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Produce Pulse: Burn the Box

Produce Pulse: Burn the Box

When I first started working at AndNowUKnow and The Snack Magazine, our President and Chief Executive Officer, Robert Lambert, used to send me home with homework—which he still does to this day; watch this documentary on the advertising world in New York, check out that film about Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, look at how Aston Martin shapes their messaging around that new model of luxury vehicle…

At first, I was confused. Where does produce fit into all this? Can you please connect the dots for me? Then, it hit me. The dots were there to be made—fresh and new. He could make a palette of eyeshadows relevant to strategy and innovative thinking in fresh produce.

This kind of thinking and movement is an essential behavior for the leadership of many businesses in our industry. The net of inspiration can be cast as wide as you want it to be; it only takes a willingness to create a line of relevancy and then test its efficacy.

Now, this does not always pan out the way I expect, but if you frame the expectation in a learning capacity, you always find a gold nugget. When reading a book on neurology, survival, and human behavior, I may not discover the next packaging phenomenon, but I learn about the way people think, how they move under stress, and how their mental models of the world can block out and maintain a false reality even in the face of life-threatening challenges.

On a larger or smaller scale, this applies to how any human functions, especially in challenging situations like the ones presented to us today. It helps me interact with people, their biases, and expectations—which is a huge part of my job.

In the Harvard Business Review article “To Find Creative Solutions, Look Outside Your Industry*,” Bill Taylor cited such an example of thinking outside the box. Taylor shared this insight from a text by Christopher E. Bogan and Michael J. English, who detailed a case study that reveals how observations from one field can transform another industry.


“In 1912, a curious Henry Ford watched men cut meat during a tour of a Chicago slaughterhouse,” Bogan and English write. “The carcasses were hanging on hooks mounted on a monorail. After each man performed his job, he would push the carcass to the next station. When the tour was over, the guide said, ‘Well, sir, what do you think?’ Mr. Ford turned to the man and said, ‘Thanks, son, I think you may have given me a real good idea.’ Less than six months later, the world’s first assembly line started producing magnetos in the Ford Highland Park Plant.”

All of this is to use the overused phrase: The world is your oyster. How will a new fashion line influence your packaging prowess? How will the map of a city center change the way you build the traffic map of your brick-and-mortar store?

Take a tip from Driscoll’s, which took inspiration for its Berry Patch Sensory Wheels from other categories like the coffee and wine industries. These sectors have created the true discipline and accuracy of a consumer’s eating experience through the art and science of sensory and flavor wheels.

Maybe we come with more questions than answers, but, for those who know me well, it is always about the search.

*hbr.org