ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘food innovation’

Be Bold – Innovate Like a Monk! (and Have a Beer)

Posted by Plish on October 20, 2016

For the first 5000 years of its existence, beer was hopless (and some may say ‘hopeless’ as well! 😉 ).  In order to add flavor and balance to beer and impart preservative qualities, various herbs and spices were added to the fermented joy.

And then, some time in the late 8th and early 9th centuries, monks began experimenting with green cones of a towering bine:  hops.  The rest as they say, is history – or rather – the present.  Hopped beers of all sorts are ubiquitous in the world of brewing; so much so,  that some view hops as overpowering the  nuanced complexities of beer  instead of playing a complementary role.

Love ’em, hate ’em, or grow ’em (I’m in all those camps by the way 😉 ) hops are relative newcomers to the world of brewing.  They were, at the time of their introduction, an innovation.  A bold innovation in fact.

Think of it, or rather, look around.  What product in your room has been relatively unchanged for hundreds of years?  Now, think of a way to tweak it in a way that the whole world will make that tweak the norm.  Socks? Walls? Tables?  Nails?  Glass? Water? Air?

Just because we use something everyday doesn’t mean it’s the best it can be.  Perhaps, the best is yet to come!

Be bold!

Innovate like a monk!

🙂

 

 

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Posted in Design, Food, innovation, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lessons on Innovating Using Cornstraints (It’s Not a Typo)

Posted by Plish on June 6, 2016

Now that we’re in the season of barbecues and beer, let’s delve into innovating using constraints.  For this post we’ll look at innovating how we eat corn on the cob, so we should probably call them “Cornstraints” (Sorry, couldn’t resist 😉 )

Typically, eating corn on the cob is a delicious but messy process because the cob can be slathered with butter, salt, pepper, mayo, pepper sauce, etc. (Corn must be delicious! – User applied constraints).  Most people don’t want this on their fingers (Keep fingers clean –A user applied constraint).  Not to mention, corn cobs are remarkably efficient at retaining heat (an inherent constraint), so holding them at the ends can be challenge if they were recently plucked out of boiling water.

Doing a quick Google search shows people are pretty much dealing with these constraints already.

Capturea.PNG

Most innovations in this space deal with ways of holding the corn.  Inserting sticks or holding the ears of the corn seem to be the most common solutions.  Using napkins or some other intermediate device are also ways of minimizing mess, improving grip, and increasing comfort.

How else can we improve the eating experience?

  1. Who says we have to hold it?  It’s a choice – a user applied constraint.  We can, as some people with dental work do, cut off the corn and eat it with a fork.  We can also use a power drill (as has been done by some folks on YouTube)  but this brings up whether we should ignore another  user applied constraint: All the kernels need to end up in the mouth .  We could also design a corn stand that holds the cob for us; or for that matter, we could ask a friend to hold it for us so we don’t get our own hands gummed up.  This then brings up a possible constraint: Eating Corn on the Cob shouldn’t cause us to lose friends.
  2. Since the center of the cob is often hot, what if we cook the corn without heating the core?  Think of ways to do this and have fun with solar heaters or blow torches!  For that matter, let’s work with the reverse of the constraint (Corn needs to be served hot) and create a delicious COLD corn dish!  What about chemically ‘cooking’ the corn?  We can use enzymes or chemicals to convert the corn into something delectable and yet cool.   Or what if we slice the corn cob into 1/4″ slices so that corn chips takes on a new meaning? 😉  Since they’re thinner, the centers will cool faster and be easier to hold.  Plus, the corn can now be dipped into whatever sauce we want!  We ignore one user constraint (Corn cob must be whole) and turn another on its head (The entire cob must be slathered with the same substance)
  3.  The center of the cob is typically not edible (Inherent Constraint).  So let’s make it edible!  Can we inject it with something prior to cooking it so that it softens and tastes good?

I could go on, but let’s take a look at what I’ve done.

At the heart of all the above ideas is a questioning of the constraint.  Why do we have to buy in to the constraint?  Let’s change it.  Who cares if it’s inherent in the product – work around it!   Personally I like looking at the opposite of what the constraint implies and then find a way to make that reality.  What’s very interesting (and fruitful!) is that as one starts playing with the alteration of constraints, new constraints inevitably pop up.  This makes sense because once constraints get changed, the whole context can change.  This change in context demands that we ask new questions and probe the new constraints that are formed.

So, the next time you’re eating corn on the cob, think about ways of changing the eating experience.  It might make for a great discussion at a party!  I’d love to hear your ideas for changing the experience by experimenting with cornstraints. 🙂

 

 

 

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, design thinking, Disruptive Innovation, Food, innovation, Innovation Tools, Service Design, Social Innovation, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Use This Simple Innovation Technique to Create Better Pizza….er, Products!

Posted by Plish on May 20, 2015

We’ve all had this experience:

You order a pizza for pickup.  You get home and open the box and find the cardboard under the pizza is wet and soggy.  You dig into the pizza but find out that, unfortunately, the flavor of  the wet cardboard  transferred to the pizza’s crust.

I’ve had the same experience on pizzas that were delivered as well.  Anything more than 10 minutes and the soggy cardboard effect kicks in.

How do we fix it?

Let’s use the time honored technique of re-ordering the sequence of events to create a different, and better, product, er…pizza.

Very often certain events get canonized as the way to create a product.  In some ways this is a good thing as it virtually guarantees repeatability in end products.  In the case of pizza the following happens :

  1. Take order
  2. Take crust and spread tomato sauce evenly
  3. Place cheese on tomato sauce
  4. Add  other toppings (If applicable)
  5. Place in oven at 425F for 15 minutes.
  6. Pull pizza out of the oven
  7. Place on hard surface
  8. Cut pizza
  9. Place on cardboard and slide into pizza box
  10. Give to customer
  11. Drive home
  12. Open Box
  13. Take slices of deliciousness out and eat!

Now, the steps in red are what the restaurant typically sees.  They are pretty much oblivious to steps 11-13 as they are busy doing steps 1-10 for other customers.  The problem is that the restaurant can keep doing 1-10 flawlessly, but the fact of the matter is that step 11 is especially critical to 13 being a pleasurable, or not so pleasurable, experience.  If the drive home is more than 10 minutes, the quality of the pizza could start going downhill.  The longer the ride, the  dark, steamy, cheesy, oily environment inside the box takes its toll as cheesy oil and moisture soaks through the cut marks in the pizza and soils the cardboard.

That in turn starts soaking back into the crust and impacting the flavor.

We could solve this problem by adding substances to the crust that will repel, or mask, the cardboard taste but let’s do something easier.

Change the sequence of events.  There is one step in particular that directly impacts how the pizza crust will survive the ride home.

How about:

  1. Take order
  2. Take crust and spread tomato sauce evenly
  3. Place cheese on tomato sauce
  4. Add  other toppings (If applicable)
  5. Place in oven at 425F for 15 minutes.
  6. Pull pizza out of the oven
  7. Place on cardboard and slide into pizza box
  8. Give to customer
  9. Drive home
  10. Open Box
  11. Cut Pizza!
  12. Take slices of deliciousness out and eat!

Yes.  Let the customer cut the pizza.  Not only will that help the crust quality, it takes a step, and some time, out of the pizza making process.

It may not seem like a lot, but a couple of seconds with every pizza baked will add up by the end of the year.  Heck, if the restaurant wants to, it can sell branded pizza cutters, or give one away with every 10 pizzas purchased.  Make it a game: “We make it and bake it, but you cut it and love it!”

So, if you want better tasting pizza, try this simple innovation.

When you order your pizza, tell them to not cut it.

But, don’t expect old habits to die hard.  In the restaurant that I’ve been testing this theory with (Thank you Salutos for unknowingly providing the pizza for these experiments! 🙂 ), even when I’ve given them instructions not to cut the pizza, often they’ve cut it anyway,

More important, next time you’re trying to improve a product that’s based on a process, look at rearranging the steps.  You might just end up with a tasty new product! 🙂

PS. I shared this tidbit on Instagram first.  Feel free to follow me there for more on innovation and creativity!  Just click on the pic to go to my ZenStorming on Instagram.

Posted in Best Practices, Design, design thinking, Food, innovation, Innovation Tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Chef Guy Fieri on Innovation

Posted by Plish on April 1, 2014

Every time I get the opportunity, I ask great chefs this simple question:

What does innovation mean to you?

This year at the International Home and Housewares Show, I caught up (quite literally as you see from the video,) with Chef Guy Fieri.  His response to the question: “What does innovation mean to you?” is shown below.  Give it a watch and join me below the video and I’ll share my thoughts.

Chef Fieri’s thoughts echo, I think, what many people believe innovation is:  The willingness to “step outside the box” and try new things, the willingness to experiment.  Undergirding this willingness, though, is a key acceptance of failure.  He realizes that not everything will be great but we won’t know unless we try.

It’s quite simple really, if we think something, try it and see what happens.  Small changes can have huge impacts; wolves can change the course of rivers.

What are your thoughts on Chef Fieri’s approach?

~~~

Thank you, Chef Fieri!  You’re schedule was fast paced and packed with action (like your food!) and taking the time to chat was most gracious.  Thank you, and keep rocking!

Posted in creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Food, innovation, Interviews, Nature of Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thoughts on Innovation From Chef Aaron Sanchez

Posted by Plish on March 27, 2014

 

Every time I get the opportunity, I ask great chefs this simple question:

What does innovation mean to you?

This year at the International Home and Housewares Show, I was able to watch Chef Aarón Sanchez at work, and then chat briefly with him.  His response to the question: “What does innovation mean to you?” is shown below.  Give it a watch and join me below the video and I’ll share my thoughts.

Chef Aarón was true to his Buddhist beliefs.  His short and sweet answer hit on a theme that I’ve heard from other chefs, namely, going back to the roots, understanding where you are and where you can go.    There is both constraint and open-ended-ness to “understanding where (your roots) take you.”  Inherently the roots have a potential energy. They provide the foundation from which innovations can grow.   At its core, this statement is about understanding your raw materials, about their potential, about how they can be manipulated to get the results you want. This doesn’t just mean actual brick and mortar substances.  It also applies to philosophies and ideas.  This is especially true if you want an innovation to fit in your portfolio.  If you want your innovation to be recognized as having ties to certain roots, you need to understand those roots.

At first when he said, “Always use the best ingredients,” I was stumped.  Was this supposed to be a koan?  What do good ingredients have to do with innovation?  And then it hit me.

The questions isn’t “what?”, it’s “why?”

Why are the best ingredients important?

It’s a question of fidelity.  If ingredients are poor, if the raw materials are poor, people experiencing the innovation may not get what the innovation is trying to say.  A milk  flavored with a gentle herbal blend will not convey subtle flavors if the milk is old and sour.   That innovation will be rejected.  It’s not that the innovation is a bad idea.  On the contrary, it may be a great idea, but because I didn’t use the best ingredients, the innovation in the glass doesn’t resemble the innovation in my head.  Something was lost in the translation from idea to reality.

It’s important then for innovations to have a level of fidelity that is appropriate for what needs to be communicated/experienced.  This can only occur if the ‘ingredients’ in your innovation are the best.  My maternal grandmother used to say with regards to cooking: “Put good things together and it’ll be good.”  This doesn’t mean that if you take 2000 of the best ingredients and stir them in a pot they’ll taste good.  No, it is about context.  Combine good things, in the appropriate way, and the flavors in your mind will be faithfully reproduced in the eating experience.

This, interestingly enough, closes the loop and brings us back full circle to understanding one’s roots.  You can’t be true to your understanding of your roots, and communicate innovations that come from them, if you don’t use the best ingredients.

What do you think about Chef Aarón’s philosophy on innovation?

~~~

I want to thank you, Chef Sanchez, for putting up with me and taking the time to chat.  You were most gracious and considerate, even with multiple people and commitments pulling you in myriad directions.  You were being true to your roots, and you only used the best ingredients.  Thank you!

 

Posted in creativity, Creativity Videos, Design, Food, innovation, Interviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Lesson in Entrepreneurship 2.0 – Innovative Business Model Helps ‘Would Be’ Competition

Posted by Plish on July 5, 2011

Barb’s Kitchen in Monroe, Wisconsin, is more than simply a state licensed kitchen that is well-known for its potato salad and Shaggy Dog marinade.  It is a shared incubator, a place for culinary entrepreneurs to cut their teeth without having to invest in their own buildings, or their own equipment.  By renting space in Barb’s Kitchen they obtain access to equipment, and perhaps more importantly:  like-minded souls.

According to this article in the Monroe Times, nine different companies have used these shared resources, six of which have officially gone out on their own.

How many other businesses would share their labs, offices or resources with those who could become competition? Would you?

It’s brick and mortar, radical, social networking. 

Business model innovation.

~Welcome to Entrepreneurship 2.0~

Posted in culture of innovation, Entrepreneurship 2.0, innovation, Social Innovation, Social Networking, Social Responsibility | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tackling an Obese Nation – Making “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” a Design Competition!

Posted by Plish on April 8, 2010

I’ve been watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.  At first I wasn’t too keen on the show.  I didn’t like the premise: Guy from a different country comes to the US to make the US healthier as part of a reality TV show. The motive is good but it’s still Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.  Deep down I feel that for this to be uber-successful it needs to be called something like, “The USA’s Nutrition Revolution – Living Life!”  Revolutions belong to the people, never to one person. (Yes, I realize that one person often starts a  revolution and that others join in – yet, I think this might get more traction if  the focus were changed.  I do need to point out that it seems clear to me that Jamie isn’t in this for his own glory.  He genuinely cares about the issue of obesity, especially in children)

Well, I’ve seen a couple of episodes, and I have to say that I’m intrigued and actually enjoy watching.  I’m shocked though by what I’m seeing: Kids that can’t name basic vegetables, bureaucracies that favor cheap pre-fab food over fresh foods, parents that have given up providing their kids with healthy food.  Every episode reveals something new and not always flattering about the nutritional delivery system in this country.

It also struck me that this show/movement  could be viewed as a design project. 

What do I mean? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Best Practices, Case Studies, children, Contests, creativity, Design, design thinking, Education, Food, Health Concerns, innovation, Life Stages, Parents, Politics, problem solving, Social Networking, Society, Stories, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

When Innovation Crumbles Customer Experience- A Tale of Gluten Free Pizza

Posted by Plish on March 31, 2010

Thin Crust Pizza. 

The words conjure up images of good times,  friendship, and long strings of melted cheese stretching infinitely thin as you pull a piece away from a common plate that everyone eats from.   Pizza wants to be held.   You bring it to your mouth and  bite down through the cheese and crust with your central incisors, pulling away slowly so as not disrupt the toppings still in your hand, but wanting to pull away faster as the hot cheese hits the roof of your mouth. 

Pizza is more than a food – it’s an experience

About a year and a half ago my wife was diagnosed as having gluten intolerance.   Part of that diagnosis means no wheat based products, no breads and no pizza. 

Through a Celiac doc friend of my mine we heard that a local restaurant had pizzas that were gluten free.  It sounded too good to be true.  A pizza that was gluten free and tasted good?  We ventured out to try it and lo and behold, it was pretty good! 

That was the high point. 

Since then, we seldom get the same quality pizza two times in a row. The crust crumbles and breaks and the cheese slides off .  It’s almost impossible to eat without a knife and fork.  The picture below shows how one pizza fell apart. Not very appetizing to look at, is it? 

the carnage of innovation - an unsuccessful pizza

 

The service at the restaurant is great.  When we get a pizza that isn’t done right the managers are quick to ask if we want another one, or they try and recook the same one (which unfortunately often results in overdone cheese.)   They’ve pointed out on multiple occasions the process the pizza goes through.   There is one manager who, if he intervenes and walks the pizza through and tweaks the cooking process and the amount of cheese, can create a pizza that pretty much looks and tastes like a pizza.  That’s the exception though, not the rule. 

The rule  is that, even though we’re regulars at this particular restaurant, when the pizza shows up we seldom say anything anymore.  It messes up our ability to have a good, spontaneous time.  Neither one of us can enjoy our food because one, or both, of us has to wait for the fixed pizza to arrive.  

So what’s my point? 

With the increase in diagnoses of Celiac or gluten sensitivity, this restaurant had it right.  A gluten free pizza was the way to go.  What they didn’t totally appreciate was that taste is only part of the pizza equation.  Pizza is an experience, and the weak links in the pizza development process impact that experience in an unfortunate way.   

It really is a shame. 

This restaurant is a fun place -experience is what they actually are all about! 

Instead, these glitches have prevented this gluten free pizza from being a delicious experience for the Customer (or for the restaurant!)… 

 it’s just another gluten free product offering on the menu.

Posted in Case Studies, Customer Focus, Design, Food, innovation, problem solving, The Human Person, The Senses | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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