Accelerating Innovation During Times of Disruption

November 18, 2020

In our “Accelerating Innovation During Times of Disruption” Master Class, Tim Bernstein and Stella Peace share insights on how to capitalize on 2020’s challenges to drive innovation. 

During the call, the pair explore:  

  • Trends in the corporate innovation ecosystem this year
  • Strategy for teams looking to capitalize on disruption to innovate 
  • Cultural imperatives required to pursue innovative opportunities
  • How Nomad Foods launched a new, sustainable frozen food line during the pandemic. 

Peace is the Group R&D Director of Nomad Foods Europe. Nomad Foods, a frozen food company, has a net revenue of 2.7 billion dollars and operates in 12 countries throughout Europe. 

Bernstein is the CEO of yet2, a strategic partner of InnoLead that provides Open Innovation services and hands-on technology transfer services to a global client base. To download slides from the presentation, visit yet2’s website

Setting Up a New System for Disruptive Innovation 

While large companies may spend hours talking about building a disruptive innovation capability, actually pursuing step-change opportunities proves difficult. Bernstein said that organizations often pursue sustaining opportunities instead. “Large companies are good at those sustaining opportunities,” he said. “The disruptive opportunities threaten their core business, they don’t fit well with their existing processes.”

In order to pursue disruptions, Bernstein recommended setting up distinct innovation systems specifically dedicated to moonshots. This team “needs to be anchored in a different way of identifying opportunities, a different way of incubating, and a different way of graduating those opportunities.” These separate functions must continuously receive funding, even during downturns, Bernstein notes, so that teams can “be ready” when the disruption eventually comes to pass.  

Open innovation can also be used to innovate in times of disruption. According to Bernstein the most successful open innovation systems “have to be top-down driven…top-down sponsored, [and] appropriately resourced.” Then, grassroots creativity and energy have to been fostered to unlock ideas from . 

At Nomad Foods: Five Innovation Roles, Three Principles for Success 

When managing innovation at Nomad Foods, Peace and her team identify five innovation roles with three guiding principles. The five innovation roles include: 

  • Big bets, where the company enters new categories or addresses new customer needs.

Once an idea is put in a category, Peace says the team thinks about three principles to drive success. The first principle: “Start with the objective and strategy” to have a clear long and short term role in the category’s growth. The second, “develop the customer led-position.” And lastly, “define and deliver the support plan” to put the innovation into practice. 

Pursuing Disruption with Green Cuisine 

During the call, Peace shared an example of breaking into a disruptive category: sustainable frozen food. The new brand, Green Cuisine, is “all about being powered by plants.” When building the brand, Peace says the team was looking for something that was both sustainable and delicious. The result was a plant-based, chicken alternative made from pea protein — a product that the company has sold for years. 

According to Peace, innovation was at every step of the development and launch process. “We’ve got teams focused just on this. They have two weeks sprint reviews with senior stakeholders,” she says. “We’ve developed techniques by which we’re doing online insights. And we’ve been able to do some great call work, and really connect directly and watch consumers preparing the product in their own home.”  

In the future, Peace said, her team will look into experimenting with new texture and sustainable packaging, as well as the future of plant-based protein.