ProjectInnovation Labs for Healthy Living

Innovation Labs for Healthy Living

When PepsiCo's Global Nutrion Group (GNG) sought to explore healthy food products and services, they challenged themselves to rethink their innovation process. Instead of learning about a specific product market and creating new products for a single category, they reframed their task to focusing on how to create solutions that support the occaisions when people eat. For this they had to re-organize innovation in a way that could allow different parts of their company to work together with a focus on how people organize and experience eating. RISE Interactive (formerly called Interactive Institute) partnered with Veryday to support GNG in exploring new healthy product and service experiences through an “innovation lab” set-up. These compressed innovation labs (7-weeks in each country) moved rapidly through the overlapping stages of:

  • in context consumer research
  • collaborative analysis
  • co-creation with consumers and stakeholders
  • express prototyping
  • consumer evaluation of prototypes and concepts

Each lab resulted in eight prototyped healthy food product and service concept platforms with local relevance, complete with research insights and business models.

Brendon Clark, senior researcher from RISE Interactive, was invited into the project as the Co-Creation Lead. He and junior researcher Euan Fraser spent half a year with the Veryday team developing and facilitating the Innovation Lab in several countries (Russia and Brazil, and later abbreviated versions in Turkey and the US). A distinct feature of the partnership was its ability to find new and valuable ways to initiate, nurture, shape, and effectively contribute to the dialogue between the business interests of PepsiCo and the complex practicalities of consumers’ daily lives.  This dialogue, combined with the integration of several other research streams, produced market specific, locally relevant innovations for both short and long term implementation.

Melissa Caldwell, Brendon Clark and Malin Orebäck

From “Delivery Mode” to “Collaborative Mode”

The lab format was attractive to RISE Interactive as it represented a shift in consultancy from a “delivery mode” of conducting research and developing concepts for the company, to a “collaborative mode” where company stakeholders were able to explore their business interests in a rapid, research-based innovation process based on consumer input (see the paper “delivering collaboration” Clark et al. 2012* or the short video overview). This type of participatory innovation required a host of new collaborative methods and tools for the co-creation of insights and concepts (such as use of video, visual briefs, tangible ethnographic techniques, emotional analysis) as well as new supportive roles for researchers and designers. RISE Interactive team adapted previous methodological and format experiments to a clear set of tangible ethnographic formats and processes that could be performed by the whole team. The focus was on supporting storytelling during the user studies, analysis, co-creation and prototyping phases. This included  advancing techniques in rough, un-cut video summaries as a communication tool in all phases of the lab. 

Tangible ethnographic techniques – Experience explorations

When working collaboratively, the spoken word and description through text alone (common in ethnography) are not very effective. Instead, tangible ethnographic techniques rely upon making often abstract explanations of meaningful issues or experiences from people’s lives into tangible material to trigger more detailed storytelling. This brings people closer to their own emotional experience and allows them to reflect more deeply on their life experiences, their dreams and aspirations, and the practicalities of their everyday life.  At the same time, the focus on visual and tangible story formats enables knowledge transfer activities and collaborative analysis with people from different disciplinary backgrounds or areas of expertise. 

Brendon formalized some classic ethnographic research activities into tangible ethnographic techniques used in the context of people's lives with the material around them. Journey maps with household goods, boundary work on the breakfast table, or storytelling with a combination of pictures, jars of jam, and sketches were easy to conduct, capture, write-up and share.  With a focus on storytelling supported by tangible and visual material, we were able to integrate a wide variety of research into collaborative analysis and design throughout the various stages of the lab. 

Co-creation workshops with consumers and experts rely upon creating simple activities that allow people's histories and their dreams and aspirations for the future to manifest in tangible, communicable expressions. This can be done in a very concrete way focused on realistic products or situations, or through more abstract metaphoric expressions that capture values of a person and/or their family. However, to bring value, co-creation activities are tailored to the lives of those involved, often drawing on material from previous interviews or activities, and adapting along the way.

Prototyping an innovation lab model

The innovation labs in Russia and Brazil involved a high number of stakeholders, researcher organizations, and consultants. Along with RISE Interactive and Veryday in leadership roles and local and global PepsiCo stakeholders, their were consultants from Flamingo, SignSalad, Hornall Anderson, ElBulli and participants from Delft University of Technology and the University of California at Santa Cruz, to name a few. This mix of competence, organizations and the sheer number of people pushed the limits of the collaborative model. It also contributed to the refinement of a set of innovation practices through continued dialogue while working with the methods and content. Assessing the contribution of the lab requires not only looking at the direct output to PepsiCo healthy products and services, but also includes the dissemination and mentoring of others during the project. For instance, there has since been variations of the innovation labs and spinoff consultanties that offer innovation lab services based on the techniques and methods we introduced in Russia and Brazil. These first labs were live prototypes of a model that has since become refined and re-purposed to other projects inside and outside of PepsiCo/GNG. 

*Clark, Brendon, Jakob Boije, Euan Fraser, Jonathan Young, 2012. Delivering Collaboration. In Participatory Innovation Conference proceedings 2012. Swinburne University.