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Featured image: About the Foresight Formula at Mars Wrigley

About the Foresight Formula at Mars Wrigley

Joanna Lepore, Global Foresight Lead

When it comes to innovative thinking and acting, Joanna Lepore - Global Foresight Lead at Mars Wrigley is all heart! In order to help Mars Wrigley identify and capitalize on opportunities for expansive growth, Jo even left her Australian homeland to live nowadays in the US. 

In this episode, we not only explore the foresight formula at Mars Wrigley with Jo but also learn why it is so important to focus on true long-term strategic decisions rather than being guided by short-term trends. In addition to that, Jo also highlights why the involvement of external foresight experts and sources is crucial for a company like Mars Wrigley when it comes to painting a realistic picture of the outside world and the opportunities at hand.

If you want to learn more about the foresight formula at Mars Wrigley and why the focus of strategic thinking is increasingly shifting to the consumer and their changing needs, then tune in!

Below you will find the full transcript for the episode.

Practicing foresight at Mars Wirgley

Chris: Now on Innovation Rockstars. Hi and welcome back to the Innovation Rockstar interviews. My name is Chris Mühlroth and in this episode I am excited to welcome Jo Lepore from Mars Wrigley. So Jo is Global Foresight Lead reinventing how Mars Wrigley invests in future opportunities, curating curiosity for impact. So Jo, thank you so much for joining us. It is a pleasure having you.

Jo: The pleasure is all mine. Thank you so much. I think I'm really excited because this is the only time I'm going to be related to the word “rock star”. So thanks for having me.

Chris: Okay, great. Now let's kick things off with a 60 seconds introduction sprint. This is all about you, your career and your role at Mars Wrigley. So you know what? I got a digital stopwatch here with me and for the next 60 seconds the stage is all yours. So let's go.

Jo: All right, let's do it. So I am Jo Lepore and I lead global foresight for Mars Wrigley and I look after specifically the North American division. It's a team that essentially helps the business to invest in the right areas looking five and ten years out. And it's a newly created function within Mars Wrigley. And as part of that, I have actually moved from Australia, which you can probably gather from my accent to the US. Prior to my time in insights and foresight, I have always been in marketing innovation. So marketing or looking at adjacencies, looking at new innovative ways to reach consumers unmet needs. And on top of that, one thing I'm really passionate about is innovative thinking.

Chris: Wow, that was on spot even shorter than 60 seconds. Great. Thank you. So next thing, here are three sentence starters for you. And I would like you to complete them. So the first one is going like this: The future of chocolate will be …

Jo: … lab made.

Chris: Wow. OK, number two: Leaders are readers. And the book I can recommend most at the moment is...

Jo: Actually, I'm reading “The Signals Are Talking” by Amy Web. And if you're getting into foresight or trying to understand what futurism is, I would highly recommend that.

Chris: True. The signals are talking. Great. And the last one, number three: The reason why I am in the foresight space is because …

Jo: … I am always curious about what the future holds and also always keen to create a better future.

Insights on future and foresight

Chris: Great. So it's about curiosity. It's about creation. That's a great start. So let's start off with some real insights. So, Jo, as I learned from you, you are also the host of a podcast called Future Imagined ( And this podcast specializes in foresight. So I think you actually get a lot of different perspectives on foresight. And therefore, my first question to you is, why are so many talking about foresight these days?

“What foresight can do is really funnel the thinking around the three tension points technological evolution, increasing competition, and changing consumer needs and help the business to see the things that they're not seeing.”

Jo: Yeah. There are not that many podcasts actually related to foresight. That's why I'm so excited to be on your show, which is one of the few dedicated to that. But despite that, and despite the fact that I'm incredibly proud of the podcast that we have, Future Imagined, thank you for dropping that in really early in our conversation. There definitely are a lot of conversations being had at the moment around foresight or futurism. And we can see that through everything. And I think in a way, it's a very obvious answer to that, which is that we're trying to navigate so much ambiguity in the world coming out of 2020. Maybe the less obvious answer is that it fills a real gap inside a business. So if we think about the normal structure of a business, you do have strategic arms or resources, whether it's corporate strategy, whether it's marketing and brand planning, whether it's insights. However, all of that is really focused on sort of that one to three year horizon. And you don't have this dedicated function inside a business looking five years out and 10 years out. So what is the benefit of that? It's helping you to connect some of those really, really big themes and the big forces in our world with what's relevant today. What should a Snickers brand manager do today about all of that? I think that's one thing its sort of completing the puzzle, if you will, of business capability. The other thing that I would say is that when we look at specifically in the context of the corporate world, business leaders are really struggling to tackle a few specific unknowns. And the three that quite often come up is technological evolution, particularly for companies that are not tech companies, increasing competition. And, you know, this is everything from what the big players are doing in your category through to what small agile innovators are doing in person to person selling, for example, as well as changing consumer needs and behaviours in a fast changing world. So what Foresight can do is really funnel the thinking around those three tension points and unknowns and help the business to see the things that they're not seeing. And we know that that's really where Foresight can make a significant impact in the industry.

Chris: That's interesting. Now, you know, for most of us, I can tell, at least for myself, right, Mars really has touched on us, you know, at least once in our lifetime, right? So be it, as you said, Snickers, M&Ms, Bounty, Twix, Spearmint gums, or Pedigree and Whiskas if you have cats or dogs or cats and so on for the pet lovers. So in a nutshell, you know, Mars is, I'd say, experiencing tremendous long term success. Now when we bring together foresight and Mars, this leaves me with the question, why does Mars invest into building future and Foresight capabilities right now?

Jo: That's an excellent question. And, you know, I would sort of reiterate the point that you're saying around, you know, Mars has been around for a long time. We have a footprint across multiple industries and even multiple areas of innovation. And I think one thing that we're really proud of at Mars is that we're a family run private business. We're still run by the Mars family. They created the Mars product in a Mars kitchen and that's still who owns our organization. So we've been around for over 100 years. And now, you know, coming from that Mars kitchen, we have over 130,000 associates around the world. So I guess to your question, you know, if that's been a successful model, why are we investing in Foresight now? I think what the Mars business is really good at throughout those 100 years is pivoting resources and focus and innovation where it needs to be. And we've got some really great case studies looking back at World War II and how we pivoted our focus. So right now it's pivoting, it's focused towards being not only more future focused and really thinking around the changes in the world and the change in context for consumers, but also around transforming how we talk about consumers. I mean, even that word consumer. So we've just recently rebranded our insights team. We used to be called consumer market insights, and now we're called human intelligence. Emphasis on the word human. And there's a real pointed reason for that, which is that we want to be talking about human beings. We want to be bringing people and their needs, their motivations and therefore how their needs are enabled inside of the context of the world. Really bring that into our planning and strategic thinking. So I would say that, and you know, maybe my short answer to that question is that you can't act on what you can't see. And so it's really empowering to have a part of the business now, Foresight, which is helping you to look 10 years out and look externally, bring the outside in so that you can act on some of these opportunities that are happening in the world.

“You can’t act on what you can’t see.”

Chris: Right. And when we talk about change and also not only emerging technologies and stuff, but also changing consumer needs and changing consumer behaviors, can you just talk us through just real quick about some of the most impactful changes, macro forces and trends that you see these days?

Jo: Yeah, well, we use a pretty similar model to STEEP to take a look at the macro forces and trying to really distill that down to what's relevant inside of a CPG as well. But there's sort of two big ones that we're talking about quite a lot and also specifically because I look after North America. One is the environment as a macro force. And I say this really openly as a company that produces chocolate wrapped in plastic and plastic reduction, plastic pollution is a huge area for the world to tackle from a climate change perspective. So we look at that quite extensively across the spectrum of what it means around the world, inside of North America. And it's an area that our company is really passionate about because we have a sustainable in a generation plan. So there are things that we're doing to tackle that. But from a foresight perspective, like I said before, we're really here to bring the human motivations to life. So we're articulating this to the business as people really want to be in control of their sustainability journey. They want to make their lives easier, and they want to buy what's affordable and what's convenient. But they also want to make better choices for the planet. So how do we give them more of that control? And then another example I'll give you really quickly is social as a macro force. So cultural redefinitions that are currently taking place. And you know, an example of that is everything that we're seeing in the United States over the last 12 to 24 months around what does inclusion mean? What does belonging mean? How do we counter some of the tensions that are currently taking place in the division? How do we bring people together? And again, I say it's guidance that we give in the context of CPG. So what role does a food brand play within bringing people together and connecting people? And that's where we really lean into our sort of right to play, role to play and what moments we can activate against.

Chris: So I think this is a highly valuable mission that basically Mars Wrigley and all, you know, folks are basically, you know, trying to achieve. And, you know, while browsing the corporate website, I actually learned that, you know, Mars is, as mentioned before, also into pet care. And as you said, personalized nutrition. I have also seen some keywords around nourishing wellness, healthy planet, sustainability and so on. Now, you know, if I were to consider that your products are for the most part just incredibly delicious. Right. But on the other hand, you know, seeing how those consumer needs change and behaviors that change and the mindset for, you know, healthy nutrition and the environment changes, you know, how do you actually balance being recognized as maybe, you know, a very delicious candy company on the one hand, but also working towards a healthy planet and healthy nutrition for a better world of tomorrow? How do you do that?

“The idea of what it means to be healthy and happy is really changing. And that's the sort of thinking that we're bringing into the business as a foresight team.”

Jo: Yeah, how do our business leaders do that? It's quite a challenge, isn't it? I mean, I think one thing to reiterate is what you said is that a lot of people do think of us as a candy company when they hear the Mars name, they think of the Mars bar, and we have the Mars family behind all of that. So we do have so much more that we create. And I say that to point to our principles. So we have founding five principles behind our company, and they're not just a corporate social responsibility PR stunt. They are really what we live and breathe every day. And it's guiding all of our decisions when we think about where do we invest into the future and how do we create a healthier planet or how do we create better moments for people. And so as part of that, and as part of the principles and the things that have sort of grounded our company and staying true to them, we're incredibly proud of what we make. So that's one thing that I would say. And, you know, when I tell people that I work at Mars Wrigley, their faces light up. They go, “Oh my God, you get to work for Mars Wrigley. It's amazing!”. That's the pride that I have as well in working for the company. With all of that said, you know, part of the role of foresight is to help the business to navigate towards where the world is moving and what consumers want, what people want. And so one of the things to answer your question more directly around some of these changes that we're seeing in the world is, you know, what we're talking to now is the redefinition of wellness. So if we think about what makes people healthy and happy, that concept in the context of the world is evolving, and it's changing. So it used to be all about performance or cutting something out of my diet or adding something in. Now, I think we're moving to this age where everything is quantified, right? Like I'm measuring my sleep, and I'm measuring what I eat right down to the carbs. And I think that the shift that's happening right now and where it's moving is instinct. So people really listening to their human needs. So what does my body actually need? How do I really think about my mood and my cognition, and how do I age in a happier way? So really sort of balancing the science with instinct. And I'd say, you know, where we're saying that that's moving into the further out future is thinking about wellness in the context of how good do I feel about the impact that I'm making in my community or with my family or with my society, my country? And then, you know, more broadly beyond that will be my impact on the planet. So the idea of what it means to be healthy and happy is really changing. And that's the sort of thinking that we're bringing into the business as a foresight team.

Foresight practice at Mars: Guiding principles and collaborations

Chris: And now, obviously, this, you know, leaves me curious about how you actually do this and really practice foresight as Mars and Mars Wrigley. So maybe we can dive in a bit or zoom in a bit more to the actual foresight practice, but also the journey when, you know, building up foresight capabilities and the different teams on human intelligence, as you coined the term before. So let's do that. Can you maybe take us on a journey on your journey and your team's journey on how you build up the global foresight team? I mean, you know, frankly speaking, given that Mars is a very successful company for such a long term, in any way, Mars already had to deal with change and with future before introducing a global foresight team, right?

Jo: Yeah, absolutely. And we have had foresight inside of our corporate setting. So at the Mars corporate level for a while now, we've dabbled in foresight inside of our food division, which is where Ben's Original comes from, or our PECA division, where Pedigree and Royal can inset. So we've already had a foresight footprint. And I would say we've really leaned on corporate strategy, which I think is a very similar position to a lot of other companies and CPGs where they lean into strategy to give them the foresight of what's happening in the external world. I think that the big change that's happened when we've created our foresight team is creating some mandates around what we will be and what we won't be. And so the team was just created in November of 2020, so really recently. And one of the things that we said was use us as a strategic, powerful, impactful force in the business. So get us to partner with corporate strategy and with brand planning and with our Mars edge division, which looks at technological change. Don't use us for trends or flavor trends or those things that are shorter term because we have an entire business that's really, really good at that. Use us for those things that are trending, so the patterns that we're spotting in the world and bringing the outside in. So over the last few months as we've created this team, and we've cemented it, we've learned a lot from how foresight has worked well or not worked well in other parts of our business. And I would say we've really collaborated with the external world, so leveraging foresight capabilities inside of specialist foresight organizations or even connecting with other foresight practitioners.

"One of our mantras when creating the foresight team, was ‘Use us as a strategic, powerful, impactful force in the business, don't use us for trends or flavor trends or those things that are shorter term, ‘cause we already have an entire unit which is really good at that’.”

Chris: So can you maybe also walk me through some of the mindsets or maybe guiding principles that your foresight teams basically follow?

Jo: Yeah, absolutely. First and foremost, we talk about looking five and 10 years out, but we stipulate that it's all around making investment decisions today. So what can you action today that helps set you up for that 10 year view? So we're not here to inspire and create just beautiful decks that help people think outside the box. We're here to really give you that lens into the future and specifically what you should do about it today. That is sort of like a core foundational guiding principle for us. The other is that we use the metaphor of shining a light or shining a torch so that we can give the business a little bit of a view into the stuff that's sort of further out in the torch, right? So the things that are sort of in the shadows, and it's those things that are, for example, the metaverse is something that we've talked about recently in the business. What should you do about that? That is much further out. But then we focus most of our energy on those things that are in the light of the torch. So these are the things that our business knows is coming, and they're not necessarily sure how to tackle it, or they're not quite sure where, like which market around the world they should start or where they should pilot. So we really help them guide their investment choices in that. And then I would say the next would be thought leadership. And that's sort of like a big broad statement to make, thought leadership. But this is really where we're talking about philosophical thinking, that aspect of foresight, asking the right questions, really thinking about inflection points and relation to history and contradictions and weak signals, signals on the fringe and also bringing the outside in. So really getting us to look at what other industries are doing and what other parts of the world are doing. And all of that leads to just more robust planning.

Chris: So you do definitely have the outside view, as you mentioned before, but still, you're driving change from the inside, right? And I could imagine that specifically for a company which is existing for such a long time and is successful for such a long time, there is actually some maybe resistance, right? Some challenges, some reluctance maybe to change. So how do your teams actually cope with these challenges?

Jo: Yeah, definitely. I think any new team that's placed inside of an organization, particularly a really big one like the Mars business, which is in over 100 countries, has those sorts of challenges. The big one for us, I would say, is creating the pool. So how do we make all parts of our business aware of those principles that we talked about before? How do we make them aware of the fact that we exist and why we do what we do, how it can benefit them? So I think going back to my earlier point, it's really important for us to make sure we're really clear around how we're adding value, the fact that we are more further out focused, that we are here to help you make long term strategic choices, not to help guide you on the shorter term trends. And also, I think connected to that, and one of the ways that we've overcome that is through sponsors or through our ambassadors in the business. So someone said to me recently, success leaves tracks. And usually when you get a little bit of a run on the board, that can really help you because someone's noticed it or someone's used it. Those are the people that we really lean into in the business to help us to amplify our success.

Chris: And how do you do that? I mean, how do you, for example, not only create success and impact, we'll come to that in a minute, I guess, but also how do you get more visibility both internally and also maybe externally? I mean, most probably, I guess you will collaborate and cooperate with innovation teams, maybe with product teams. So how to build that bridge, and who is maintaining that bridge? How do you connect to them?

Jo: Well, to be totally transparent, we're still working through all of that. And a part of the reason is that in the transformation that we've gone through to be more human-focused and calling ourselves human intelligence, we're not the only new team in the business. There are other new teams, so they're still trying to work out what they do and how we connect together. But I think that one of the big ways that we really focus on doing that well is to obviously have open lines of communication, but also to feed into really active work streams. So to really understand what are those big projects that the business is focusing on or like the big challenge, the big tension, how do we embed ourselves into that so that we're really adding value? And that's how we're connecting with the innovation teams that are looking at agile innovation opportunities or defining platforms of innovation or even some of our sales teams who are experimenting in new sales channels or new ways to reach consumers through digital. How do we partner with them on those projects? That's where we've seen a lot of really great traction.

Chris: Yeah, and same for external collaborations, right? So did you already open up to, I don't know, the outside world? So how do you bring in external collaborations as well? Or did you decide to actually start internally and then gradually open up to external partners or startups or the community? How's that going?

"There's so much benefit in bringing the outside in and creating a network of outside experts."

Jo: It's a really big passion point of mine because I am on a mission to build collaboration inside of the foresight industry, and I'm definitely not the only one. So one of the first things that we did when we first started in the foresight team is to build an external network and to do that really, really proactively pushing for that. So one of the things that foresight should be doing and is doing is bringing the outside in and the best way for us to do that is to create that network of outside experts and really, really work hard at bringing that into the business. There's so much benefit in that. So some of the ways that we've done that is projects. So we actively reach out to foresight, like I said, practitioners, but also foresight agencies, innovation agencies, and collaborate with them on our foresight projects. We are a part of a few foresight councils that include foresight practitioners from other industries and other categories. So we regularly talk with the likes of Disney and PepsiCo and what they're doing inside of the foresight space. And then, you know, I hate to say it, but networking. So I regularly just reach out to people on LinkedIn. That annoying person that says, hey, I love what you're doing. Can we have a conversation? And I can't tell you how much traction I've gained from that. There are so many people that just want to learn from how is Mars Wrigley doing foresight well? How can I amplify that and vice versa? And then I think, you know, podcasting is just a really great forum to be able to funnel that into an outcome that the business can see.

Chris: So let me ask you an additional question to what you said earlier. And maybe there is also some insights and experiences from the foresight community. But let's see. So, you know, there is this ongoing discussion about how to define, as you mentioned before, how to define success, impact, especially when you're not after the short and medium term trends, technologies and changes, but rather when you have a long time horizon, maybe five, ten plus years out there. So I think, you know, we hear a lot that it is hard to measure this given a traditional ROI and KPI mindset. Now I'd be interested to hear from you. How do you at Mars actually think about impact and success of foresight future thinking, especially when considering the long term game?

“Imagination is this muscle that a lot of people don't use, particularly in the corporate space. So this is where we really lean into, you know, building that capability inside of our associates, bringing that thought leadership, getting them to ask questions themselves."

Jo: It's such a huge challenge, I think, for a lot of strategic functions inside of organizations that are looking further out and in particular for foresight. And I think particularly for foresight because we don't run projects end to end, and we shouldn't, right? But we have an indirect influence on other teams. And so if somebody else launches something off the back of something that we recommend, how do you measure the outcome of that when it's not your own project? It's a really big challenge. And I would say, you know, two things. One is that we really need to work on that. So we as an industry, as a practice, need to work on that because our impact should be quantifiable. The impact of our recommendations of what pilots we think should be making, where, which markets we should be leveraging, what kind of capability we're building inside of our business, what kind of new muscles are we creating inside of employees? You know, all of that should be quantifiable, whether it's a number of hours or a number of ideas, number of pilots. We should be really, really proactively capturing all of that because there's so much value that foresight brings inside of an organization, even beyond that, that we need to be bringing back to our business leaders. And so beyond that, beyond sort of like the project sphere, I would say the other big thing that we need to measure is imagination. So I think that when we talk about the future, sometimes people think, you know, where are things trending, and therefore what can we predict? And it's as we know, it's not about prediction, but preparation. So a part of the big push that we have is how do we help the business to imagine what kind of future it could co-create in the world. And imagination is this muscle that a lot of people don't use, particularly in the corporate space. So this is where we really lean into, you know, building that capability inside of our associates, bringing that thought leadership, getting them to ask questions themselves. And then, you know, a great way that we've been able to measure that is through the Future Imagine podcast. So a lot of the things that we hear back from some of that thought leadership that we bring to the business is, wow, this has really been missing from the organization or what you're doing is so important. You made me connect with such and such, and therefore I started this idea or this project. So I would say that those verbatims that I just said, which are real comments that I've received, that's quantifiable. That's something that we should be measuring and putting into the outcomes. And then it would be remiss of me not to say that there have been studies, formal studies done on the foresight practice that have shown, that have quantified that a business with a dedicated foresight practice does have 200% higher growth, top line, over 30% higher profit bottom line and 25% improvement in your long term planning. So all of that work has been done. But when you then try to bring that into the CPG, which is focused on 12 month planning, it is really important to do all of those other things that we just talked about around quantifying imagination and quantifying the recommendations that you make.

The foresight formula at Mars Wrigley

Chris: So, you know, quantify imagination actually sounds like a formula, right? And frankly speaking, the other day, you know, I asked Uncle Google and found an interesting presentation of yours on the ‘Power of Foresight’. Now, I think in this presentation, you made foresight a bit, you know, you try to make it a bit less academic by introducing an actual formula which goes like this. And I'm now reading this: History x human motivations x signals of change = foresight. Now, that's mind-blowing. Can you explain your model and how this actually works for me?

“Foresight = History X Human Motivation X Signals of Change”

Jo: Yeah, definitely. I mean, we really worked hard when we created the foresight team to create that formula. And the formula is really built around what our business is ready for. So that's one of the things that I say when people ask us about, you know, how does this work and how do you get traction off the back of this is when you create a formula for your business, it needs to be really relevant to what the business is ready for and what it's focused on. So for us, what we do is we look at, you know, pivotal points in history, we bring that context in, we look at the macro forces of change and really proactively link that into the signals of change, and therefore the human motivation. So it's almost like a little bit of a funnel in a way, even though these things are all interconnected. So we really center it on that middle bit of the human motivations and the human needs, because those are the things that don't change. Human needs, human motivations, more or less, they stay the same, but the way that they're enabled and the context that they're enabled in does change. So that's why we link it really overtly into those signals of change and where innovation is headed and how are human needs being activated and how are people's value systems being activated in the world. And then the bottom bit of that funnel or the end state is Mars. So what does it mean around how we engage, what we say, what we do, what we make, and we really overtly inside of all of our foresight work, try to connect all of those dots for the business. So we really link it into not only, you know, what should you do about this and what does it mean for what a human being wants in the world today, but also we link it into our existing frameworks and models and business plans to, again, make it really relevant for where the business is at right now.

“Human needs, human motivations, more or less, they stay the same, but the way that they're enabled and the context that they're enabled in does change.”

Chris: How did you actually come up with this formula? I mean, did you, you know, trial and error, or what was kind of the process to actually develop that?

Jo: Yeah, we actually co-created it with a foresight agency. So we started when we first created the foresight team. We actually went really, really broad outside of the industry and inside of Mars with stakeholder interviews and with interviews with the Institute for the Future, for example, and PepsiCo's foresight team to really learn from the best and see how it should be done. And then spoke with all of our internal associates to, again, figure out what is the business ready for and what does it need? And then we worked with a foresight agency to create it and co-create it to really, really make it robust so that when we do all of our foresight work, there is a lot of confidence that it's credible and that it's quantifiable and that it also brings in that human element, and it's also impactful based on what the business wants today.

Chris: It definitely is. Now repeating once again, it's history times human motivations times signals of change equals foresight. Now, Jo, maybe can you, you know, for history, for human motivations and also for signals of change, just give me one or two examples of, you know, some pivotal points in history, some of the human motivations that could be filled into the equation or some, you know, recent signals of change to watch?

Jo: Yeah, I mean, it's such a big question because there's just so many and as a foresight person, which one do you pick? They're all like little babies. So I would say I'm going to ladder it up. I'm going to connect the patterns for you on my answer. Not as a cop out, but just to say, you know, if we look at, for example, in 2014, when we had this big push towards eating fat again, right, in the cover of Time magazine around butter, butter is good, eat butter. If you think back to before that, we were like, carbs are bad and fats are bad, and we were putting sugar inside of products to try to offset it so that it still tasted good. Now fat is good again. And so I think that relationship with food that we have and that sort of contradictory messaging that we have, but also contradictory behavior of consumers is a running theme across a lot of sorts of signals and macro forces that we're seeing in the world. That's something that we're really paying attention to in Mars. So we flip really easily, right, because we're contradictory as human beings. Other examples that speak to that is, for example, this, you know, boom in technology. I mean, the internet created in the 80s, the iPhone in 2007. And now we're talking about detoxing and privacy and cutting back and shutting off and makeup that offsets the blue light off your phone. So we're pushing back against that now. So many other examples in that, I think, you know, from a cultural perspective is the relationship that we have with big establishments, with government, with scientific organizations is that we trust them, we lean on them so much. And then there's a turning point, there's an inflection point where now, for example, we're leaning into corporations and what they can provide for us. So there are so many examples of that. And I think that, you know, what it speaks to is obviously a dichotomy and contradiction in the world, which is a natural contradiction inside of human beings, where we want to be more conscious and better for the planet and better for our families. But we also want convenience and ease of use and things that cost not a lot of money. And also, I think what it speaks to is going back to your question around, you know, the signals of change is the knowledge economy. So we've seen this big shift from the product economy to the knowledge economy. And this is true for all parts of the world, which is amazing. And it's empowering people to make their own choices, to learn more about how they can better themselves, better their world, how they can seek truth and a truth that's right for them. So that knowledge is sort of empowering societies, governments, countries, but also individuals. So that for me is probably the one that I would end on is this boom in the knowledge economy and what it could mean for some fantastic innovation in the future.

Chris: So that's truly inspiring. And I guess, at least to me, it makes perfect sense. So OK, so look out for pivotal events or points in history, multiply by human motivations and then add the signals, no, multiply by the signals of change, actually. We definitely need to try this out, at least for ourselves, and see what happens. Thanks for this inspiration. And it's great to have someone on the show with your level of experience and great. Now I do have another very important question, Jo. What is your favorite kind of candy? Mars, Snickers, Twix, Bounty? I need to know.

Jo: I mean, if you thought I was talking for a long time before I went to hear me talk about chocolate, this is like my area of passion. My husband can't believe that I'm working for a chocolate company. So I'm going to give you two. One is Twix. So Twix is my favorite, and it's one of those where it's not everyone's favorite. So I will always vouch for Twix. And then the other one that I will say is I'm from Australia. So in Australia, we have a Mars brand called PODS, and it's essentially a wafer shell filled with chocolate and then covered with chocolate. If you can imagine that, it's this multisensorial bomb in your mouth. And I absolutely love it. I could eat a whole packet of it.

Chris: Delicious. Okay, got it.

Jo: But more importantly, what is your favorite Mars Wrigley chocolate?

Chris: I knew it. Definitely M&Ms.

Jo: Nice. Nice.

Chris: Good choice. You know, we are already kind of, you know, at the end of this episode. But before that, I want to ask you about the future and specifically the future of foresight and maybe also the future of innovation at Mars Wrigley. So can you tell me, you know, what's next? What's coming up next in your foresight journey?

Jo: Yeah, I think that we're really wanting to do more of collaboration, more of bringing the outside in as a team. We really want to connect the dots for the business of what it means when the beauty industry is innovating inside of retail and what it means when, you know, all car manufacturers are now moving to electric vehicles. So we really want to connect those dots for the business looking at the outside world. And as part of that would be the collaboration piece. So really partnering with people from outside our industry, with futurists and other organizations and really bringing that into all of our internal forums, including our podcast. So we're really trying to get the word out about that because we love it. We're really proud of it. But we're also trying to encourage other people to do the same. So how can we as a corporation that's, you know, ultimately here to create a healthy profit cycle for itself, how do we open the doors in a way so that we can all learn from each other? Because I really, truly believe that it's only when we start to share our knowledge and our thinking and our resources that we can improve an entire category, an entire industry and therefore ultimately the world.

“In the future we're really want to do more of collaboration, more of bringing the outside in as a team. And as part of that would be the collaboration piece. So really partnering with people from outside our industry, with futurists and other organizations.”

Chris: So that is an exciting journey and, you know, a way to go, obviously, because you're aiming such high. That's great. Now, Jo, the show is called Innovation Rockstars, right? So I need to ask you and that's basically my last question for today. But when you look back on your career at Mars and also, you know, the foresight topic in general, what would you say was your greatest Innovation Rockstar moment, at least so far?

Jo: I mean, I can't talk about the podcast in that context. So the Future Imagine podcast is something that I started when I was a month into the role, and it was the first time that we had created a podcast in our Mars weekly business. And I can't tell you the very interesting conversations that I had about, you know, how much should we release this publicly and what can we talk about and what we can't talk about and all of these conversations that you would expect to happen. And I was really nervous. I mean, I've never done podcasting before. As you know, it's a lot of pressure to interview people very well. And I just threw myself into it. And I just can't tell you the positive response that I've had from it is so encouraging, particularly when we talk about collaboration in the industry. So I had so many people from outside of Mars Wrigley who have said, I want to share this with my company. I want my company to start something like this. And that's been a real point of pride for me.

Chris: So that is how you start a movement. Great Innovation Rockstar moment. And with that, we have reached Jo, we have reached the end of this episode. It was a pleasure to listen to you and I hope, you know, to talk to you soon.

Jo: Thank you so much for having me and rock on. Rock on.

Chris: And to everybody listening or watching, if you want to learn more about this topic or maybe just, you know, get in touch with Joe, simply leave us a comment on this episode or just drop us an email at Now, that's it. Thanks for listening. See you in the next episode. Take care and bye bye. 

Show notes

Still haven't had enough of Jo and her passion for innovative thinking? Then take a listen to Mars Wrigley’s own foresight podcast "Future Imagined", hosted by Jo.

About the authors

Dr. Christian Mühlroth is the host of the Innovation Rockstars podcast and CEO of ITONICS. Joanna Lepore is Global Foresight Lead at Mars Wrigley.

The Innovation Rockstars podcast is a production of ITONICS, provider of the world’s leading Operating System for Innovation. Do you also have an eduspiring story to tell about innovation, foresight, strategy or growth? Then shoot us a note!



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