Innovation Junkies Podcast

Ben Brenton on Fearless Innovation

The Jeffs chat with Ben Brenton, Chief Innovation Officer of Snap-On. Check out what they say about: the different categories of innovation happening at Snap-On, innovating during COVID & how those innovations can stick, & go-to tools for innovation.

Jeff Standridge: This is Jeff Standridge, and this is the Innovation Junkies podcast. If you want to drastically improve your business, learn proven growth strategies, and generate sustained results for your organization, you’ve come to the right place. Over the next half hour, we’re going to be sharing specific strategies, tactics, and tips that you can use to grow your business, no matter the size, no matter the industry, no matter the geography. We’ll be talking about everything from sales and marketing, to organization, operational and leadership effectiveness, to innovation, digital transformation, and everything in between. Weekly, we’ll bring in a top mover and shaker, someone who’s done something unbelievable with his or her business, and we’ll dig deep. We’ll uncover the specific strategies, tactics, and tools they’ve used to help you achieve your business goals. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies podcast.

Hey guys, if you’re looking to put your business on the fast track to achieving sustained strategic growth, this episode is sponsored by the team at Innovation Junkie. To learn more about our strategic growth diagnostic, go to innovationjunkie.com/diagnostic. Now let’s get on with the show.

Jeff Standridge: Hi guys. Welcome to the Innovation Junkies podcast. I am Jeff Standridge.

Jeff Amerine: And this is Jeff Amerine.

Jeff Standridge: And we’re so glad you’ve joined us for another episode. Today, Jeff, we’ve got a great guest with us today, going to talk about all things innovation.

Jeff Amerine: Yeah. I can’t wait to hear from him. And I know you’ve got more details on his background there, but he’s coming from an industry that is not one that we’ve covered on the podcast before. So there should be some great insights.

Jeff Standridge: That’s right. Today we have Ben Brenton, who’s joining us. He’s the Chief Innovation Officer and the Vice President of Innovation at Snap-on Incorporated. Many of you know Snap-on is a leading global innovator, manufacturer, and marketer of tools, diagnostics, and equipment solutions for professional users. What I’m really interested in learning more about is how Ben has worked to create this culture of creativity, risk-taking, change, and fearless innovation. And even some of the work that he’s done to create an organization or program, rather called Innovation Works and a physical innovation center at Snap-on’s office in Wisconsin. Ben, great to have you with us today.

Ben Brenton: Thanks. Nice seeing you guys.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah. And you’re coming to us from the state of Wisconsin as well, correct?

Ben Brenton: Yep. From Kenosha, Wisconsin. Beautiful day out here today.

Jeff Standridge: Fantastic. Well, it’s a hot day down here.

Ben Brenton: Yeah. It’s difficult in the south here, 90 degrees and about 75% humidity. So we’re probably glad you’re not sitting with us.

Jeff Standridge: The good thing about it is-

Ben Brenton: The humidity broke here yesterday, and it was 50 something degrees last night, and beautiful today, seventies.

Jeff Standridge: Wow. It’s 92, but the good thing is it only feels like 102 on the skin. So, Ben, maybe start and tell us a little bit about you. I know you spent some time at PepsiCo, you got a PhD in food science, and you got into the world of innovation in the tool and equipment industry. So help us fill in the blanks a little bit, and tell us a little bit about you.

Ben Brenton: Okay. I’m just going way back. I grew up in Nebraska. Most of my family, farmers and ranchers. My dad always said never get an inside job because… I don’t know what that meant, because I always work outside. Anyway, I started out in basic Biology, moved into Microbiology, worked for a while in Mammalian Cytogenetics or Chromosomal genetics. I decided I really liked Microbial genetics better, moved into Microbial genetics, finished up a Master’s at the University of Nebraska. And thought I was going to go get a job, I happened to, very fortunately, come across to a scholarship from the National Academy of sciences to study biotechnology at the University of Massachusetts. So I went there into a food science and nutrition department, really knowing nothing about food science, I was a bit of a cook, but other than that, I didn’t understand food science. So I had to learn all that good stuff and really worked in biotechnology.

Ben Brenton: And the fellowship was fantastic, probably more money than I would have made with a real job, as I said. But I got out of school, looked at pharmaceuticals and happened to stumble onto an opportunity to Kraft Foods. They were looking at people to start a biotechnology group. So I started working there in biotechnology, worked on a lot of different things, Fatima medics, flavor systems, antioxidants, all kinds of different fermentation technology, and decided I really wanted to do product development, probably from the day I walked in the door, I realized that… Looked at all the products they had on the shelf and said, “I really want to develop new products. So I moved into the product development side in R&D, did that for a couple of years, moving up through the ladder, first on the technical side and then on the management side, and then late nineties had the opportunity to move over into marketing.

Ben Brenton: So moved into marketing in Kraft, was in marketing there for about five years, senior brand manager, eventually brand director. And then just had the opportunity to go to PepsiCo, still in the Chicago area, and I ran innovation on shelf stable beverages, then on the Tropicana brands, and then finally on the Quaker brands. And got a call from, basically, a recruiter saying, “Hey, Chief Innovation Officer at Snap-on,” “That sounds like a really cool title.” I knew the company, I grew up around tools, and came here in 2007. So that’s that part of the history, and I can talk about Snap-on for the rest of the talk.

Jeff Standridge: Very good. Well, one of the more important things, you travel a lot, and one of the things that we’d like to do on our podcast is we have a random musing. So today I thought I would ask what’s your favorite travel destination that you’ve ever you’ve ever visited/

Ben Brenton: Hands down, San Sebastian, Spain.

Jeff Standridge: San Sebastian, Spain.

Ben Brenton: It’s in the Basque country of Spain, on the Atlantic coast. It’s beautiful there, great food,  very inexpensive Vino Tinto, and the people are fantastic. We have three different factories in the area. The closest one is in we actually run a fair amount of our marketing and product development on both the Bako brand, as well as the Lindstrom brand out of. And we’ve done some great projects with them. Hopefully be going there in, I don’t know, a month or so here. I’ve been trying to go for a year and a half, so yeah, I travel a lot for work. The interest in quick side story is I did not travel at all between March 10th last year and July 10th. Since then, I’ve, mainly domestic, in the UK a couple of times, but mainly just traveling domestically. I’ve been in at least on one trip a week, if not two trips a week since early July, and of course it’s evolved dramatically. But, San Sebastian, if you ever get the chance, great place to visit.

Jeff Standridge: It’s now on my list. Jeff, what’s yours?

Jeff Amerine: Yeah, that’s definitely on my list as well. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Italy over the years, and I liked the Tuscan region of Italy, around a little place called Poggibonsi, which is near Florence and Sienna. And the architecture there’s from about the 11th century. It’s very cool, dry climate, all the kind of stuff you would expect to be growing there, olives and different cool stuff. And it’s an easy place to drink wine and have fun. And we did, my wife and I had had a great vacation there.

Jeff Standridge: Very good, very good. Well, I spent a little bit of time in the UK, lived there for about 18 months. But I got to say one of the most surprising places for me in terms of how much I enjoyed it, was in Poland, up on the Baltic and Gdansk, up on the Baltic sea there. And built a company there, and spent quite a bit of time, and look forward to going back there sometime soon myself. So, let’s talk about innovation and Snap-on. You created a program called Innovation Works, and from that spawned a physical innovation space. Talk a little bit about Innovation Works, and then what caused you to decide that you needed a physical space, and what went into that space? And how do you leverage it today?

Ben Brenton: Yeah. So as a quick history. I came here in 2007, hired by our previous CEO, Jack Michaels, Nick Pinchuck is our current CEO. And Jack had a vision of expanding innovation, he actually had this idea of, really basically, retooling the company, sorry for the pun, but really wanted to make sure we had some pillars for success. And some of those, he called the Snap-on Value Creation model. And there’s a couple of different things in it’s safety and quality, as you can imagine. Also, this idea of rapid continuous improvement, which is really about getting much more efficient in manufacturing, that helped us a lot. In the past, we had really high changeover times between making product A and product B, is we’re able to drop those down to very short periods. It allowed us, from an innovation perspective, to be much more flexible in manufacturing. But the last two pillars that I was really hired in to run and champion, was this idea of customer connection, which is really the customers are at the center of everything that we do.

Ben Brenton: And the other is the idea of fearless innovation. So one thing that Jack asked us, “Well, think about, do we need a physical space?” I had the good fortune, having worked in the food industry, all the people I knew from the food industry knew I wasn’t competing anymore. I knew folks at Nike, and Boeing, and IBM, and McDonald’s, and I basically visited, probably, either virtually, even though it’s hard to believe in 2007, we had did some stuff virtually, or in person, about 50 different innovation centers. And one of the ideas that I took away was that you really have to build on site. The original vision was, go out, buy some land in a corn field, build a new building. What almost everyone told me that it built an innovation center was, “You’ve got to do a close to where your internal customers are.” Otherwise it’ll just be this Taj Mahal, beautiful building that no one will ever come to.

Ben Brenton: So the idea we had with it is, and we recreated a number of different spaces here, so that each room is part of the innovation process. We have a fully functioning garage. We have a van garage, where we have a fully loaded franchisee van. We’ve got an observation room where we can have people come in, try out prototypes and watch them. We’ve got a full functioning model shop, a design lab, and then a couple of rooms that basically are like giant whiteboards on the wall, where when we come back from going customer visits, we sketch out, “What were the insights and observations we had? And what are the ideas that we came up with?”

Ben Brenton: We see a lot of use for those spaces by the product groups, as they paint out their three to five-year pipelines of new products. And then we’ve also recently, probably going back five or six years, we added on an area called the Idea Forge, which is really a little more of that… It’s not quite a conference center, but an area where we can have a good number of folks meet. We have our annual meeting there, we have big all company meetings there, and do some franchisee training as well, as customer visits and customer training. All that’s been a little bit off of course, since March last year, but we’ll probably be back at it fairly soon.

Jeff Standridge: So how do you define innovation? How do you, maybe, personally? But how to Snap-on define innovation?

Ben Brenton: Yeah. From a very high level, innovation is just bringing creativity to practice. As I tell folks, “Creativity for creativity’s sake is really art or creativity.” But if creativity is turned into a product, most of us work for companies, and we have to develop something that has a purpose and you can actually sell. So at the highest level, it’s just this idea of taking creativity and turning it into a real product, into something real. The other thing is, oftentimes when we talk about innovation, I’ll talk about products, it’s easier for people to kind of get their heads around, but we spend a fair amount of time, innovating processes, services, almost anything, our marketing, our brand, all of that, is part of our innovation process and part of what we innovate on. Products are usually the easiest for people to understand, the physical product. But a good amount of the projects that I work on are either service related or software related, as our business moves more and more to electronics and more and more to the software side of the world.

Jeff Amerine: Take that a step further, as you think about the various different categories of innovation, for Snap-on, how much of that is incremental, versus breakthrough, versus maybe really disruptive?

Ben Brenton: Yeah. So, part of that’s a little bit confidential, the government asks you this question all the time, which is quite difficult. I would say we try to do a mix. The reality is a good portion of our innovation, is much more incremental. However, we innovate for a number of different reasons. One is in the world of tools, especially hand tools, and somewhat power tools, and diagnostics, and equipment, we want to make sure that nobody else out innovates us, if there’s a new idea to be had, we want to be the company that’s launching it, and we will launch a lot of specialty tools. To you, they might be viewed as incremental, to our customers, sometimes they’re viewed as breakthrough. They may look like a tool that you’ve seen before, But if it allows you to do a new job that you couldn’t do in the past, or it allows you to do a job much more quickly, which we call productivity, in other words, if they’re able to do their work more quickly, more safely, perhaps without thinking about it as much, that to them can be a huge benefit.

Ben Brenton: And so, we do the entire range. What we really try to do though, is make sure that we keep up with the things that our customers fix. Because by and large, Snap-on only sells to professionals, we develop products that help professionals fix things or make things. And by and large, the tools we have to develop are designed in a way that helps work on things that are already out there in the world. And to do that, sometimes it has to be very breakthrough innovation, sometimes it has to be somewhat more incremental and everything in between. But ultimately, we have to keep pace with both what’s going on in the technology world of software and tools, but also what’s going on, what are the breakthroughs that are going on with all of the products that our customers work on.

Ben Brenton: And again, we have customers doing everything from fixing motorcycles and ATVs, to automotive, to heavy duty truck, to, Boeing aircraft, Airbus aircraft, GE engines, Rolls Royce engines, so all through the spectrum from very small, to very large, to nuclear submarines and all the stuff in between. So we have to understand all of those items that our customers work on, and innovate toward helping them fix them.

Jeff Amerine: Hey folks, we’ll be right back with the episode. But first we want to tell you about a limited opportunity to take advantage of our strategic growth diagnostic. For a short time only, we’re offering a free strategy call to see whether or not our unique diagnostic tool is right for you. Go to innovationjunkie.com\diagnostic to learn more.

Jeff Amerine: What footing do you take as it relates to innovative startups, or inventors that may have something that’s relevant to your portfolio?

Ben Brenton: Yes. We have a couple of different processes that we use. We have a, somewhat, traditional open innovation process, where we solicit ideas from our customers, and actually these include our franchisees. In the tools group, which is about a third or so of our business, doesn’t net out exactly that way, but it’s one of our mega business units, it’s what’s most people familiar with, with Snap-on, it’s the white trucks that go around those, those are largely franchisees, they can submit ideas to us, and all of their customers can submit ideas. We also have customers that come from the industrial segment and from around the world, and they can submit an idea. If we commercialize the idea, we pay them $3,000, we send them roughly the first dozen of the products it’s made for bragging rights. And we own the IP, but we do… It’s usually just a nugget of an idea.

Ben Brenton: These tend to be highly specialized tools and things like, “Oh, there’s a new fastener on the 2020 Cadillac water pump, help us get that off.” And we’ll then take that core idea, turn it into a tool, we pay them the money, but we do all the commercialization and selling. And you might say, “Well, 3000 doesn’t seem like a lot,” however, a lot of these ideas are fairly small, we don’t necessarily sell a ton of them. So that’s level one. The next level that we have is we will have inventors who come to us, and they have an idea, and we will work out a royalty system with them. And that can be either, we buy their IP through, they help us co-develop it, and we develop some sort of system where they’re collecting a margin, a percentage of every product that we sell.

Ben Brenton: And those vary widely. Depends on the product, depends on how solid the IP is, depends on how far they’ve developed the product, that’s bucket two. And then the third thing we do, and this doesn’t happen a lot, but we’ve had some great successes, some of the early things I worked on came this way. We have outside inventors who had a product, oftentimes in a different segment than ours, and we would work with them and tweak the product so it fit our customers’ needs. It’s met our branding needs and it met our quality standards, they would then manufacture it for us, typically in the US, most Snap-on stuff is made in the US, and they would then brand it Snap-on, and we would buy it from them. That happens a little less often, but it does happen. So the entire spectrum, we’re open to ideas coming from everywhere, I would say the vast majority of our ideas really come from our internal associates watching customers work.

Ben Brenton: One of the great advantages working here over working at Pepsi or anywhere in the CPG world is, it’s not so weird when I go into a shop and start watching somebody’s work, their behavior might change for about 15 seconds, but they have to get their work done. This is their job. They go right back to any strange behavior that they might’ve had, so it’s very easy to observe them because they make their living doing this. They also have a ton of passion, they have a ton of passion for their job, but they also have a ton of passion for tools. The tools oftentimes define them, our brand oftentimes defines many of our customers. And they’ll have Snap-on tattoos, and Snap-on weddings, and Snap-on birthday cakes, and pictures of their babies holding Snap-on tools, and everything in between. But the core thing is that they really… You view the tools as helping define who they are because the job is so much of their life.

Jeff Standridge: So let’s talk a little bit about the role of Chief Innovation Officer Snap-on. Tell us a little bit about your direct role in terms of the team that you have. And then after you talk a little bit about that and what that team does, let’s talk about the broader role across the organization in terms of your remit as CIO.

Ben Brenton: Okay. Usually, what I tell folks is we have three different buckets of activity that we do. The first one is running the innovation center, so we’ve got the physical innovation center that we run. We also help provide guidance on process around innovation and around customer connection, including training. And we do innovation awards, so I’m actually signing a bunch of letters now, we do innovation awards that we give out every year internally, you get a nice… Basically create a custom metal trophy, it’s pretty cool, along with, you get a letter and a tool gift. And we get those nominations from all the different product groups, we try to recognize, typically, 30 or 40 teams and a couple of hundred people. Sometimes it’s a little bit more, sometimes people are in multiple teams. So we do the training, we run the innovation center and we do awards.

Ben Brenton: We also have to do a little bit of the typical corporate stuff where we do some tracking, “How are we doing with our new product development numbers? And how are we doing with external awards? How are we being recognized on the outside?” So that’s bucket one. And that basically any business group can come to us and ask for help with training, or suggest ideas for people who should want awards, or use the facility. And clearly it’s used a little more by people here , but for me, my internal customers are all over the US and all over the world, that’s part of the reason I’m traveling. So the next piece of bucket we do are really specific requests that we get from product groups. And these can range from close in industrial designs, they’ve got an industrial designers on the team, so help us design this new product, help us do the ID part, to help us get some customer input on an idea that we’ve got, to help us come up with a new idea, to help us fill our three to five-year pipeline.

Ben Brenton: So it’s really almost any requests that we’ve got. And some groups ask more than others, and some groups have the process pretty well under control or have their ideas pretty well lined up. Other groups like the help, and we appreciate that we don’t really cost them anything. So that’s the second bucket, really any kind of request, from very small, to very large from our product groups. And then the third bucket are bigger strategic projects. And these can either come down from our CEO, occasionally from our CFO, from one of the three mega BU heads, where there are things that I might be interested in, as I look at the foresight planning of, “Here’s a trend coming along,” you can guess what some of the trends that are coming along are. Emerging vehicle technology clearly is one.

Ben Brenton: If we take Lindstrom as a brand, we did a deep dive on Lindstrom, which are precision pliers that we made for sale around the world. Primarily, had always been used in electrical manufacturing, as well as jewelry. We suddenly saw a big need in medical device manufacturing and created some innovative products around that. So those are things where we look out, we say, “Hey, here’s an area that’s growing, what should we be doing to make sure we’re meeting those customer’s needs?” So that’s the three main buckets of activity, I would say the first one probably eats up the least amount of time. And the other two… It depends on the year and the time of day.

Jeff Standridge: Very good, very good.

Jeff Amerine: As you reflect back on the past year and a half and all the issues we had with the pandemic and whatnot, as it relates to, I know that restricted travel, and you already mentioned that, but what other things were you compelled to do, from an innovation leadership standpoint, to react to that? And how much of that is going to stick post pandemic? Were there things that you figured out that you had to by the adversity of the moment that you’re going to go ahead and include in the game plan going forward?

Ben Brenton: Yeah. So I’ll put it into a couple of different buckets. The first I’ll talk about direct COVID response, and then some things we learned about customer interaction and how to do innovation. So the first leg, I would say, the first two weeks I did the classic, we cleaned up our offices, and I came into work, and we were considered an essential business. I was coming to work every day, we had some people who were uncomfortable and they were allowed to work from home, and some still are. But we did the classic cleaning for about a week and getting rid of emails. And then, we next took charge of really trying to see what we could do to help with both the manufacturer of medical devices, as well as personal protective equipment.

Ben Brenton: We quickly realized that our manufacturing plants weren’t really set up to directly make things, however, we had… We literally had a million excess disposable gloves, and, y we had N95 masks. And we had a bunch of other stuff that we just started donating, some of it around the world, a lot of that locally here. The other thing is we had done in the past and tool donations to a couple of these maker centers, if you’re familiar with these, a lot of times universities will sponsor them. So everything from small startups to students coming in and using these maker spaces. We had several of them who geared up to make face shields, and masks, and everything else, and we donated both product and materials of tools and materials, including one of the odd things that we had a lot of at the time was, we had customers who needed boxes to ship things in because they were running out of corrugate because everybody was buying things from Amazon and things online.

Ben Brenton: So we donate boxes, we donated materials, we donated tools across medical device industries. And that really went on for several months. Some of that will continue to stick. The idea of both, “how can we help in the community? But also how can we help some of our broader customers when they either hit a rough spot or when they’re doing critical work/” is quite important to us. And as you probably know, some of our biggest customers are the US military, and the government, and of course we had to stay up and to make sure we’re fulfilling their needs, because they were still doing critical tasks. And even though commercial aviation wasn’t necessarily flying that much, we also had to make sure we had tools available for keeping trucks on the road, for keeping cargo planes in the air and everything else.

Ben Brenton: And that business… There was a slight little slowdown and then ramped up. So what was the takeaway from more of an innovation customer connection perspective? one of the interesting things is, it was easy to assume, early on, that we could just shift over to doing all of our customer work via zoom or phone call. It makes sense, right? We talked to a technician. First of all, I did enough of these with people walking around or having their phone mounted to the front of their car as they would drive around the parking lot, or sit in the car, that you were practically getting sick from the motion that the camera waving back and forth. But one of the things that dawned on me, and I think this is a takeaway, if you ever go and try to scrape up input on your brand, or innovation ideas from looking at people’s social media comments or their blogs or things that they’re posting, that stuff is so highly curated now.

Ben Brenton: And what we noticed as we tried to do zoom interviews, yeah, they worked sort of, okay, but people weren’t curating what they were saying, what they were putting in the background, how they were looking, it just was not a real enough experience. And I don’t want to use the word, the BS factor, but you could tell that the BS factor had went up a bit. And so, one of our takeaways is, yeah, good tool to use, but eyes wide open. That people have become so used to curating everything on Instagram and fACE… You use those similar tools to try to interview them and get customer insights, they start to curate the feedback that they’re giving you. Just not as honest as if we’re in the shop with them.

Jeff Standridge: So when you talk about innovation, what are some of your go-to tools that you use? I know you’ve talked about customer interactions a lot, customer connections, rather. What are some of the go-to tools? There are a myriad of tools that are out there that are used, everything from the lean startup, all the way through to tools specifically designed for corporate innovation. What would you say are your top two or three tools?

Ben Brenton: Yeah. So from a high-level perspective, I tell people the story back when I started new product development in the nineties, a lot of people had no process, the stage gate method was just getting started. So we ask that each of the products would have some sort of process, some sort of stage gate process, so at least they’re going through gates, they’re having some feedback on financial and technical feasibility, as well as customer input. So that’s the high level or the underpinning level, if you want to go there.

Ben Brenton: The other thing though, that we’ve really focused on, is getting out with customers, and really this idea of user-driven design, and there are a number of techniques to do that. Clearly, we want to go out, we want to observe customers working, and we want to see what they’re doing and get input on current products.

Ben Brenton: The other thing though, that’s been absolutely critical, and I think was a bit of a sea change for a lot of folks in Snap-on, when I first started, somebody might talk to a customer, we might have an idea, we would then go and start engineering the product and building a prototype, and we would make this prototype at the production plant. So imagine you design the thing, you send it off to product, to the production side of things, it gets sent back. You have a lot of money invested, can’t even imagine as you get to big toolboxes, how much money might be invested in making it, a full functioning prototype. What we started doing, the thing we really pushed hard on, we pushed the product groups to do and we try to help them with, is this idea of, “Okay, you’re basing your idea on real customer insights. So you have insight, you understand the customer need, and you believe you’re addressing your need.”

Ben Brenton: All through the process, you’re constantly checking back in to make sure you’re addressing that need. What I’ve noticed is a lot of times people start with the need and then the product they developed starts to drift off course, it starts to a different need, it starts to go to a different target, and it may be okay to do that, but you’ve got to keep looking at, “How did we define our sandbox initially? Who was the customer? What’s the competitive product set? What’s the need that we’re addressing?” We keep that constant throughout. And then what we do is we make sure we check in with customers at a bunch of different levels of prototyping, from words on paper, to sketches, to CAD rendering, [start early 00:30:08] , 3D printed prototypes, to nicer 3D printed prototypes, to functioning, prototypes, to the final production product.

Ben Brenton: That’s something that people often miss when they think about this idea of failing fast and failing early. The only way you can do that is if you’re getting the idea in five customers very early on in front of your end users, and making sure that you have you’ve targeted those right end users, and that they’re actually the people that are going to buy your product and use your product, and that you’re accepting their feedback. It’s also sometimes hard for engineers to have people throw their baby out. So, that’s been another core piece of really training, as we try to get people around this idea of fearless innovation, is really being able to accept sometimes rather brutal feedback from your end user, from your customer, and then being able to adjust, constantly adjusting along the way.

Ben Brenton: So that that’s probably some of the core things that we really do. The other, of course, is we have this idea that our CEO really tries to push, which is around collaboration. We can easily end up with product groups competing against each other, both, for resources, but of course, for developing products that compete against each other. And we try to drive for collaboration, and get people from multiple product groups to work together on a new product effort, particularly if it crosses multiple product groups. But even if it doesn’t, we try to get input from other product groups and get their expertise involved in making it. One good example is a toolbox. If you’re making a toolbox, we’ve got five or six other product groups that make the product that physically goes inside there, and we need to get their input on the new tool storage, and what do they think about it.

Jeff Standridge: So as you’ve worked to institutionalize this culture that embraces creativity, and change, and risk-taking, and this concept of fearless innovation, what one or two nuggets would you give to some of your colleagues out there in Chief Innovation roles around the world in terms of creating this culture of innovation?

Ben Brenton: Yeah. So a couple of quick things. The first thing is, this idea of shifting a culture, creating a culture of fearless innovation, creating a culture that’s a little more creativity, it is a journey, and if you can get to 80, 90% of the way, you’re doing great. You cannot ever declare success. Every time I think, “Oh, we’re almost there, we buy a new company, we hire new people, somebody backslides. So it’s this idea that you constantly have to be on top of it, and you constantly have to be an enabler, you have to be helping people out. I also think early on one of the lessons learned, having worked at a bunch of big companies and been involved in everything from very small product groups to huge product groups, to corporate level jobs, is that you can’t come in with the heavy hand, you really have to come in with cooperation and look for the people that… It’s the leading the horse to water, look for the people that are ready to drink.

Ben Brenton: Find the people who are already innovative and creative and bring them on board, the company will start to see the success. Once you start to see top line growth, and the numbers are hitting the bottom line, then everybody wants to get on board, everybody’s like, “Yeah, we’ve got to innovate, it’s the only way that we can grow.” So that’s one. The second thing I really mentioned, but I’ve talked about all day, is just this idea of being very customer centric, never forgetting who your end user is, and understanding everything about them, not just how they use their product, but what goes on in their lives. Because, if their roof is leaking at home, they can’t afford a new toolbox.

Ben Brenton: If they just got married, it’s a very different life stage than they were single living with four roommates. What kind of music do they listen to? What kind of movies do they go to? What TV shows do they watch? What podcasts do they listen to? What websites… What social media do they use? And the reason that’s important is it gives you an entire picture, a holistic picture of your end user, of your customer, and that’s very important, it doesn’t matter whether you’re developing a new product, or whether you’re developing a new marketing effort, or a new initiative. So those are two things. The last thing is this idea of being a little bit humble, again, not coming in too strong handed, being humble and being able to tell a good story.

Ben Brenton: Nobody, [Diversky 00:34:35] might’ve said this, “No one ever made a decision based on data,” you can generate all the data you want, but people believe what they want to believe, and they tend to believe a good story. So if you can go out, watch a customer, observe what they’re doing, capture those insights and tell a story about it and how that led to this product, you’re almost always going to get funding, whether it’s internally or whether it’s for your new startup.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah. We’ve said before, people buy emotionally and then they justify rationally and logically.

Ben Brenton: Yep.

Jeff Standridge: That’s great.

Ben Brenton: Use the data later right.

Jeff Standridge: That’s right. Ben, this has been fantastic. Jeff, any other follow-ups that you have?

Jeff Amerine: No. You really covered the waterfront of issues that those that are charged with creating a culture of innovation or have that innovation task need to be concerned with. And I really appreciate you coming on today, it was fantastic discussion, and covered all the key points.

Jeff Standridge: Yeah, we appreciate it very much. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got Ben Brenton, he is the Chief Innovation Officer of Snap-on tools. Ben, great to have you with us, and might need to take another stab down the road at a another episode.

Jeff Amerine: Hey listeners, this is Jeff Amerine, and we want to thank you for tuning in. We sincerely appreciate your time. If you’re enjoying the Innovation Junkies podcast, please do us a huge favor, click the subscribe button right now and leave us a review, it would mean the world to both of us. And don’t forget to share us on social media.

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