• Personal Blog

    Posted on September 25th, 2013

    Written by Denis Finnegan


    Kick Starting Innovation

    Kick Starting Innovation

    This Blog Series is specifically about innovation at Tesco Diets and how one goes about creating an innovative and creative culture. An innovative culture is something of a buzz topic at the moment with many business talking about how they have fostered such a culture. With Tesco also making a renewed push to a more innovative business and new innovation initiatives accross the busienss such as can be seen on the Talking Shop, we at Tesco Diets are as well placed as anyone in the business to seek such a cultural change and drive it under our own steam, given our position as a small, dynamic and flexible workforce.

    So how does one actually go about creating an innovative culture? Well  its obviously about more than just putting the systems and processes in place to facilitate it, as Philip Clark mentioned in his speech at the FT Innovate 2012 conference, 6 November 2012,  it’s about the right mind set an attitude but before we get to either the systems or the processes, we should start at the very beginning.


    Where do we start with innovation?

    We’ve been asking ourselves for a while how do you ingrain innovation to the stage that it’s instinct and not just another task or process that is part of your day. Even the ideas of innovation days, creative workspaces, chillout rooms and innovation rewards are great ideas but in of themselves are not enough.

    According to “Warren Bennis”,

    Innovation, or any new idea by definition will not be accepted at first. It takes repeated attempts, endless demonstrations, monotonous rehearsals before innovation can be accepted and internalized by an organization. This requires courageous patience.

    — Warren Bennis

    This exactly describes my belief when it comes to any major cultural shift you want to make and with many things in life; you have to live it for it to become a reality, every day, from the smallest decisions to the biggest, you have to keep pushing, reminding, facilitating and rewarding innovation. It’s not something that’s just going to happen overnight as colleagues need time to trust that this is not just the latest fad or buzz word and that, when you say it’s ok to try, fail and make mistakes, that you mean it and that they won’t be punished or reprimanded and that you are going to suddenly change your mind and decide that innovation is not for us if you don’t see success over night. It’s the long hard haul you are in for and of course it goes without saying that a trusting culture is a key foundation from which you need to start from.

    Creating a culture of trust of course is another kettle of fish and not something I will elaborate on today but such a culture; while it takes a long time to implement or especially to win back if lost, is again key to implementing any future cultural changes, such as, an innovative and creative attitude and and outlook in your teams. Why is it key?

    It’s key because creating an innovative organization requires addressing issues that influence behavior. For instance, when employees are asked to share their views openly, are managers ready to get honest feedback that shows what is wrong? Or will they get embroiled in a blame game, trying to corner the employee into thinking that she is wrong? This is why, if you don’t have a culture of trust to build on, you are already set to fail.

    In any case lets actually start to have a look at how we go about creating this magical culture of innovation!


    How do Google do it?

    Google Data Centre

    Google Data Centre

    I suppose you can’t take a walk in the park of innovation without running into the example of Google and how they had an innovation culture before it was even a buzz word and absolutely! Kudos to them, we cannot but learn from how they do things but temper that with the idea that there is more again behind the scenes going on and it’s not just about cool offices and being at the cutting edge. So in trying to understand how Google have been so successful in this area, I was able to draw on some great learnings shared with Tesco at a recent learn “Lunch and Learn” event at Tesco. These are events where staff are exposed to and can share, in a some what informal way, new ideas and perspectives in an interactive session.

    So at a recent Tesco Lunch and Learn, Ian Morgan talked about Google’s approach to culture and innovation. He focused on People & Culture; Ideas & Technology and how we should Think Big and I’d like to have a look at what I felt were some key points and areas we could learn from in the excellent presentation. The video can be viewed here and Tesco Staff can contact me for the password http://vimeo.com/67553123 as I’ll be referring to times from the video clip throughout.

    People & Culture

    On the people and culture, the key word was “Be Open”

    • People have tons of ideas and the next day they get built.
    • They have a very open environment where you can but into any conversation and share ideas.
    • If you find a problem, or something that can be improved, you look around for the best way to fix it and often, its by doing it yourself. Google tries to minimise the red tape and burocracy that exists to allow its staff to make this happen.
    • There’s like a million open questions a million things to do and people are happy if you grab just one of them and do it well.
    • Smart People: they get over a million CVs a year and hire about 0.1% of them.
    • Facilities: Creating an environment where ideas can be freely expressed.
    • Autonomy & Responsibility: “At google we give the impression of not managing the company, because we don’t really” – why because the customer is at the centre of every decision that each person makes.
    • Sharing Knowledge & Information:
      • Transparency on Business Strategy & Financial Info
      • Who’s doing what
      • Internal Sites
      • Knowledge Sharing
      • Open Feedback
      • Internal Training and Evangelisation.
    • Sharing Knowledge & Information Consumer Focus: “Consumers are fundamental participants in the innovation process
      • Release & Iterate –> 91 different improvements in the first 90 days of the field trial project, based on user feedback. Having a listening attitude and a Beta-Culture.

    Ideas & Technology

    When it comes to ideas and technology, Google believes in “Investing in Technology and Rewarding Ideas”.

    IdeasTableThey say that ideas come from everywhere and this is something we will explore more later but for now, lets look at how consumers can become evangelists with some great clips from the video that show two individuals using the translation program to order Indian food despite the fact that they can’t speak a word.

    5:30 Consumers as Evangelists

    Think Big!

    Google firmly believe in thinking big and in issuing a “License to pursue dreams” with a fantastic attitude of taking “impossible” as a challenge with the response of “let’s do it!”.

    Their staff genuinely believe that they are making a difference in the world, quoting one of the staff on the video as saying, “we want to believe that ‘We are changing the world here!’ ”

    I believe this about what we do at Tesco Diets and Tesco Health and Wellbeing, making a real difference in peoples lives, their relationship with food and their self image and happiness. We at Tesco Diets, want to be remembered as the business that changed the health of the world and we wall want to be able to say that we were there when it started!.

    9:00 Self Driving Car

    12:25 Google Glasses

    Remember that, it doesn’t matter if you fail, if you attempt something big enough!


    Creativity, the Key to unlocking Innovation

    Finally, after looking at how Google does things, we move on or to some degree, go right back to the start, to figure out how you crack the nut that is innovation bu looking at creativity, peoples misconceptions about creativity and how it is creativity that is the key to unlocking innovation.

    Let’s talk about a key element then of Creativity and Innovation which is Intelligent Fast Failure, according to the Coursera course on Creativity, Innovation, and Change.
    I want to be a lawn

    I want to be a lawn

    Here we stop and take a moment to look at the video on Intelligent Fast Failure (located at O:\Training\Innovation\Creativity, Innovation, and Change on the Common Share) and we have a fun exercise at the end to see who can build the tallest structure with a simple A4 sheet (see video titled “Paper Tower Exercise”).


    Where do we go from here then?

    We need to ask the question of where do we go from here, what are our aspirations and I’d like to take a look at what the likes of Fitocracy are doing  when it comes to moving their proposition forward? Specifically, they speak about how “Fitocracy Users Come For The Gamification, But Stay For The Community

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  • 1 Comment

    Take a look at some of the responses we have had to this article.

    1. Emma
      Oct 9th

      Interesting stuff – as you say its all about the long hual, trust and patience. It takes time to change behavious and ‘re-condition’ a persons wow. I will aim to catch up on the Seth Godin video you recommend.

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