What Protein Bars, Perfume and Soho House Taught Me About Innovation and Change

A couple weeks ago, my girlfriend took me to London for the weekend. Being in a different environment and having some time to observe things and do some shopping, I noticed how wrong my thinking about innovation and change can often be. Three events changed my thinking: 

💅 1.What happend with Chanel No. 5?!
My idea of a perfume shop is a brightly lit store, with walls covered with pictures of actresses and hundreds of little bottles in all shapes, colours and sizes. A place where you feel uncomfortable as heavily make-up ladies wander around and ignore you. 

Then we stumbled in the Le Labo Perfume store. This perfume shop looked more like a laboratory from the fifties then a perfume store. There were only 20 or so brown and boring little bottles on a shelf. After my GF picked out a fragrance, a guy in a lab coat started to add fluids from all types of bottles together and mixed the perfume on the spot! He printed a personal label which included who – the guy in the labcoat – where and for whom the bottle was made. You couldn’t even start using the perfume directly because “the fluids have to sink in and mix for a few days.”  

So no marketing, no fancy models, not a few hundred options. And twice the price of a bottle of Chanel No. 5. Who would have expected that the perfume market would change in this direction? 

🥂 2.Paying for paying for a drink? Soho House 
Soho House recently opened in Amsterdam. This is a private member club for people who work in media and arts. You have to pay around 2000 Euro’s a year to be member, which gives you access to clubs, hotels and venues around the world. 

I thought this was really weird. Why pay to get into a bar, where you still have to pay to get a drink! I thought this whole Soho House thing was ridiculous until we were trying to find some decent breakfast in one of those hectic crazy tourist-flooded streets in London. Again the GF surprised me, while she flashed a black card standing in front of a discrete looking door in Greek street. 

A door opened, and we entered a quiet bar, with lots of space to sit and a wood fire crackling in every room. It seemed a bit like another world than the hectic and busy places on the other side of the door. And to my own horror, I had to admit it was really nice. And if I had a cooler job title – and KLM would  give me a raise haha – , I would totally apply for a membership. Again I was totally wrong in my first presumptions and in the diverse ways a bar experience can change. 

🍫 3. What happened with Snickers and Kitkat!? 
What’s wrong with a good ol’ Lion or Mars when you’re a little hungry? Apparently a lot. Because in every coffeeshop or supermarket you can buy every possible edible substance molded in the form a candy bar. I had no idea that a category like this could change so much. And it’s good business too. For example RXBAR was founded in 2012 and was sold to Kelloggs for $600 million in 2017. I never could have predicted or imagined how this seemingly stable category could change into a thousand shapes, flavours and prices. 

🤔 Everything will change 
These experiences made me realize again, that everything arounds us will change. And it will often change in ways, that we don’t understand or that we don’t expect. 

Therefore, I try to look at all the normal products and services around us and try to image all the crazy ways this product could change. I’m drinking a tea right now made from a regular tea bag. Maybe in the future the tea flavor is part from a little container embedded in the cup, or I add the tea flavor to my cup from a tube of tea gel. The same counts for Voice, AI, or the use of apps in the Airline business. 

Everything arounds us will change. And no one – especially not this hillbilly from the Bible belt  –  can predict how it will change. But imagining the ways all products around us will change, gives an imaginative and fresh perspective on the world around us.