As in every large organisation, innovation is an essential element for business growth, employee motivation and competitive advantage. That’s why Tesco is launching many new initiatives all the time and approaching innovation as a continuous process rather than an ad-hoc project. In this video, Kathryn explains how to manage innovation process in large organisations, how to get buy-in from senior executives and what corporations could learn from start-ups.
Below you can find a transcript of this episode of Innovation Insights with Kathryn Molloy discussing her views on Innovation, and how it is reflected in her experience with Tesco
Kathryn Molloy: My role is all about stimulating and supporting innovation within the business. It is all about trying to create an environment where people can bring ideas to life and present problems they are facing in the hope that we can find a different way to go about them – a new approach or solution.
What is true innovation for you?
Kathryn Molloy: Innovation to me is about doing things differently. It’s about seeing the art of the possible, trying different approaches, trying to find a new solution to a problem or a new way of doing things. People tend to think that the tech world owns innovation, but for us at Tesco that is not the case. Some of the best things we have done are new innovations within stores to help our customers’ shopping trip a little bit better. It doesn’t always have to be this huge disruptive thing that is going to change the world. Some of the smallest, incremental pieces of innovation are the best. As long as they are making things a bit easier or solving a problem than, I think, they are equally as valid as the big, huge innovations that people do.
What does the term agile mean for you?
Kathryn Molloy: For me, agile has become a huge buzzword, and has two main meanings: the actual meaning of the word – so “responsive, light on your feet, ready to respond”, and then there is the process of agile – something that your can go and train in, and learn and read about. And for me, the true sense of the word is the important one. So how the business is ready to respond, it is light on its feet, can change direction in order to meet the needs of its customers – that’s the most important version of the word agile for me, rather than the textbook approach.
Is Innovation a continuous process or an ad-hoc project?
Kathryn Molloy: Tesco has so many different businesses, areas and functions – from Tesco Mobile to Tesco Bank to F&F to the stores – and we are constantly innovating. We constantly need to think about what the customer wants, so that we can be there to deliver that. So it is definitely not ad-hoc, but an ongoing thing. People are always looking at how to improve our product and experiences.
Tell us more about retail industry and Innovation.
Kathryn Molloy: Retail industry is constantly changing to keep up with how the customers are behaving. I think it can be quite slow sometimes to actually get to where it needs to be. Ideas can take 1-2-3 years to turn into reality. There are other companies, such as Amazon, who seem to be able to move a lot quicker. But I do think that the UK in general is far enough ahead of other countries.
How to get buy-in from senior management?
Kathryn Molloy: It depends. In really is just the case of going speaking to them. As long as you can put together a compelling business case and a proposition that customers are going to want, then it’s just about speaking to them and making sure that there is the resource, money, time, and – in a very big organisation – it is about making sure it is not being duplicated somewhere else, because that can very easily happen.
What could corporates learn from start-ups?
Kathryn Molloy: I do think that corporates and start-ups can learn so much from each other. There is so much experience and knowledge that can be exchanged between the two. But, both entrepreneurs and corporate people have been bred, trained and taught in a very different way. Corporates can learn from a star-ups optimism, their hunger, their sense that “we’re all in this together, and we can all do anything”. Another big one is their willingness to try, experiment, get things in front of customers. Corporates on the other hand tend to have a much more risk-averse approach, and that’s something that they can definitely learn.
Tell us more about Tesco and Rainmaking Loft partnership.
Kathryn Molloy: As part of the partnership we sent Tesco colleagues down to the loft for a week, they get to leave their day job behind, and they come and work for an entrepreneur or a start-up for a week. They immerse themselves in their world, learn about how they approach things, what their company is about, how the founder thinks and operates and then bring some of that back into Tesco to help accelerate the entrepreneurial spark in Tesco.
Who is responsible for coming up with new ideas in Tesco?
Kathryn Molloy: I can’t speak for every large business but Tesco has main teams that are in charge of research & development and ideas. But it really is about everybody coming up with ideas. So, we have had a new initiative – “free fruit for kids” in stores, and this idea came from a lady who works in check-outs. She just talked to her manager, that escalated all the way up and now it is happening in most stores. So, it’s really about everyone in the business having their radar on, understanding what the opportunities are and then sharing those ideas with the right people
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