Here’s this week’s 200 word idea thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s TED talk with a hat tip to Prof Jen Brown @ the Kellogg school for sharing.
Campbell soup went to psychophysicist Howard Moskowitz to help fix their Prego brand of spaghetti sauce in the 1980s. Prego was struggling and Campbell wanted Moskowitz to find the perfect Prego recipe.
So, Howard looked through mountains of data about how American people felt about spaghetti sauce. But, instead of looking for a perfect variety (a hypothesis that completely neglected diversity), he tried to see if there were clusters. And, sure enough, he found people who liked 3 kinds of sauces – plain, spicy and extra chunky.
Prego were shocked at his findings because there was no extra-chunky spaghetti sauce in the market. So, Prego completely reformulated their spaghetti sauce, and came out with a line of extra chunky that immediately and completely took off, making 600 million dollars in 10 years. It was a powerful insight – there is no “one” spaghetti sauce – one that economists call horizontal differentiation.
We often find ourselves looking for one perfect solution to solve a problem (or find happiness). But, Gladwell shares what he thinks is the most beautiful lesson from Moskowitz’s work – in embracing the diversity of human beings, we find a surer way to true happiness.
That’s when everyone else in the industry looked at what Howard had done, and they said, “Oh my god! We’ve been thinking all wrong!” And that’s when you started to get seven different kinds of vinegar, and 14 different kinds of mustard, and 71 different kinds of olive oil. – Malcolm Gladwell