Listening to the reflections of Diageo’s Andy Stubbings and Emma Town on the workings of a large corporate offered so much more, revealing who influences which stages of the process, and what it’s like to be in the client’s shoes. They elicited my sympathy when we heard that only two out of every ten innovation projects actually make it to the shop shelf.

Their experiences — of both success and failure — highlighted potential weak links in the product execution chain: importance of the role product plays in consumers’ lives, quality of concept execution, marketing support and physical availability.

‘Hope is not a strategy’, though, and before execution the innovative idea needs to pass a number of key check points:

1. What’s in it for the company? (Why would it want to put more energy into making it happen than other projects?)

2. Why will the consumer care? (What needs/desire will it fulfil more effectively, or what role will it perform better than the competition?)

3. How well do we understand the category? (What are the rules of the game?)

We learned about the three elements that every successful innovation project needs: The Golden Thread which ensures the idea is inspired, rooted and progressive — a mantra for creative ideas everywhere.

Hearing about how Captain Morgan's German 'Speer' and Roe & Co were brought to life was fascinating. The speakers' tips for agency pitches were reassuring, too, as you never know whether challenging a client brief is good for business. I loved the fact that they wanted honest, informed opinions about the methodological approaches they requested and concept feedback at the end so that they didn’t end up ‘drinking their own cool aid’.

This AQR event was a great example of stimulating thinking through the use of real life examples. A wonderful evening — and that’s without even mentioning the whisky tasting!