Not too long ago I had the opportunity to attend the final rehearsal for the Boulder Symphony as they were preparing for opening night of a concert called EVOLVE. It was the final run through – just 24 hours ahead of opening night - and I was part of an outside group invited to sit in and listen to their working session. The conductor, Devin Patrick Hughes, and the musicians were casually dressed but it was all business as this team put on the finishing touches.

I sat mesmerized as 55 individuals came together to create beautiful music – far more powerful than anyone could ever accomplish. As the rehearsal progressed, I watched the conductor stop and adjust as he took final notes, checked in with this first violinist and various musicians, discussed direction and intent with the composer and encouraged his vast team of musicians. No doubt the music was impressive, but equally interesting to me were the parallels to our work at Mission Field as we help client teams create new and disruptive food products.

Here are three takeaways I gathered from watching the Boulder Symphony prepare for opening night:

1.     Every team needs a clear leader and the leader’s job is articulating the vision from day one to opening night.

o   Devin is obviously a skilled and talented conductor as he used his baton to ensure the whole team was on the same page. But his job really started with the hard work of surveying the material and deciding on the creative direction and then articulating that vision to a large group of individuals. I am told that the part we see as concert goers – the conducting on the podium – is the relatively easy part of the job as the conductor bears the fruit of the preparation and team alignment.

Lesson: Leadership is about understanding the consumer landscape and needs or business problem, having a vision for what is needed and then being able to articulate that direction to the vast team that helps bring a product idea to bear. Essentially being the creative director of your business team.

If you are a team member, it is your role to be 100% sure you understand where the team is going and why. Be inquisitive until you are clear. Then be part of the team and provide the power to get the work done as efficiently and effortless as possible. There is power in a well synced team all moving in the same direction.


2.     Step back, adjust and take in multiple points of view.

o   As the rehearsal unfolded, Devin made final tweaks and edits to get to the best possible outcome. You could see him checking in with the musicians, his first chair and the composer. At one point he and composer Jonathan Bingham left the podium in front of the orchestra and moved about to different points of view in the concert hall. I heard them discuss, “are we getting enough trombone, is the balance right…”.

Lesson: Are you stepping back periodically and looking at the project with new eyes or different perspectives? Are you getting the input of the team who is executing the work? And are you then being decisive to keep the team moving in the same direction.

If you are a team member, are you speaking up to ensure your expertise is utilized? Are you stepping back and looking at your part of the product innovation with different lenses to find the best outcome?


3.     A “final practice” with some pressure helps you polish the idea before showtime.

o   We all know that success comes from putting in time and practicing what you want to master. It was obvious these musicians had put in the time. Bringing in external community members upped the pre-opening night session from just another rehearsal to one with a bit of pressure that helped them be spotlight ready – but in a low risk and productive way.

Lesson: In new product development the “practice” is putting in the hours of consumer research, R&D development, design, etc. with your core target in mind to get to a 90% ready idea.

Testing your new product on a group of external consumers in a limited or controlled manner - or what we call transactional testing - is how you can safely and effectively get to showtime ready. Retail lab, weekend tests or At-Shelf Intercepts all allow you a safe, controlled but real-world option to get feedback before finalizing full scale launch plans with a little pressure and loads of real feedback.

Give us a call anytime to talk through these ideas and how we can help you and your team create, design, build and test disruptive consumer products.