Algae pasta: isi tests tomorrow's food
isi, the Institute for Sensory Research and Innovation Consulting, is testing sustainable products...
isi reports in a two-part series on the most dynamic year in isi's history. Four driving forces were at the centre of the change processes: Transparency, Structure, Innovation and Marketing. Read the second part here.Want to start from the beginning? Go to part 1.
Do-It-Yourself Market Research
Which innovations did isi set out anew? "In the spirit of the jobs-to-be-done approach, we asked ourselves how helpful our products are in fulfilling a problem or a need of our customers," explains Robert Möslein. He sometimes heard from customers that they were highly satisfied with the isi methods, but sometimes they expressed feeling like they were booking a luxury yacht when a maneuverable dinghy would have been sufficient.
In exchange with current and potential customers, isi decided to offer new services. These new services all provide solutions quickly, work without major consulting effort, and that they are ideally suited to answering questions in a highly dynamic product development process. In addition, they also open up favorable big company sized service solutions that are optimized for medium-sized companies and startups as well.
Medium sized companies and start ups are exciting and fun to work with, but often the scope of our service was too costly them and for isi conversely, we were not fully accounted for in their budgets our efforts being more foreseeable in markets where existing products are. Our full host of services were too extensive. However, these the new DIY offerings bridge this gap and allow access to smaller companies with a smaller budget to participate in a lot of the decisions by themselves. A truly Do-It-Yourself solution for a bright future on a smaller budget.
With the Test Studio Finder, for example, isi developed and offers an online platform on which companies can independently book test studios worldwide - a kind of booking.com for test studios. Direct contact with isi is no longer necessary. The test studio which adheres to and has been certified as a qualified provider pays a license fee to isi. These test studios are well distributed internationally and provide these services in accordance with the isi certification for the benefit of isi customers. The test studios themselves benefit from access to a greater variety of business opportunities. This has opened up an additional business model for isi. (More in our blog).
With another new service, called S³ - Sensory Self Service, isi is also pursuing the Do-It-Yourself approach. On the S³ website, interested parties can put together their own sensory test at isi with just a few clicks. Just a few days later, the customer is able to have the results in their hands.
Another offer is the Pack Design Sprint. This method allows companies to develop the prototype of a new product in just one week. It is deliberately aimed not only at manufacturers of food products, but at all manufacturers - whether of coffee machines, audio speakers or soap dispensers.
"We made certain to repeatedly reinforce a change in our mindset. The customer is not only ordering a sensory test from us, but rather foremost wants results at the end of the day that tell him whether his product works or not," Robert Möslein emphasizes. The isi team has applied this "jobs-do-be-done" approach to all isi offerings. Other new services include isi DesignDecoding, Integrated Consumer Research & Dialog Management, and Sensory Panel Development and Management.
New goals in sight - Joachim Haag (left) and Robert Möslein (right) share isi management and focus on different tasks.
The isi restructuring was also accompanied by uncertainties. isi employees wondered to what extent the realignment could make their work redundant. Some doubted whether it would be possible to earn money with the new services. "We made the reorganization transparent and got everyone on board," reports Joachim Haag. Robert Möslein and Joachim Haag conveyed their vision in many discussions. Employees report on the "isi spirit," the feeling that they can always count on the support of the team when facing new challenges. In addition, everyone can get involved in the process. It is not necessary to be afraid of making mistakes. On the contrary, mistakes are welcome. This is part of isi's innovation strategy, which makes use of tools such as design thinking, design sprints and SCRUM.
The traditional approach to developing a new product, program or service was to optimize the product idea to perfection over many months or years. In the new isi paradigm shift, it has become clear that development - especially in a complex and rapidly changing environment - works better if prototypes are tested in the early stages and then improved bit by bit. "It's about moving faster by thinking in iterative cycles, completing smaller parts of the product and ongoing added value. This realization has given us an enormous boost in motivation," reports Joachim Haag.
Communicating values, making processes transparent, that is important to Prof. Andreas Scharf, isi co-founder and advisory board member.
Win customers with Hubspot
Another important repositioning is only touched upon here: Customer Relationship Management (CRM). When Robert Möslein first heard about Hubspot, a modern CRM system, he was skeptical. But after a short time with the product, he became enthusiastic.
Hubspot aligns marketing, sales, and customer service with the inbound communicaton. This means that a company attracts customers by providing them with relevant and helpful information and assisting them professionally throughout the entire interaction process. In doing so, the information and offers are precisely geared and matched to the target group.
For example, people can find information that fits their questions on the isi website; from short lists to detailed explanations. Some downloads require an e-mail confirmation. Potential customers have the chance to interact per email, chat, and other channels. This enables isi to find out who is interested in which topics and what problems customers are facing. Through further invitations, for example to webinars, isi builds trust and increases interest in the company.
"Instead of aggressively and haphazardly selling our service, customers experience and interact with us through trustworthy information flow," explains Robert Möslein. The outstanding service experience delights customers and keeps them coming back. Thanks to a special interface that isi has formed with existing internal systems - for cost accounting, among other things - with HubSpot, all inquiries, offers, and projects run through HubSpot. Controlling information can also be accessed in this way. "This kind of "mini-SAP" increases transparency for all isi employees," says Möslein.
The transformation at isi sets ever more areas of change in motion. What is next on the agenda? "We ourselves are next in line," Joachim Haag and Robert Möslein explain in unison. The isi management team has started to be coached in order to consciously address the issue of leadership culture. In their eyes, good leadership no longer means pulling all the strings; rather, it means being good hosts so that the teams in the company can develop. The restructuring has already paid off, and in the first quarter of 2021 isi experienced the best quarter in its history. Additionally, six new employees were hired. A big welcome aboard shout-out to our new employees and a big thank you shout-out to everyone that has participated in our repositioning.
Interested in part 1? Here you will find the beginning of our two-part innovation series.
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photo by: Ralf Kresin
Dr. Fabienne Hübener is a freelance science journalist specializing in the senses and sensory research. She has been writing for us since 2017 and also likes to accompany our team with the video camera in the lab and at conferences.