Why failing can still earn 'bravo points'
A simple pat on the back can lead to fearless innovation.
NEW YORK — Whether an item is ordered online or picked up in-store, the most important moment in the journey is when customers unpack their purchases. This is the most important time for retailers, too.
The modern consumer is always connected and brands have to be savvy when handling near instant feedback. The backbone of the modern consumer preparation is innovation, yet innovation is often in a silo in business strategy.
The pressure to innovate coupled with a fear of failure causes a stagnant or lackluster culture.
Companies maintain innovation by convincing employees that making a mistake doesn't justify termination, according to Anthony Marino, president of thredUP, while speaking at National Retail Federation Big Show in New York City Sunday.
Companies need teams charged with pursuing opportunities in the name of innovation, and they should "put them in a safe place," said Marino.
Such a team can operate as an in-house startup with the budgets, goals and deadlines that a traditional startup would require. "The innovation teams are getting paid to learn," said Marino.
Optimally, the innovation team can fail at a relatively low cost. "You don't get multiple bravos for failing" the same way again and again, said David Behen, CIO of La-Z-Boy, while speaking at NRF.
Behen, who has been with the furniture retailer since June 2017, has a system of "bravo points" to celebrate innovation efforts, even if failure was the initial outcome because it acknowledges "educated risks."
Crashing the website or bringing down the network are the not the kinds of failures to warrant a "bravo," joked Behen, but failing fast and learning will.
Defining risk by asking "how right is this answer?" and "how wrong could we be?" helps set parameters for controlled innovation, said Carrie Ask, brand president for Men's Wearhouse and Moore's, while speaking at NRF.
If the answer to the question leans too far into a danger zone, step back, restructure the beta test and refine the boundaries.
Additionally, setting up weekly or bi-weekly cadence with an agenda allows the innovation team and the rest of the company to iron out tensions while ensuring they're not taking risks alone, said Ask.
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