Yesterday began as a typical busy day requiring my attention to successfully get through it. I found myself running late after dealing with some emails which meant I had to grab some breakfast on the run. While my choice was obviously not the healthiest option, I did manage to gather a lesson that had a profound impact on how I view innovation.
As I pulled into the drive-thru of my local McDonald’s, I made a choice for an old favorite, the Egg McMuffin. I think I had my mind set on one of their breakfast burritos, simply because I didn’t think they still carried the McMuffin anymore. The young lady on the other side of the intercom was gracious enough to remind me that the breakfast sandwich has been a staple for “decades.” I chuckled because that is a sign of my age. I remember being a first grader and having my mother stop by McDonald’s to get me a sandwich before school. This caused me to do a little investigation when I was at my computer later. Where did this incredible invention come from, and what was the journey like?
As it turns out, the infamous Egg McMuffin breakfast sandwich was conceived amid great controversy in the early 70′s. In fact, its creator Herb Peterson first introduced the sandwich to owner and president, Ray Kroc, in 1970 but was met with opposition. Mr. Kroc admitted years later that his fear was that no one in America would want to leave their home to buy breakfast on a bun. He wasn’t sure if the McDonald’s brand would be successful in an endeavor to sell breakfast to its customers. What Kroc had no idea of was in less than 10 years McDonald’s would corner the market that catered to the vast growth of the commuter in America. As hundreds of thousands of people made the transition to traveling longer distances to find employment, McDonald’s would quickly become their means of eating on the run.
Can you imagine if Ray Kroc had stuck to his limiting belief about the McMuffin’s success? That very fact got me thinking about what innovation looks like in my own life, business and family. Was I, like Kroc, resisting the inevitable change of things and in danger of missing out on it? I discovered three important things about innovation and navigating change:
1. Like the McMuffin, we have to emerge and start new trends: When Peterson introduced the sandwich in a California franchise in 1972, the public was definitely resistant. McDonald’s initially offered them all day long as an incentive to the customers. They wanted people to give them a try. In life and business, you will often find yourself ahead of the curve in matters. Especially if you’re a leader in you’re the industry you will need to become comfortable in this situation because often people will need to catch up with your ideas. The McMuffin was ahead of its time. But many soon embraced it.
2. Like the McMuffin, branding is key for sustainability: Think about it, it’s been over 40 years since America was introduced to the Egg McMuffin concept, but it’s still relevant today. Why? Because McDonald’s understands branding! They targeted the new American workforce; the savvy career oriented person on the go. This means if we are going to be successful we have to understand our product and who we should serve. This means taking a look at the numbers and doing the research. To date, the McMuffin represents about 12 billion in the breakfast fast food industry – All because it started out knowing who to reach.
3. Like the McMuffin, timing is everything: The decision to keep the McMuffin limited to a morning shift was Kroc’s idea. While toying with the beginning thought of serving all day had proven to be expensive. With wasted materials and overhead, Kroc knew that to be successful, he had to market it as the hot new morning thing to do. So marketing was set up to feature and connect the McMuffin with “morning” and showcase its ingredients. The plan worked and a morning shift was developed to end at 11:00am. To this day, McDonald’s ends the breakfast menu at the same time. The timing in your life is similar. We only have small windows of time to learn, discover and execute an idea. We often fail because unlike the McMuffin, we have no consideration of our timing.
I admit that a sandwich that averages about 12 grams of fat wasn’t my healthiest choice, but it sure was nostalgic. And once I did my research, I found it had a pretty cool origin as well. In my work as a coach, it’s important for me to pull inspiration from any number of situations. I don’t know about you but I can relate to the story of making it against the odds. Even when the situation is stacked up against you, through perseverance and vision, you move ahead and experience success. You begin to look at life through a fresh perspective that adds confidence where there was fear. That’s being an innovator. Its within us all, you just have to go for it.