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Manoj Fenelon of PepsiCo on Finding Inspiration

The Design + Innovation Club welcomed Manoj Fenelon, director of foresight and innovation at PepsiCo, for a fourth visit in a series of what he referred to as his “annual pilgrimages” to Yale SOM on October 27. First- and second-year students engaged in lively discussion around harnessing passion and resourcefulness to help businesses deal with rapidly approaching (and changing) futures.

As a follow-up to his visit last year, Fenelon had a casual yet deep conversation about the future of consumer packaged goods and the design and innovation space broadly. From three new emerging economies—not geographic blocs but paradigms of value-creation—to his three “everyday” sources of inspiration, his talk offered many slice-of-life vignettes of what it’s like to be an innovator and design-thinker at a Fortune 50 company.

Here are his three tips for finding inspiration:

  • “Read widely, and outside subject boundaries. It’s very useful to be curious without knowing exactly why, to ‘think in new boxes.’”
  • “Court those who are the future. Youth have always exemplified the future by simply existing; particularly in a VUCA world, their hopes and fears are the only real data one can get on the future.”
  • “Flirt with entrepreneurs. Not to imitate or flatter, but to learn new ways of working and explore mutually reinforcing partnerships.”