Building digital disruptive growth engines for retail

I got a little excited last week when I read that John Lewis are opening an innovation lab. Opening such a lab was a recommendation from my research into disruptive innovation in retail. But what does it take to open such a lab and what challenges are businesses likely to face?

JLab isn’t the first. Argos also recently created a “digital hub” to spur retail innovation. But why create a separate skunk-works type business unit? Clayton Christensen (the father of disruptive innovation) certainly recommends this approach. He calls it the disruptive growth engine which is made up of the following components:

disruptive-growth-engine-600

This model would present a number of challenges for many businesses.

How do you justify the investment before it’s required? How will a busy senior executive run and protect the growth engine over the long-term? Is it viable to pull your best employees from their day jobs into a disruptive growth engine? What do you do to change the culture of the business? How do you make the innovation lab accountable whilst also recognising the long-term strategic imperative?

Jeff Bezos has some words of wisdom:

There are a few prerequisites to inventing … You have to be willing to fail. You have to be willing to think long-term. You have to be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time. If you can’t do those three things, you need to limit yourself to sustaining innovation … You typically don’t get misunderstood for sustaining innovation.Jeff Bezos

The logic seems to be that in order to win the disruptive innovation you need to build something completely separate from your day-to-day business. I don’t disagree with that but it seems that having a Bezos-esque CEO who is willing to make major long-term bets on what could be next is critical.

Your thoughts?

David Sealey is a trusted adviser to senior executives on getting the most from their investment in digital and data. David created Storm81 as a place to share his passion for business, digital technologies, multichannel marketing and everything else around these topics.

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  • You are such a valuable resource. Found you through SmartInsights. Thank you for sharing your expertise so generously on here. I’m about to miss a serious deadline from letting my inner geek takeover as I devour your entire site. All the best, SAIA.

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