Lessons on Innovation

A sweet story about the invention of the chocolate chip and how you might apply those lessons to your work

Photo by Daniel Lopez on Unsplash

Love this story of Ruth Wakefield, the inventor of the chocolate chip cookie. You might think the story is interesting, but I also found it provided a wealth of interesting lessons and tidbits that you can apply to your work. I won’t repeat the story here because I can’t do it justice, but I will share the interesting takeaways I learned and how you might apply them to your work.

If you want to come up with different ideas, you have to consume different sources of information

Ruth and her husband ran a restaurant and travelled a lot. Everywhere they travelled was a source of inspiration and they tried all kinds of exotic foods which eventually led to the chocolate chip cookie.

Reject conventional wisdom and do what’s best for the customer

Ruth and her husband ran a restaurant that rejected the conventional wisdom of other restaurants at the time. For example, most restaurants had uncomfy chairs (to increase turnover) but their restaurant had comfy chairs where patrons could stay for hours. Another idea was serving soup in small bowls (other restaurants wanted to serve soup in larger bowls so they could skimp on later meals). Finally, when patrons would ask for a second helping, Ruth gave it to them for free. She found that the word of mouth and marketing for their customer service more than offset extra-hungry patrons.

Constant experimentation

Ruth, inspired by the butterscotch cookie, wanted to bake a cookie but at the time, most chefs would mix the chocolate into the dough. She thought that instead of melting and mixing the chocolate into the dough, she could leave chunks of chocolate in the dough and it would melt as it was baking. What turned out were cookies with chunks of chocolate inside. Even after she invented the chocolate chip cookie (which wasn’t called that when it was first made), she saw it as a complement to their ice cream and not a dessert in itself. When customers raved about the cookie, she started to see that it was something worth selling by itself.

Don’t stop with one innovation. Look for more ways to provide your customers with the best possible experience.

After Nestle bought the chocolate chip cookie from Ruth, additional innovations were made. For example, it was an onerous process to break up big chocolate bars into chunks for the chocolate chip cookies so Nestle sold their chocolate in chip form. And they also saw how difficult it could be to make the dough from scratch so they developed a box cookie mix.

Applying these lessons to your work

  • It’s common in organisations to look at other similar organisations (i.e., your competitors) and consider what they are doing and how you might copy or steal their ideas. But instead, if you want different ideas, you might want to look outside your industry, market or even sector. For example, if you have a retail store, maybe you look at the best amusement park in the world to understand what they are doing to give their customers the best experience possible (and how you might adapt it to your business).
  • The customer is king. Instead of pushing things to the customer, make the customer experience effortless. It’s a very different experience to have an incredible experience and a seamless experience. Consider which one you want to give to your customer.
  • Constant experimentation can easily be applied to your work, but on the flip side, you likely don’t see the many, many failures as a result. Innovation does not happen without failure.
  • If you create an innovative product or service, don’t stop there. Consider what ancillary or secondary services could support that product or service you have. What is one thing you could do to make your customers’ lives a bit easier as they use your product or service?

This post was created with Typeshare



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Wang Yip

Wang Yip

Author of Essential Habits. I write about personal development, work and managing your career. Connect with me at www.wangyip.ca