By: Chris Morris, senior vice president, distributor experience and chief innovation officer
Source: Herbalife Nutrition
I have the rare privilege of being the first person to hold a position that didn’t exist before within the Company. I’ve been with Herbalife Nutrition for 10 years, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I became Chief Innovation Officer (CIO).
My purpose is to identify and eliminate the barriers to change and foster a culture that can create an environment of sustained innovation within the Company. No easy feat, certainly, but one of the reasons Herbalife Nutrition became so successful is because we learned how to efficiently replicate great products and processes over time.
When a company has achieved a certain status, innovation can be scary because it means trying new, untested approaches. However for us, I am convinced that these leaps of faith are worth it. We realized our biggest single barrier for innovation was lack of employee voice, so we came up with the Greenhouse, an online idea management and crowdsourcing system accessible to all Herbalife Nutrition employees around the world.
This tool allows them to share, view, collaborate and discuss ideas around key corporate issues. Ultimately, our leaders are committed to test if the best solutions can be implemented. Employee engagement has been boosted: knowing your voice is being heard and seriously considered is a great motivation to unleash your imagination.
Three principles have shaped my work in innovation, so far:
- Assume that there’s always a better way, no matter how good of a service, process, tool or product you have, you can always build it better.
- Do not rely exclusively on experts: they are really good in how we do things today, but the best way to stimulate that outside the box thinking is mixing them with people from other backgrounds that will suggest crazy ideas which can stimulate amazing outcomes.
- Encourage experimentation and embrace failure, because it can’t be something you’re afraid of. When it’s done well, which means you fail fast, you learn from it and you try something different based on those learnings.
This has been a path full of surprises and I’ve taken an unusual approach. Being the CIO, most people tend to think high-tech—you must drive the shiny car and live in a metal house with glass. I actually live in an old historic house and ride my bike to work! Similar oddities have marked my work: people tend to think of innovation as that “aha!” moment, the brilliant idea that comes to you in the shower. But I look at it differently: I think innovation takes hours of really understanding the problem you want to solve.
Albert Einstein has one of my favorite quotes. He was once asked: “Gun to your head, you have an hour to solve a problem. What do you do?” He says: “I spend 55 minutes really understanding the problem and five minutes coming up with the answer.” That’s the approach I like to take. I believe that’s what innovation is. It’s hard work, iteration, learning from the failure and applying that knowledge to the next attempt. The natural human instinct is to make things better and to create. I am honored to be in a position where I can foster that natural drive.
We are currently trying to implement a cultural shift so that innovation becomes second nature. If we can untap Herbalife Nutrition’s innovation potential and 10 years from now someone says: “Chris had a hand in that”, I’m thrilled. I’ll be enjoying that thought as I’m riding in the mountain somewhere.