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Helping Tyson find innovation in food waste (and profit)

Tyson’s ask of Table XI went well beyond technology: Work with us to invent a new, sellable food that finds innovation in food waste — and teach us design thinking in the process. We knew that helping a company like Tyson improve its sustainability and find solutions to reduce food waste could have tremendous ramifications. Tyson has a spot on the Fortune 100 and a hand in so many of the foods we eat. Even a little change would result in a massive amount of food saved.

Within one week, we helped Tyson identify, test, create, brand, and get ready to bring Yappah to market — a protein crisp that raised its IndieGoGo goal in three days. No one in Tyson had ever moved that fast, and the results are already earning the company green credibility and real green as well.

“I’m so impressed with how Table XI operates. They introduced agile and design thinking to a big corporation like Tyson Foods.”

Rizal Hamdallah, Head of the Futurist at Tyson

The Goal: Find innovation in food waste — and learn design thinking in the process

The Tyson innovation team was really looking for two outcomes. The primary one was to develop a product to use food waste that they could launch on IndieGoGo. But just as important was teaching the team how to work Agile and incorporate design-thinking into everything they do.

To accomplish both at the same time, we adapted the Google Design Sprint process so it could answer a much bigger question: how can design turn waste into sustainable foods? In a traditional Google Design Sprint, you break product development and testing down into five days: day one is dedicated to understanding users and business goals, day two to creating problem statements and user journeys, day three to developing solutions, day four to prototyping a single solution and day five to testing on real users and synthesizing the results.

“We were looking for a partner that shared our outlook. Table XI just felt like the right fit. They’re nimble, they’re agile, and together, we make things happen.”

Rizal Hamdallah, Head of the Futurist at Tyson

Our expanded sprint gave us room to identify 24 creative ways to reduce food waste and test 15 of those possible products on users. Then we added a final day of our own invention — one that split us into teams to create, brand and develop a business model for the eight best ideas. That allowed Tyson’s top bosses to pick a single best product to pursue. Along the way, we helped the Tyson team to take the reins of the process, giving them ample opportunities to learn how to use design thinking to draw out innovation.

User Research
Google Design Sprints
Product Strategy
Branding

The Results: Creating a consumer brand that’s also a sustainable waste solution

We could not be more excited to have helped Tyson develop and bring Yappah to market. The puffed chip mixes chicken with a variety of spent grains from MillerCoors and vegetables from Tyson’s brands to create a solution to the problem of food waste that’s also delicious.

Yappah has already exceeded Tyson’s goal and raised more than $6,000 on IndieGoGo, a crowdfunding campaign we used to test initial customer enthusiasm. It’s proving to be a compelling new product for Tyson, giving the company a roadmap for how to further reduce food waste and make a profit in the future.

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How we came up with innovative ways to reduce food waste

We started our partnership with Tyson by introducing them to some of the basic ideas around Agile and Design Thinking. We ran a Google Design Sprint workshop with them to teach them the process, and we played the Agile Lego Game to teach them to stay adaptable and work Agile.

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When we dug deeper into their goals for the Google Design Sprints though, some red flags started to pop up. The Tyson Innovation Lab needed to launch a product that uses food waste on IndieGoGo within the month. They expected the design sprint process to turn one up, but an acceptable outcome of design sprints is to find out an product idea doesn’t work. Putting pressure on a sprint to bring a product to market doesn’t give the process a chance to be honest, limiting your success.

To give Tyson the best shot at finding a product that actually was ready for market, we adapted the design sprint process to make room for prototyping and testing 15 solutions for food waste. From those, we hoped to find one that could win backing on IndieGoGo. This process proved so successful that we’ve turned it into a standing offering — product innovation workshops.

“I’m very impressed with Table XI’s adaptability. We created something new to the industry, a framework for innovation.”

Rizal Hamdallah, Head of the Futurist at Tyson

Narrowing and testing our food waste solutions

We kept the first day of the sprint relatively the same, using it as an opportunity to present all the research everyone had collected and align on the business goals and user needs. Day two similarly followed the standard design sprint flow — we used our new understanding to develop problem statements the product needed to solve. This time though, instead of narrowing to one problem statement, we selected three to move forward with, all of which circled the idea of food waste recycling.

Day three was when we really started to diverge from design sprints and move toward the new idea of product innovation workshops. Normally, we would pick one idea, storyboard it out, and then prototype and test. Instead, we took three days to flesh out 24 ideas, which we then put to the decider — the person in the organization who has final say. Our decider picked 15, which we then tested on target users.

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To make sure every user experienced product ideas in the same way, we created a template to showcase the most relevant information — messaging, name, key benefits, etc. — in a standardized way. In this sense, it was more like market research than traditional UX work. Instead of seeing if users understood a UI, we were asking them to force-rank food waste project ideas based on how likely they’d be to use them.

The user testing was the most important process to teach Tyson, so we broke up into groups to make sure everyone had an opportunity to observe, participate and learn. At the end of the day, we had eight ideas that users had validated, enough to start seeing what would stick.

“If we do a Design Sprint, we’ll end up with an idea that’s about 70% right in five days. If we don’t, it’ll take us seven to nine months to get to the same point.

Rizal Hamdallah, Head of the Futurist at Tyson

Choosing a winner from creative solutions to food waste

On our last day together, we created, effectively, a product development sprint. We split our group into three teams — the chefs who made the products, the finance and logistics people who created P&Ls and business canvases for each, and the designers and strategists who developed brands.

On the branding side, we once again adapted an idea from Google, in this case the three-hour Google brand sprint, to quickly create brands for each product. We used a card activity to get gut reactions on what each brand should be, then developed the beginnings of a visual identity. This gives us another lens we can use when we’re making decisions — not just whether something is true to user needs, but whether it's true to the brand.

At the end of the final day, we lined up each of our eight ideas in a room, and invited the decider in to test each product and deliver a final verdict about which should move on to IndieGoGo. Yappah decisively rose to the top. What you see in public today is basically what we arrived at after these five days.

Preparing Tyson for future innovative solutions to food waste and other problems

This product was rewarding for us on a lot of levels. The immediate benefit was seeing the shock and satisfaction Tyson had about this way of working. It was so new for the team, and it was really exciting for them to see how fast they could move and how quickly they could change their mindset.

“People at Tyson see their friends, people they’ve known for years, respond to problems in a new way, with an output that is impressive. And they want to know where they can learn that too.”

Rizal Hamdallah, Head of the Futurist at Tyson

To make sure Tyson could fully capitalize on this potential, we collected a whole dream team to teach them skills to complement product innovation. As part of our proposal, we brought in our favorite partners for improving branding and communication — design firm Lift Collective helped Tyson flesh out a full brand for Yappah and speech pathologist Katie Gore and Improv Effect CEO Jessie Shternshus helped their teams learn how to better communicate.

The bigger impact of those five days could affect the whole globe. Finding innovative ways to reduce food waste is an imperative for everyone. If a company as big as Tyson can repackage the broccoli stalks, meat ends, all the things that get thrown out into a product that gets people eating food waste — and eating healthy — it could have ramifications for food makers of all sizes.

“If you’re looking for a company that operates holistically — in a hands-on way and to the point — it’s Table XI.”

Rizal Hamdallah, Head of the Futurist at Tyson

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