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Three Key Takeaways from the Lux Forum Chicago

Joshua Haslun

Joshua Haslun, Ph.D.

Research Director

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Ujwal Arkalgud, EVP & Group Director at Lux Research

Ujwal Arkalgud

EVP & Group Director, Anthropology

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In June 2023, Lux held its Chicago Forum, “3 Steps to Bridging the Innovation Gap.” This event convened innovation leaders and executives across a diverse set of value chains and organizations. From individuals targeting sustainability and R&D and innovation to those focused on marketing and consumer insights, the event provided a unique opportunity to investigate innovation pain points and connect with peers. The goal was to provide a novel approach to strategic innovation that highlights the combination of a human-centric innovation platform and technical innovation assessments to move thinking from a product-centric, solutions-oriented approach to a problem-focused, human-centric one. Two approaches were presented and supported with cases including opportunities in the circular economy, the stagnant plant-based industry, the resilience revolution, and the rise of achieving seamless wellness. Three key takeaways for innovation leaders arising from the event were:

  1. Reducing innovation risk for consumer industries starts with identifying unbiased consumer needs: Consumer focus groups or surveys help companies identify consumer needs but are biased. When a biased approach is taken, innovation is often trapped within hype cycles that may or may not align to the prevailing consumer needs. Therefore, to create a human-centric innovation platform, you must work within a system that allows culture and ideas to emerge independent of any specific goal. By taking that approach, you can identify needs connected to and associated with the innovation topics driving change in the world. Lux showed how our anthropology-based consumer insight capabilities can achieve this outcome in real time by examining consumer needs in health-related immunity.  
  2. Connecting consumer needs to technical assessments identifies risks and rewards: Companies targeting emerging consumer opportunities require information that makes decisive, fast-paced innovation possible. Participants at the event brought up the pace of change, the rate of innovation, and the limited resources available. There was a clear need to build multidisciplinary business cases quickly to identify where timing and opportunity align, where technical innovation may not solve a challenge, and where you should slow down or avoid efforts altogether. For instance, our examination of the circular economy showed that consumer momentum and innovation momentum in recycling are not aligned, indicating that while policy is driving the need to innovate, there is a clear need to build a better connection to the consumer base. Alternatively, we found that consumers are highly engaged in refurbishment, but industry innovation there is limited. However, in the past two years,  a clear innovation opportunity has opened for platforms that connect logistics, value capture, and resale to emerging areas like apparel. In both cases, without uncovering the link between consumer and technical innovation momentum, these insights would have otherwise remained hidden.
  3. Building organizational and industry consensus for innovation requires the use of disparate data sources: Innovation within organizations and across industries is taking many forms. This means that to avoid overspecialization and creating silos within silos, we must become accustomed to leveraging disparate sources of information as consumer innovation leaders. During the panel discussion, it became clear that communication across an organization’s innovation teams can lead to better commercial outcomes, and that bridging the gap for innovation may also require collaboration among competitors, especially when it comes to creating profitability through sustainability. While these are two difficult tasks, both require expanding on the information we use to evaluate opportunities. The better we speak each other’s language, the more effectively we can create a decisive innovation strategy. While the connection between consumer insights and technical assessments appears at first glance a stretch, participants noted the organic fusion of these two information sources.

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