, very far away from being done. As a matter of fact, in one situation we wanted to learn very quickly whether people would buy a given soup if it was in a box. We filled the boxes with water and put them on a shelf, and then watched people go and purchase them.
Then, obviously, we didn’t let them go home and eat the soup. We pulled them aside and said, “Why did you purchase this? What are the things that really drove your decision? What things on the package told you this is what you were interested in? Is it meeting the job you want?” We learned from that, before we had to invest a lot of money in getting the product where it needed to be.
We recognize that with the “big bang approach” that we’ve used in the past, you have a hypothesis on what the product need is and you develop it and you build it and you test it in a standard consumer test. Then you launch it big, [and] you miss.[We now test with what we] call “lemonade stands,” where we go out and we produce the first prototypes. We go and try and sell them. We peel people off who are willing to buy it, [and we] find what we’ve done wrong, just like entrepreneurs do.
Entrepreneurs have to do this because they are in their garage, but we try and put ourselves in those shoes. We learn from that first lemonade stand that, “Oh my gosh! The flavor of the granola bar should not be this way. This is not working.”
Then we can quickly make a turn, and we pivot, and we create, and we do another lemonade stand.
The complete audio and transcript of the call is available here for Innovation Leader subscribers.