This blog post was written by Suzanne Morrison, Communications Coordinator at TechAlliance.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend the London Exchange event hosted by Info-Tech Research Group (ITRG) at the Delta London Armouries Hotel. I joined more than 50 IT leaders from Canada and the United States as ITRG’s Director of Research James Quin gave his keynote address on the importance of innovation.
Before launching into frameworks, data and case studies, Quin shared a story of his time in Christchurch, New Zealand that set the tone for the rest of the day.
The Christchurch earthquake
In February 2011, Christchurch was hit by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake that resulted in the loss of 185 lives and caused approximately $15 billion in damages to the downtown core. This quake was followed by a second cluster in June, and again at Christmas that year.
While the ITRG team was travelling to New Zealand to speak at a conference, they were taken on a tour of the devastated downtown area. The fenced off “red zone” looked on the surface to have survived the quake relatively intact. Beneath the surface though, almost every single building within the affected area had been deemed structurally unsound. There was no choice but to tear each building down brick by brick.
While speaking with the event host about the damages to the city, their host indicated that while tragic, the city had an opportunity to hit a giant reset button. They now had the opportunity to redesign their city with the goal of putting Christchurch on the map as a participant in the global economy.
Christchurch had to rebuild from scratch, which posed unique challenges that the city needed to address in the interim. The city could not put the lives and livelihood of its citizens on hold as they carefully and strategically planned for the future of the city.
Christchurch turned to innovative solutions like container malls to keep the day-to-day life of the city moving forward during the rebuilding process. Whole commercial centres, built from shipping containers stacked on top of each other with cut-out windows and doors that maintained the services and businesses the city needed; coffee shops, clothing stores, food markets.
Little pockets of innovation like this have cropped up all over the southern island of New Zealand in the wake of disaster.
The take away lesson of this story according to Quin was that innovation is something that can exist for everyone, in every venture and in every aspect of life.
Quin’s address and the sessions scheduled for the rest of the day built on the story of Christchurch, and delved into the framework, data and case studies for successful innovation in the Information Technology field.
As a story teller myself, again the case studies resonated strongly with me, and I enjoyed learning through the successes of large companies including Starbucks and Macy’s.
Starbucks: process innovation
The Starbucks case study made me realize that sometimes a glass of spilt milk really can be something to cry over, especially when spilt milk was costing the coffee company millions of dollars every year.
To ensure that customers were getting a full cup of coffee every single time, staff were over-pouring the milk to be heated by just a little. The leftover milk could not be reheated or re-used and was being poured down the drain. From store to store, across the country, Starbucks was pouring millions of dollars in milk down the drain.
A simple process solution was found. The company developed a small metal ring to mark the exact amount of milk to be heated for each cup of coffee. The baristas wouldn’t over pour the milk creating waste, and they wouldn’t under pour and short-change their customers.
A small, simple process innovation saved the company millions.
Macy’s: evolutionary innovation
Macy’s like most retail companies, stocked their stores the same, priced all of their products the same, and based their business on a consistent experience for their customers from store to store, from coast to coast.
Macy’s introduced a new program that allowed store managers to adjust stock, to individualize store layout, and most importantly to change pricing. The store managers could assess the unique demographics of where their store was located, and adjust products and pricing accordingly.
As a result, Macy’s was able to realize more than $1 billion in additional same store revenue.
Through Quin’s keynote, I learned that innovation can grow out of even the most dire and difficult of situations, that even the smallest changes can yield big results, and that you can’t always apply the same solution to every situation.
For more information about this event, please visit Info-Tech Research Group.