Boost your creativity with chocolate

3 creativity and innovation tips learnt from a chocolate factory
Francesco | 12.06.17

Zotter is a unique and successful chocolate factory in Austria. It opened in 1999 in a stable in Josef Zotter’s parents backyard and has now been named among the top 25 chocolate companies in the world.

I was fortunately enough to visit the factory last week and their daring and innovative approach to this traditional industry made three things about creativity very clear to me: eat chocolate, dare to be different and celebrate failure.

Eat chocolate for creativity

Chocolate contains polyphenols, a class of antioxidants that help reduce anxiety and improve your mood, which increases your creative problem solving ability. The simple act of taking a break to eat a candy can also serve as a creative fuel and help us see things from a new perspective.

This fact is not lost on the people at Zotter. By taking a tour of the factory, you can see the whole chocolate production process, from bean to bar. There are also countless tasting stations, one of which serves chocolate in the shape of small light bulbs. If you need a creativity boost, just eat one of those bulbs, and ‘they will light up your ideas’.

chocolate light bulbs

This has immediately become my favourite creativity technique. The random word technique is nice as well, but it’s nothing compared to the sweet indulgence of a lightbulb made of dark chocolate (or strawberry chocolate, my son’s favourites).

Dare to innovate...

Experimentation and constant innovation are key factors if you want your business to lead the market. Daring to innovate instead of producing in mass appeal chocolate goes a long way to explain the dramatic success of this chocolate manufactory.

Zotter’s current product assortment is made up of 365 chocolate bars. You can taste a different one every day of the year! You’ll find the classic varieties such as coffee and caramel, but also lots of very unconventional flavours, such as basmati rice and saffron, or sacramental wine and Frankincense. For the more daring among you, there are also some more extreme ingredients, like insects and charred wood.

… and celebrate the failure!

Behind the factory, there is a big park, and at the beginning of the path leading to the petting zoo, there is a hill with many gravestones… at first, it’s a bit creepy, but then you realise that nobody is buried there because it’s the cemetery of failed ideas! The chocolate flavour ideas that didn’t work out are buried there, with a proper gravestone and the candle. Peanut and ketchup chocolate anyone? This is truly celebrating failure, as we celebrate life.

celebrate the failure

Innovation is a Darwinian process, where only a few of the best ideas survive, so we should expect failure. The problem is that we human beings are overly optimistic and even now we’re not used to accepting failure.

A smart company should encourage a culture of accepting failure among its employees. Learning from what went wrong and continuously iterate to improve are a necessary part of the innovation process. As the Museum of Failure in Sweden says: ‘Learning is the only way to turn failure into success.’

Key takeaways:

  • Need a creativity boost? Take a break and eat chocolate.
  • Dare to experiment and do something different from your competitors.
  • Celebrate failure, it’s a natural consequence of innovation.
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