Lessons learned from PMA: ADD version - The Packer

Lessons learned from PMA: ADD version

10/22/2013 04:17:00 PM
Tom Karst

Tom KarstI was sitting around the kitchen table last night, trying to recall to my wife, daughter and son-in-law all the excellent anecdotes and amazing insights gleaned from the general session speakers at Fresh Summit 2013.

“When you are a hammer, you tend to think that everything else in the world is a nail,” I said. “Get it?” A few seconds later, I offered, “Change is slow - until it’s not!”

And wait, this one speaker had a funny bit about milk, and Internet-connected irons and, you know... and whale vomit - they make perfume from it; isn’t that classic? And cats can’t taste, but we don’t care!

Correct, I’ve never been accused of being a tremendous story-teller.

As I unpack from PMA (leaving out descriptions of the squashed laundry), it comes with the usual unsightly collection of crumpled up sheets of glossy product info, PMA’s hefty “Now is Over” 2013 directory, crinkled receipts that await the scrutiny of our eagle-eyed accountant, an orange squeezy fruit, a bag of dried cranberries, a CMI quasi-backpack and the reliable if under appreciated California Avocado bag.

Of course, there are dozens of business cards. These cards always befuddled me in the past. After lining the open spaces on my desk and the ledge of my office window for a few weeks, I would pour business cards from recent trips or shows into an oversized envelope, perhaps labeling the envelope and perhaps not. Most of those hopeful-looking rectangular cards never saw the light of day again.

That’s changed, thanks to the CardMunch Iphone app. True to its name CardMunch swallows up business cards and prompts you to connect on LinkedIn. Try it and you will like it.

I appreciate that a few of the folks I visited with greeted me and said they enjoy reading The Packer. That is what you call “psychic income” for this timeworn trade journalist, and it is cold cash I don’t have to record on my expense report or tax return. Speaking of readers, one lady at a recent trade show called me a “unicorn” when we met in the elevator, since I suppose she had never actually seen me in flesh and blood, but only on a screen or on the printed page.

I PMA, therefore I am.

As I review my Iphone notes on PMA speaker and innovation guru Mat Shore, I recall the seven deadly sins of innovation with more success than around the supper table last night. They are:

1. pushing not pulling: why your iron should not ring you at work; consumers want a hole not a drill

2. not understanding needs: Jerry Seinfeld and looking at how we think about milk, dirt and kids;

3. trapped by myths; the arms race for higher powered hair dryers and the multi-blade shaver;

4. believing you can create needs; it doesn’t matter if cats can taste;

5. Over complicate; tanning with a pill doesn’t cut it;

6. believing the consumer is a fool; small dainty pens for women: rubbish!

7. focusing on function, not emotion; whale vomit (amber griss) equals Chanel No. 5

 The other high-profile general session speaker was Peter Sheahan who similarly dazzled the audience with “laser-focused” insights on innovation. From Sheahan we got several great historical examples where strategic planning fell on its face, from London city planners underestimating the rise of the automobile at the turn of the century to ATT’s shortsightedness at the dawn of the cell phone era to Sony’s embarrassing whiff at mobile digital music.

Here are some gems to remember from Sheahan:

“Change is slow till it is not.” What is fringe that has huge potential? What’s that you said, Packer Market? My thoughts exactly!

“People good with a hammer tend to think everything is a nail.” Question assumptions: what exactly are you competing for, and with what?

Sheahan suggested the industry can/should do more to work together to create “magic moments” for produce consumers. How can industry better work together?

Funny, I was thinking the same thing. Perhaps I had unrealistic expectations, but I strained and still didn’t hear any “lessons learned” in any remarks by PMA’s leaders about how the group’s new strategic plan related to the failed merger attempt by the boards of United Fresh and PMA. With final industry comments on the produce safety rule about a month away, it is more important than ever for our national associations to communicate.

There was no heartfelt, off the TelePrompTer remarks that points to how PMA and United Fresh will partner together for the industry benefit.

PMA is banking on the value of its currency largely as a connector of the global produce community, though other key elements from the strategic plan include learnings from science and technology, industry talent and issues leadership.

True, there is no one bigger and better at it. Ah, but there’s the danger, isn’t it? As our friend Peter Sheahan might say: “People good with a hammer tend to think everything is a nail.”



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