Yesterday I had the great opportunity to facilitate a round table discussion with some retail ‘captains of industry’, as part of the annual What’s Going On In Retailing conference. The topic for the discussion was Innovation, and I felt I should briefly share two interesting insights.
First of all, some of the successfully innovating retailers pointed out that innovation can only flourish on a foundation that is stable, effective and rationalised. As one of the discussion partners said “if you explicitly want to reserve one day a week for all of your employees to be involved in innovation, that is something you must be a able to permit yourself first”.
Another introduced the concept of an Ocean of Calm as the state a company must achieve, before it can innovate over and over again. An almost ZEN-like approach that actually resonates very well with the findings of our recent CIO Survey 2008: companies that are using IT in the most innovate way are also the companies that control and manage their existing IT infrastructure and business applications much better than average
Secondly the conclusion was drawn that – sadly – real breakthroughs in innovation in many cases only occur in a time of crisis. It takes a lot of persuasion to change the organisation and people if they don’t really have to. And although increased transparency in strategy, measures and results certainly helps (it sure did for C&A, winners of the Connect Retail Award 2008), sometimes there is nothing left than to happily embrace crisis as the trigger for transformation.
So it’s the Crisis, Hurray, Crisis! once more. It’s probably just what has to happen before you enter the Ocean of Calm.