Britain’s Next Big Thing
by Raj Cheema
I am a complete sucker for TV shows that encourage people to come with new ideas or solutions and set up new businesses. Take for example, The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den – I’m addicted. Yesterday evening, I was flicking through the TV channels and came across Britain’s Next Big Thing. The programme basically gives a small number of entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their product to buyers from national retail stores like Boots.
I was particularly taken by the story of one entrepreneur in the programme. She’s a single mum who produced a lotion for her baby daughter because she suffered from bad eczema. She was hugely frustrated by the medicines and lotions prescribed by the doctor and took matters into her own hands in her kitchen . She produced a lotion using natural ingredients that made a huge impact on her daughter’s skin. If I remember correctly – word of mouth marketing and subsequent demand – started to make her think there could be a market for this. So she pitched her product to retail giant Boots and really impressed them by her compelling story. But she was unsuccessful.
The reason why she didn’t get through to the next round? She hadn’t tested the product and there was no ‘claim’ associated with the product (e.g. a claim that this lotion was a cure for eczema or could drastically improve your skin) – something which is heavily regulated in the pharmaceutical industry. She was hugely disappointed because she didn’t have the money to pay for this herself and it wasn’t a cost that Boots were willing to take despite recognising the fact that there was space in the market for this. Their response was: get the testing done, get your claim, and get back in touch with us.
It made me think about those innovators working in the margins and the barriers to innovation they often face to take their work to scale. I had this impression that innovation in the private sector is better supported because ‘the next best thing’ is always something that the private sector is seeking. Therefore, the gamble is worth taking. But may be this isn’t entirely the case (- and I need to stop thinking that the private sector has all the solutions). Perhaps this is only the case for those working ‘within’ an organisation but not for those working in the ‘margins’. (Even though the literature on innovation repeatedly reinforces the fact that the best radical innovations are those that come from the margins – from outsiders). Perhaps for those working in the ‘margins’, the barriers to innovation in the private sector aren’t very different to the barriers to innovation in the public sector.
Although we’re adamant that the two sectors stand for different values, actually, when it comes to innovation – there’s a lot these mavericks (whether social or non-social focussed) have in common and could learn from each other. I’ve come across a few ‘social’ programmes of work that tend to look to the private sector for support and advise. And here’s a case of a maverick who could probably learn a great deal from the social mavericks trying to innovate our public services – because when it comes to dealing with regulations – I’m sure they have a lot of wisdom to share.
Entry filed under: Uncategorized.