Entering BIG premises is a little bit like getting into a craftman’s workshop: there is know-how, and a silent focus in the air.
Let’s dig in into the unit targeted to breakthrough innovation initiated by Pernod-Ricard group with the help of Alain Dufossé, BIG’s Managing Director.
What are the origins of BIG?
Where does the need for open innovation come from at Pernod Ricard? Pernod Ricard has followed 3 progressive steps:
- From 1970 to 2008, growing from a familial, almost clanic, enterprise to an international company, Pernod Ricard significantly extanded its sales territories: the question was then how to fill the pipe with products, and one answer was brought by successive acquisitions;
- In parallel innovation was boosted innovation in the battle filed, letting brand innovate on their categories, and distribution channels innovate on their markets, with autonomy: one output is the excellent ranking of Pernod Ricard on Forbes lists of most innovative companies, at #69, and “innovation accounts for almost 25% of organic sales growth” states the company;
- Setting-up additional innovation instruments:
- An internal innovation fund for employees, the Kangaroo Fund, incubating intrapreneur projects: from 150 files submitted to 5 selected, 3 businesses are currently being incubated; spare time was mobilized applying the 20% free time ratio for personal projects inspired by Google (editor’s note: and formerly 3M’s ”Bootleg” time);
- An autonomous innovation unit, BIG, to tackle breakthrough innovation: a small team, reporting to general management, oriented on disruption, not on incremental, apart from mainstream processes, with a freedom to experiment, and to launch creative projects;
- A corporate venture fund for small investment tickets in start-ups.
How to nurture breakthrough innovation?
How to fulfill the blank page? BIG got back to Pernod-Ricard roots, starting from the tagline of the company: ‘créateurs de convivialité’, conviviality’s creators.
Innovation relies on accurate formulation, so finding enticing words was key: as Pernod had not triggered its Nespresso revolution yet, BIG’s conviction was to find the path for Pernod to create a true customer experience, going beyond bottle delivery at home, with enhanced service and design.
To make it short: “BIG would work at inventing conviviality’s future” Alain Dufossé own words.
We are at a time where new forms of conviviality are rising: physical activities and parties, yoga and clubbing, soft drugs, conviviality occurs in different forms. Collaborative economy is also revisiting conviviality. “No one can predict the future, so we’d better invent it!”.
BIG’s innovation framework would be structured around 3 steps: discovery, ideation, and delivery.
Platforms of Opportunities
At the outputs of the discovery and ideation phases, come ‘opportunities platfoms’ which are impressive studies (see picture below), collecting social intelligence data out of 800 sources, combining observation with ethnography to generate insights, food for heuristic thought, and highlighting what it changes for Pernod company business.
BIG has scoped out 6 ‘opportunities platforms’, incorporating societal changes like feminization, end of traditional nuclear family, individuals living on their own, especially women, amazing entertainment expenses, intense social life online and offline, and how it impacts Pernod’s activities: thus, the fact that women prefer wine to strong liquor, because of wine’s sophisticated smell and transparencey, correlated to their growing position in society, is likely to result in a negative impact for Pernod-Ricard traditional alcohol business.
Building a solid ground for constructive dialogue with Pernod-Ricard stakeholders is another benefit of the ‘opportunities platforms’.
Guttenberg cocktail bar
To take an example, one platform is called ‘Augmented home entertainment’ and gave birth to the ‘Guttenberg cocktail bar’: one has limited space in urban appartments, and no wish to expose liquor bottles; concurrently, ‘my home is my temple’: I’m willing to invest in home personalization. ‘Guttenberg’ elegant design is a way to give access, while bringing in a decorative element.
Naturally ‘cocktail bar’ Guttenberg is more than decorative: its aims is to reinvent the at-home cocktail experience. It consists of “container books” each holding a sealed bottle of spirits, all connected to a service platform which provides a whole range of tutorials about mixology (cocktail recipes, personalised offers, etc.), and automatically triggers refuel according to the container level.
Guttenberg is 1 ot of 30 home entertainement concepts. It illustrates why BIG is there, encompassing extensive topics, from traffic jam, fast mail delivery with lower carbon print, direct consumer access, experience creation, gaming, digital era, to ecosystem and platforms, to provide a continous human and easy-to-use innovative service.
Guttenberg has vicinity with Nespresso model, but it is a connected platform. It is currently in test, at pre-industrialization stage, and preparing to launch.
Interacting with the core co, and innovation portfolio
If BIG behaves like a start-up, BIG is not a start-up as it has to bring back innovation’s value within the group: therefore fruitful interactions with the core co are essential.
60 platforms have been reviewed, funneling to 6. They were afterwards validated by the executive committe. Pernod-Ricard n°3 is monitoring their development half a day every month.
Still BIG enjoyes a large autonomy. It is free to experiment, and select appropriate suppliers. It does not follow a formal portfolio logic, but engages in priority in must-do projects. BIG is focusing at moonshots, which does not prevent to turn them into quick wins, by removing the unecessary that would blur the outline. BIG works at making the innovation accessible to business units, drawing interest from the core co as it understands how to implement it.
Brand entities can adopt the innovation, and BIG will support a codevelopment. Or BIG can design and manufacture it, and distribution entity will channel it to the market. The handover from development to deployment is the tricky part.
4 platforms are currently active, and being reactualized continuously.
Finally, there is the Lab to pursue epiphanies: BIG can finance specific exploratory research, which can land into applications. BIG prolongates ethnography insights with technological bets, following intuitions like digital agriculture, letting terroir express into taste, or assessing urban agricultural production units, filling the needs of the city.
Linking with digital
A link with digital has become inevitable: BIG handles close relationships with the start-up ecosystem in Paris, San-Francisco, and Tel-Aviv. It acts as a ‘digital distillery’, intermediating between operations in the countries and the digital ecosystem, developing open innovation cooperation, and searching for specific skills.