I have been working today for Sterling Rice. We’ve been working on ideas for a packaged goods player who wants to think about the future of food 5 years out. Boulder is rainy, with clouds rolling into town from the mountains above. By the time they reach the plain a little further out, their temper has so improved they forsake unlawful assembly and the sun reasserts itself.
There were so many good ideas and so many good idea-ers that its frustrating not tobe able to share. So I thought I would give you one of the best ideas I ever heard.
It was in the HBS classroom. We were doing a cross category exercise and I was invited to join a TOM (Technology and Operations Management) class to watch my section as they thought about how to reinvent Pizza. The results did not impress, and I made bold to ask if them if they had every taken a marketing class. (They were at this moment taking a marketing class from me.)
How they growled at this! One of them said they hadn’t been told to solve a marketing problem, but a TOM one. "So," I said with my best Yiddish shrug, "you forget your marketing?" Another student raised his hand and said that the class had had a marketing class but the teacher left something to be desired." "Yes," I replied, "a problem with quality control, I understand." And we all laughed and a monkey entered in the room.
The class was a usual application of the HBS vegematic: what was pizza, what was distribution, what was the mom and pop version, what was the chain version, where was the value, how could we maximize it? All of this came from a scrutiny of the numbers and, when necessary, an interrogation of the numbers (making the numbers tell things they didn’t know they knew, or, stricktly speaking, want to say).
Then one student put his hand up and said, "of course, we could just low jack the trucks." And the clouds parted. His idea: put a GPS beacon in every delivery vehicle so that consumers could watch their pizza work its way through the city to their door. Found time as a pizza value proposition! How many times have you said to yourself before or after placing your pizza order, "Do I have time to step in the shower, go to the store, download this program?" In a moment, we went from the ordinary to the interesting. These are the best ideas, the ones that suddenly open up the realm of possibility and let us out what we know into the new.
lo-jack pizza? flighttracker (airline flights)? UPS package tracking? maps.google.com? In North America, I’m sure the next techno – logical step will be a service called “Chichi’s Full Monty G-String Trackers” (bachelor/ette party outcall services tracking) … When do the strippers arrive? um, let me check my blackberry link…
I’m reminded of NYNEX’s technical trial of interactive TV in New York City in the early 1990s. They took a camera into an apartment, filmed every room from every angle, cut the resulting film into short pieces, and then connected the whole deal to the phone network, so that a person dialing through his/her phone could appear to manipulate the camera through the apartment. (Dial 4 to move left, dial 5 to go straight on, etc).
This was a tech trial, so they booked 15 minutes on a local cable channel in the early hours of Saturday mornings, and called the thing “Joe’s Apartment”. A viewer could dial in and contol the camera movements for 5 minutes. Before long, without any publicity at all, they had ratings in the hundreds of thousands! Turns out that lots of people, home from a late Friday night out, were hooked, all trying to get access to the camera control, and, when they failed, betting with friends on where the camera would move next.
I can see the customers betting on the pizza van’s movements also!