When I tell people I’m a Growth Marketer at Nestlé, I get a lot of questions about what that really means. To put it simply – my job is to find new spaces where the company could be serving consumers and find a way to deliver innovative new products with agility. I do this as part of Nestlé’s R&D Accelerator - a fast-paced and exciting environment designed to ask – and answer - big, bold questions about the future of food and beverages.
I joined Nestlé right out of college in Atlanta, where I’d already had a taste of entrepreneurial life. Being close to the Atlanta Innovation Center – a rich innovation ecosystem - I'd had the opportunity to support startups, and even launch my own venture supporting water access in Africa. Going from that to joining a large organization like Nestlé was daunting – you never know if your ideas are going to be appreciated somewhere new, or if a large company can move fast on fresh innovation.
What I found when I got to Nestlé was that the entrepreneurial spirit I’d embraced in college was not only appreciated, but encouraged and nurtured. When it comes to innovation, this is a place where everyone is encouraged to bring big ideas to life. Here’s my experience of how Nestlé built that culture of innovation.
Thinking Consumer First
Innovation always starts by addressing a need. What is it our consumers need? Is there a problem that we can solve for them? We do this by talking to consumers and listening to them explain their needs firsthand. One of the most exciting projects I’ve worked on involved feminine health – women that we spoke to told us that what they needed was a product that satisfied cravings and reduced menstrual pain.
We began testing chocolate – flavor, the effect of certain ingredients – and let consumers weigh in on what tasted the best and had the greatest health impact. This two-way dialogue between our team and our consumers is at the core of how we innovate at Nestlé: it’s not just about us cooking up something new in our kitchen, it’s about finding something that’s missing from your kitchen and working to fill that space for you.
Starting from "Why Not?"
When you start working in a new company, you wonder how much space you’ll be given to pitch your own ideas and have your voice heard. At Nestlé, I’ve found that my voice has always been listened to – there's a culture here of wanting to hear what every member of the team can bring to the table. It’s exciting to know that courage is rewarded, and in the Innovation Accelerator we put that into action by starting with “why not?”
“Why not?” gives everyone the opportunity to explore their big ideas. It’s not just the question – we're given the tools to go out and explore what the answer may be. If your question is “why not create a dairy product without ever needing access to a cow?” then you can go out and explore dairy-alternative products for the best taste and texture. You’re given the space to iterate and find the answer – even if the answer is sometimes “this is why not!” - that’s ok, we see roadblocks as an opportunity for learning and growth for the next project.
Teams That Support Growth
Being an innovator is rarely something you do alone. At Nestlé, it’s a team effort and it’s been refreshing to find leaders and colleagues here who truly support me as a creative professional. Leadership are extremely engaged in the innovation process – they want to be on the ground with us understanding how we’re working, but also supporting our individual growth as employees.
I’ve found that this engagement goes beyond the usual check-ins and objective setting – which has an important place in our structure – my leaders have truly engaged in my personal success. I’ve had leaders at Nestlé who have seen opportunities come up in other parts of the business and rather than trying to prevent me from moving, they highlighted those growth areas and said “hey, this would be a good role for you!” To me, that’s an innovative approach to leadership.