By Christina Villefrance Moeller, TalesOfLeading

Yesterday Saturday February 25, 2017 the famous Danish restaurant Noma served its last meal. The owners has decided to close down Noma despite that the restaurant several times has been elected world’s best restaurant and had two Michelin stars. Even though it is hard to believe, it is a case of deliberate self-destruction. Why would a very successful restaurant want to do that? What can industry learn from that?

Legacy of Noma

In 2003, two chefs Claus Meyer[1] and René Redzepi[2] set out to show the undiscovered culinary potential of Nordic food with the restaurant Noma. Through a lot of hard work and experimentation René Redzepi and his team achieves the first Michelin star in 2005, the second in 2007 and push down El Bulli from the positions as world’s best restaurant in 2010. Restricting themselves to use seasonal Nordic ingredients challenge the team to invent creative experiences for their customers. Denmark is actually a wine producing country, however, the supply is limited. René Redzepi takes part of initiating a Food Lab with the purpose of finding substitutes for e.g. soya and other ingredients taken for granted in a kitchen. They also experiments with insects like ants, which they served on a pop-up restaurant during the Olympics in London 2012. Since then, René Redzepi and his team has challenges themselves with pop-up restaurants in Japan and Australia serving dishes reinventing local ingredients. Then in 2015, they makes this unusual decision to close Noma. Instead, they will open a new “urban farming” restaurant in a deserted sea mine depot at Christiania in Copenhagen. BIG and Bjake Ingels, another creative Dane, is responsible for rebuilding the place. An additional restaurant, 108 opened last spring and achieved its first Michelin star recently.

Creative learning opportunities

Creativity like Noma shows does not come out of thin air. It is indefatigable nurtured, facilitated and encouraged in learning opportunities for the team. Every Saturday night Noma’s kitchen is packed with chefs presenting ideas to new dishes. Collectively, they taste, discuss and evaluates the ideas. A presenting chef gets instant feedback and suggestions for further improvements of his or her idea.

Why should you make a pop-up restaurant in new unfamiliar environments like Japan and Australia? To the Danish newspaper Politiken René Redzepi explained:

“The purpose is that we shall return home and see all the stupid work methods and routines, we have developed during the last 12 years, so that we can break free of them.”

The pop-up restaurants initiated new explorative experiments like the one they had in the beginning with Noma and Nordic food. It was also an opportunity for teambuilding, challenging and learning together. I am sure Noma has several other brilliant examples of learning opportunities, manufacturing industry could investigate.

But we are not a restaurant …

Despite the differences between a restaurant and a manufacturing enterprise, they share need for reinventing themselves in a dynamic ever-changing world. Industry 4.0 and digitalization entails opportunities and threats for manufacturing enterprises market-positions. With intensive focus on technology for new product, services and manufacturing processes, the need for organizational innovations remains under the radar. However as a survey from PwC points out, top industrial manufacturing innovators balance their investments across a range of innovation areas as products, technologies, services, systems and processes, business model, customer experience, and supply chain. These manufacturing enterprises also distribute investments for breakthrough and radical innovations more equally to incremental innovations than the least innovative manufacturing enterprises. Additionally, the least innovative manufacturing enterprises overemphasize product innovation compared to other innovation areas.

The interesting questions for manufacturing is then:

  • What can you learn from others far away from your expertise?
  • Do you take part of inventing tools and solutions yourself?
  • What learning opportunities do you set up for your team?

[1] Food activist and culinary entrepreneur known outside Denmark for Agern at Grand Central Station in New York.

[2] At that time a young unknown sous-chef on a Danish Michelin star restaurant with experience from El Bulli (world’s best restaurant in Spain).

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