My summer reading list combined with spending three days walking the show floor of the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition in New Orleans this past week has sparked my interest in innovation.

During the trip I was reading Brand Be Nimble, a book by Hunter Thurman, the chief executive officer of Thriveplan, a Cincinnati-based business that develops new product concepts using psychology and neuroscience. In the book, Mr. Thurman explains how innovation varies between small entrepreneurial companies and large global companies, and how the latter may benefit from using the former’s approach. The book is intended for formulators and marketers working for large companies and managing large brands who wish they had a bit of the freedom and creativity many start-ups enjoy.

Hunter Thurman (left), chief executive officer of Thriveplan, explains in his book Brand Be Nimble how innovation varies between start-ups and global companies.


I can relate. That’s exactly how I felt some 20 years ago after returning from the I.F.T. to my product development scientist position at Kraft Foods.

Mr. Thurman hits it on the head when he states start-ups occupy a unique space in the imagination of brand marketing.

“They are garage brands born and nurtured amid the yard tools and the kids’ bicycles,” he writes. “The garage brand managers are the free-wheeling innovators — the nimble and the brave. They are the cutting edge of product and promotion and customer experience.”

For many innovation teams, that state of “edgy” product development may sound like nirvana. Mr. Thurman explains how large-brand innovators may think smarter, be more successful and have more fun by applying the lessons of the garage brand. He writes how small companies typically come to fruition because they have created a “what” or identified a “how.” It is then that they identify the “who,” or target market, and the “why.”

“Garage brands don’t have to wonder what their ‘how’ is,” he writes. “Usually, it’s the ‘how’ that got them started in the first place.”

Of course, this is often not an option for most large brands, but by using the 12 principles Mr. Thurman identifies as being the drivers of success for “garages” around the world, large brands may thrive by innovating like start-ups.

The book will empower product developers to simplify the often-daunting specter of growing a brand so you may enjoy the thrill of innovation. It also helps avoid the pitfall of being a copycat. Let’s face it – The marketplace does not need another Greek yogurt. This book may help you think like Hamdi Ulukaya, the c.e.o. of Chobani, New Berlin, N.Y., did before the first Chobani cups appeared in the supermarket.

This is why I think all innovators may benefit from reading the book, even the garage brands.

With the World Cup currently under way, it is timely to share Mr. Thurman’s reference to soccer. He wrote that innovators must run to white space. Players must use every inch of space on the field to their advantage.

“It’s not about where the ball is; it’s about where you can put it to advance down the field,” he wrote. “To win the game — in consumer goods or in soccer — you can’t just crowd around the ball and kick your feet a lot, hoping to make a connection. Instead, the smart players move strategically. They run to space.”

This book can help you find that space and get your how or what into play.