Innovation Management @ Waitrose

Why do so many companies get their priorities back to front?

 “People tend to throw technology at innovation challenges in the hope that it will be good enough – or focused enough – to solve their problems. Big mistake.”

Those aren’t our words. They are the expert opinion of Stuart Eames – the Retail Innovation Lead at Waitrose. Fascinating, forthright and refreshingly off-beat, Stuart was also the guest speaker at our Executive Breakfast Briefing, on June 12th.

Like most senior executives with ‘Innovation’ in their job title, Stuart was plagued by tech companies peddling their “fix all” solutions. “They were simply trying to shoehorn their products to fit the problem. No-one was focusing on the real issues… what are the root problems… where are the innovation gaps and priorities… and how, precisely, do we plug them?

To find these fundamental answers, Stuart has been on an innovation journey that he shared with everyone around our breakfast table. He explained how Waitrose…

  • Uses crowd sourcing to create internal reference points and to define the core problem areas.
  • Socialises these problems to gauge reactions – creating a forum for ideas exchange and discussion.
  • Establishes what success looks like – identifying the people who embrace innovation and will take ownership for delivery. “Never bang your head against a locked door – you’ll just give yourself a headache. Instead, look for the change champions who’ll put skin in the game. Their passion is infectious and will break down silo mentalities”.
  • Explains why big innovation labs – matched by big budgets and even bigger egos – fail to deliver for most organisations.
  • Develops a 3-part improvement mantra for measuring success: make it cheaper so the business saves costs… make it better for customers, so they notice and appreciate the difference… make it frictionless and easier for employees to deliver.

Stuart has distilled all of these basic building blocks into a framework for Innovation Management. A formula that delivers joined-up innovation not just for the retail sector but right across the industry landscape.

To read the full report of those insights and the animated discussion they inspired please click the button below.

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