In 1962, McDonald’s franchisee Lou Groen had a problem. His restaurant, in a predominately Roman Catholic neighborhood, wasn’t attracting customers on Fridays in Lent.
Recognizing an opportunity, the Catholic businessman proposed a new sandwich for McDonald’s menu, called the Filet-O-Fish. Instead of meat, the sandwich featured a fried fish patty with half a slice of cheese and tatar sauce.
McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc was not happy. Fearful that fish sandwiches would smell up all of his restaurants, Kroc created his own menu alternative for Lent:
The Hula Burger.
The Hula Burger was a slice of grilled pineapple, plus cheese, on a bun. Kroc believed it was the answer for their Lenten obstacle.
The dispute between them led to a sales contest. Groen would sell the Filet-O-Fish in his restaurant on the first Friday in Lent. Kroc sold the Hula Burger in another location.
You already know who won. The final score: 350 to 6.
It’s a mistake to reflect on this story and conclude that we should all work to have better ideas. Smart people have bad ideas, all the time. Ray Kroc was, after all, one of the most financially successful business leaders of the 20th century.
Innovative leaders don’t fear bad ideas. They fear not filtering them out.
You have no idea if you have a Hula Burger or a Filet-O-Fish until you test it. Despite his personal feelings about the fish sandwich, Kroc was knew it was up to his customers to decide.
How invested are you with your “good idea” before you’ve talked to a single customer about it? Challenge your team to test all kinds of ideas so you’ll quickly surface what works…and what doesn’t.