Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Perfectionism: A Barrier to Innovation

Source:  Best Buy
Take a look at this recent interview (start at 4:15) with Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy.   In the interview she describes how Best Buy had been piloting curbside pick-up service in some of its stores prior to the COVID pandemic.  The introduction of curbside at some stores was part of a plan to introduce the service across the store network over the course of more than a year.  Then, in a matter of 48 hours, they decided to shift the entire nationwide store network to curbside pick-up ONLY because of the COVID quarantines and shutdowns.  48 hours.  The interview asks her why it had to take more than a year to introduce such a new service prior to COVID.  Why couldn't they innovate faster?  She offers a compelling explanation of the barriers to innovation at many large firms.  Barry explains,

"As a retailer, we are geared toward perfection around process... As a brick and mortar retailer, you are not as geared to just push out a new experience and iterate quickly on the process behind it.  We are geared at putting out there a perfect SOP (standard operating procedure), and then you just run it... It was not as much in our DNA to put out there something that might not be perfect." 

Barry highlights a key barrier to innovation at many large well-established firms.  They resist introducing new products and services until they feel as though the innovation is perfect.  They don't want any failures or mistakes.  They don't want any negative customer feedback.   Yet, the desire for perfection slows them down substantially.   Moreover, it deprives them of the vital learning-by-doing that comes with soliciting feedback from customers (and front-line employees) early and often.  Every brick-and-mortar retailer, and frankly every large firm, should consider this discussion about perfectionism and ask whether it's holding their organization back too.

No comments: