The nation’s largest asian food chain made news this month by pairing their General Tso’s Chicken with the “chork”, the first fork & chopsticks in one utensil. The master of the combination platter is now making available the first East meets West combination fast food gadget.
While it could be viewed as a publicity stunt, or a way to deflect attention from the fact that they are way late to the General Tso’s Chicken party, the reaction seems to be favorable.
But I’ve got a few reservations and its introduction has caused me to wonder…
Am I now going to eat at Panda Express more often because they have the chork? Is this an actual problem that needed to be solved? What did the initial prototypes look like? What did the focus group REALLY say about the chork?
Is this ultimately paving the way for Panda Express to announce a new Asian / American / Indian fusion restaurant called Chork & Mehndi?
I’m looking forward to Jim Gaffigan’s take on this idea.
Ok, so I’m a bit skeptical, but someone thought it was a good product to introduce. You may not be in the restaurant business, but chances are you are going to be called on for innovation, as well. It will be up to you to introduce a new product, idea, or strategy for your organization. So when is an idea worth pursuing?
Here are three good reasons to do so, along with three not so good ones:
1. To Solve a Problem.
The chork could be a cost-cutting measure. Maybe the bean counters at Panda Express think that providing both a fork and chopsticks is excessive. So, in an effort to cut back, they decided to combine them into one utensil. Maybe their researchers discovered that most of their customers begin with chopsticks, but finish with the fork and would value a utensil that did both. Or, maybe they were looking for a way to introduce their version of General Tso’s that would increase the likelihood people would try it. Most people who eat Genaral Tso’s have their prefered provider and Panda Express believes the chork will make them try theirs.
What problem does your new idea address? How will that new strategy, hire, or program help you get to the next level?
2. To Promote Your Mission.
One aspect of Panda Express’ mission statement is to deliver exceptional dining experiences. Perhaps they believe frustration with chopsticks is an obstacle to customer satisfaction. Incorporating the chork helps them address this issue.
How is this new idea helping clarify or promote the vision, mission, or values of your organization?
3. To Empower or Equip Your People
Americans have been eating Chinese takeout food for decades, and as the YouTube video describes, we’ve still failed to master chopsticks. Maybe the higher-ups at Panda Express view the chork as an onramp to chopstick adoption. Or perhaps they see the chork as the perfect all-in-one tool that will enable consumers to enjoy every aspect of Chinese – American dining.
How is your new idea empowering or equipping your people? In what ways is it helping them do their job or increase their competence and confidence?
The not so good…
1. To Appease a Critic.
My grandmother used to say that some folks wouldn’t be happy even if they were tasters in a pie factory. A critic will always be a critic and having something to complain about is like oxygen for them. Chances are the people most dissatisfied in your organization today were the same ones who were dissatisfied last year and five years before that. You’ll never make them happy. It’s not that their perceptions and suggestions are inaccurate — the critics are often spot on — it’s that trying to make them happy is the wrong reason to start something new. I’d be willing to wager that if the chork was introduced to appease a critic, that person or group of people are griping right now because of the color, ad campaign, cost, pace of production, or E. All of the above.
Is your idea in actuality motivated by an urge to get someone off your back?
2. To be Trendy.
Note to self, if you are looking around to see what the others are doing or what will “appeal to the young people”, you’ve already missed it. Since trends change quickly, introducing something just to be trendy is a short-term fix. It’s like copying someone else’s homework. You may get by initially, but you are hamstringing yourself down the road. Plus, there’s rarely buy-in from the organization. If Panda Express introduced the chork because they believe portmanteaus are trendy — see Whopperito, Brexit, and botox — it will have a fantabulously short run.
How much of your idea is fueled by a desire to be seen as relevant?
3. Because We Haven’t Come Up With Something New in a While.
Organizations often feel pressure to be innovative — which is not a bad thing. But if they look to innovation for innovation’s sake and not for a better or more effective way to advance their vision, it’s just window dressing. New ideas, products, and projects make it look like the R & D boys are doing their job, but the reality is that they’ve just put a hole in the boat. If the new idea doesn’t help you achieve your mission, it will cause you to waste time, money, and energy just trying to keep the new product afloat.
Is this idea new for new’s sake, or is it actually beneficial for the organization?
Take some time to think about the new objectives, products, or programs you are thinking of developing or implementing for your organization and be willing to wrestle with the “why”. If your reasons fall more in line with the last three than the first, start over. You will be much better in the long run.