Tag Archives: delivery

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of February 2023

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of February 2023Drum roll please…

At the beginning of each month, we will profile the ten articles from the previous month that generated the most traffic to Human-Centered Change & Innovation. Did your favorite make the cut?

But enough delay, here are February’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. Latest Innovation Management Research Revealed — by Braden Kelley
  2. Apple Watch Must Die (At least temporarily, because it’s proven bad for innovation) — by Braden Kelley
  3. Unlock Hundreds of Ideas by Doing This One Thing (Inspired by Hollywood) — by Robyn Bolton
  4. Using Limits to Become Limitless — by Rachel Audige
  5. Kickstarting Change and Innovation in Uncertain Times — by Janet Sernack
  6. Five Challenges All Teams Face — by David Burkus
  7. A Guide to Harnessing the Power of Foresight (Unlock Your Company’s Full Potential) — by Teresa Spangler
  8. Creating Great Change, Transformation and Innovation Teams — by Stefan Lindegaard
  9. The Ultimate Guide to the Phase-Gate Process — by Dainora Jociute
  10. Delivering Innovation (How the History of Mail Order Can Help Us Manage Innovation at Scale) — by John Bessant

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in January that continue to resonate with people:

If you’re not familiar with Human-Centered Change & Innovation, we publish 4-7 new articles every week built around innovation and transformation insights from our roster of contributing authors and ad hoc submissions from community members. Get the articles right in your Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin feeds too!

Have something to contribute?

Human-Centered Change & Innovation is open to contributions from any and all innovation and transformation professionals out there (practitioners, professors, researchers, consultants, authors, etc.) who have valuable human-centered change and innovation insights to share with everyone for the greater good. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

P.S. Here are our Top 40 Innovation Bloggers lists from the last three years:

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Delivering Innovation

How the History of Mail Order Can Help Us Manage Innovation at Scale

Delivering innovation

GUEST POST from John Bessant

2022 was a record year for home delivery of parcels and packages. After the Covid-19 lockdowns the idea of remote shopping became an even bigger reality and changed the behavior patterns of millions. It’s a habit which is hard to break — even when there are increasing disturbances in the delivery end of things like strikes and negative publicity surrounding how packages are actually handled and delivered. Estimates of the market size for this activity vary widely but suggest that it is worth close to $500bn worldwide.

But where did this revolution begin and what’s the innovation history behind remote retailing? For that we need to go back a couple of hundred years and locate ourselves in the beautiful hills of Powys in Wales. In the valley alongside the river Severn is the small town of Newtown, a market center since the 13th century. And in 1856 the home of Pryce Jones, a draper’s assistant who rose to take over the business in which he worked. And for which he had big plans.

He renamed the company the Royal Welsh Warehouse and specialized in selling Welsh flannel. His vision grew out of a belief in the wonderful powers of the soft warm fabric crafted from wool from the sheep he could see on the hillsides all around him. But it was also sharply focused on the potential size of that market — if he could only grow it. Which he did courtesy of two key enabling innovations which reached sufficient maturity to give him the channels to reach his imagined global market.

The channels were the postal system and the railways. Neither was new by this time but they were now coming of age — and enabling hitherto unrealizable dreams to take shape. Back in 1654 Oliver Cromwell had established the idea of a state postal system but it was another 30 years before a reliable system began to operate around the city of London. And another hundred years before Parliament authorized the creation of ‘Penny Posts’ in any town or city; while the idea grew in popularity it was still expensive and local in impact. It wasn’t until the major reforms of the Post Office in 1840 that the idea of a Uniform Penny Post was established, facilitating the safe, speedy and cheap conveyance of letters. With it came the first pre-payment in the form of postage stamps (beginning with the famous Penny Black).

Pryce Jones was quick to spot the possibilities in the newly-emerging postal system and began offering his wares via mail order. The offer was simple; place your order via mail and it will be delivered the next day (effectively anticipating Amazon’s Prime service by 150 years and offering faster delivery!). To explain to his market what he had to offer he developed an illustrated catalogue from which they could choose what they wanted; he launched this in 1861.

He was able to fulfil this delivery promise because the railways had also come of age; from the ‘Rocket’ which George Stephenson demonstrated in 1829 the idea of modern railway network had developed rapidly. The railway came to Newtown and Jones was quick to exploit its possibilities, building a warehouse next to the station and opening his mail order business alongside the post office. He expanded several times and in 1879, he built the Royal Welsh Warehouse, a tall red brick building in the centre of Newtown which still stands today.

His idea paid off; within months his business had started to grow and by the 1880s he had an international operation, counting amongst his patrons included the royal houses of Austria, Britain, Denmark, Germany, Hanover, Italy, Naples, and Russia. Valuable customers not only for their purchases but also for their implicit endorsement. Because Jones wasn’t just skilled at utilising new channels; he also played the role of ‘conveyor’, someone actively encouraging and promoting the use of the new business model along these channels. His mail order catalogue wasn’t simply a price list of items, it was a form of storytelling, complete with pictures and expansive descriptions. He understood the principles of marketing, the need to get consumers to buy into a vision of something which they wanted — and then he was able to fulfil that demand.

(He was also a gifted product innovator; amongst other things he is credited with the invention of the sleeping bag which he patented in 1876 under the name of the Euklisia Rug. He exported the product around the world, at one point landing a contract with the Russian Army for 60,000 rugs.)

Pryce Jones wasn’t alone; like so many innovations the idea of mail order retailing came to several people independently and around the same time, reflecting the changing environment and the enabling technologies. For example in Austria the Thonet family began selling their furniture in 1859 using a mail order catalogue and taking advantage of postal and transport innovations. In fact Pryce Jones’ model was predated by the US luxury goods company Tiffany’s who in 1845 launched their ‘Blue Book’ — arguably the world’s first mail order catalogue though targeted at a very small, select (and wealthy) market.

It wasn’t long before other entrepreneurs began to see the possibilities beyond extending the reach into new markets for particular products. They realised that there was a second side to the new market-place — the suppliers. These days we’re used to seeing examples of ‘platform’ businesses everywhere we look — just glance at your smart-phone to see the array of apps (representing goods and services) being offered across the platform of its shiny screen. But it was 150 years ago that this kind of business model first emerged.

In 1872, Aaron Montgomery Ward from Chicago started his own single-page mail order catalogue; it listed 163 items for sale. He’s credited amongst other things with coining the sales slogan ‘satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!’ The model worked; ten years later the ‘Wish book’ catalogue listed over 10,000 items. Most important was the fact that Ward didn’t manufacture many of these; he effectively created the platform across which the market in multiple goods and services could operate.

In doing so he paved the way for many others spotting and exploiting a similar opportunity. For example in Canada one of the largest department stores was the Eaton Company originally founded in 1869 to sell dry goods, backed by a growing network of factories.

Eaton Company Catalog

Timothy Eaton saw the possibilities in mail order and in 1884 released its 32 page catalogue. He expressed his vision of a network stretching across the sub-continent of Canada in a note accompany the catalogue; “This catalogue is destined to go wherever the maple leaf grows, throughout the vast Dominion. We have the facilities for filling mail orders satisfactorily, no matter how far the letter has to come and the goods have to go.”

And down in North Redwood, Minnesota Richard Warren Sears , a railroad services agent. began a sideline business by purchasing a batch of watches which had been refused delivery and selling them on to local people. In 1886, he used the profits he earned from it to set up a mail-order business selling watches as R.W. Sears Watch Company. That year he met a watch repairman named Alvah Curtis Roebuck and in 1887 the two of them relocated their business to Chicago. In 1888 they launched a printed catalogue offering a range of luxury goods like watches and jewelry; by 1892 this had grown to a 322 page catalogue which included sewing machines, sporting goods, musical instruments, saddles, firearms, buggies, bicycles, baby carriages, and some clothing.

Sears Roebuck

What Sears and Roebuck (and a growing number of others) were doing was developing the new business model of a platform, using the catalogue as the focal point across which remote retailing could expand. But this wasn’t simply a matter of printing and distributing a catalogue; what they were doing was mastering the art of building an ecosystem for retail innovation. They recognized that simply advertising a wide range of products and services to an expectant public would be a very fast way of losing money and reputation. In order to make the system work they needed to pull together a network and get it working to deliver ‘emergent properties’ — where the whole offered more than the sum of the parts.

Making remote retailing work meant finding ways to procure (or manufacture) a wide range of products and then holding them in a warehouse so they are available for quick delivery. But holding stock takes up space and costs money so the trick is to manage the logistics of sales forecasting, order processing and stockholding, plus being able to ensure rapid and reliable delivery. Which places emphasis on reliable channels — as Pryce Jones discovered.

And underneath this web of suppliers and deliverers is the challenge of cash flow — how to ensure enough money comes back into the system fast enough to cover costs and return a profit which helps keep the supply side engaged. New models for financing and payment began to emerge — not least the concept of paying cash on delivery.

The model expanded throughout the world and was often at the heart of a move from remote shopping to direct retail. The origins of the 20th century department store include a sizeable crossover — for example Kastner & Öhler was the first mail order business in Central Europe. The company was founded in 1873 in Austria, releasing its first mail order catalogue in 1885; as it grew it opened its first department store in 1894 and went on the become one of the household names in European retailing.

Mail order was a powerful business model which worked well during most ot the 20th century — but as we’ve learned so often about innovation, nothing lasts forever. New developments opened up new possibilities and it is not always the existing players who are best placed or able to exploit them. In the early 1980s a new channel began to appear — the internet. It opened up not only new opportunities in terms of potential reach, mirroring what Pryce Jones had seen in the emergence of uniform postal systems a century before. But it also changed the underlying thinking behind some of the core warehousing and logistics underpinning the mail order model.

Jeff Bezos was aware of the opportunity and had created a list of possible sectors to target with an internet-based model. He chose books, and quickly realized that he could not only reach a huge market via this new channel but he could also service it without the high costs of actually warehousing and distributing the books. He recognized the ‘long tail’ possibilities; with his model he could reach people with highly specific needs and connect them to suppliers who could meet that need. He also saw that the underlying business model was available to anyone — the advantages would come to those who could scale early and build a platform. As the major bookseller Barnes and Noble pointed out in their submission to legal authorities in their lawsuit of 1997Amazon was not a bookseller at all, it was a book broker.

Where Amazon and others paved the way for a new model to emerge, putting the platform kind of business on steroids, others were slower to recognise and adapt. The German firm Quelle had grown since its founding in 1927 to become one of the biggest mail order operations in Europe, with a dedicated logistics and warehousing operation near the town of Fürth in Bavaria. It was, along with Tempelhof airport in Berlin, one of the largest industrial sites in Europe stretching over nearly 7 hectares. But a failure to adapt fast enough to the rapid changes being brought about through internet retailing meant that by 2006 it collapsed into bankruptcy. All that remains today is the 90m high Quelle-Turm (Quelle Tower) built in 1964 and now preserved as a landmark to a different industrial era.

One of the features of the model Pryce Jones developed was the stimulus it gave to local producers, enabling the region around Newtown to prosper with new businesses. And something very similar has happened with the internet-driven mail order business built across the huge Alibaba platform in China. In 2003 Jack Ma launched the idea of a Taobao marketplace where people could trade goods and services using the ability of the platform to reach a large and distributed market and display content in rich and interesting formats.

This model is comprised primarily of small businesses but has grown to be the largest digital retail platform in the country and has spawned many ‘Taobao villages’ — areas where over 10% of the population is engaged in online retailing. It has had a huge impact on the rural economy; by August 2019 there were nearly 4500 Taobao villages in 25 provinces and estimates suggest up to half of the rural population has benefitted from this. It is equivalent to around 600,000 small shops and trading businesses employing around 10 million people with an economic value of around $195 billion worth of e-commerce sales.

The story is of course not over. With the rising expectations of a growing market for instant delivery has come a challenge and opportunity around the ‘last mile’ challenge — how to move from the digital world to physical delivery of products. And whilst there are many major traditional logistics players now operating in this space there are challenges on the horizon — for example drone delivery or even 3-D printing of a growing range of physical products. The virtualisation process has only just begun though it may still be a while before the Welsh flannel beloved of Pryce Jones emerges spinning out of a 3-D wool printer in our homes.

But perhaps the best kept secret is the one shrouded in Arctic mists and dating back hundreds of years. Somehow a single enterprise (the mysterious S. Claus operation) has managed the challenge of reliable overnight delivery on a global basis to millions of expectant children; there are clearly lessons still to be learned around wish fulfilment innovation.

You can also hear this as a podcast or watch it as a video.

If you’d like more songs, stories and other resources on the innovation theme, check out my website or listen to my podcast. And if you’d like to learn with me take a look at my online course here

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, Unsplash

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Re-imagining Drive Thru Restaurants – Innovation or Not

Food Locker Pickup Pizza Hut

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed our world with the subtlety of a sledgehammer and now billions of people around the world are under ‘stay at home’ orders. In many communities restaurants and bars are closed or only allowed to deliver meals or make them available as ‘to-go’ or takeaway orders.

But, even with the plethora of food delivery services in the United States and elsewhere, people still prefer drive-thru to food delivery when they choose not to dine in. But what are you to do when your restaurant isn’t configured with a drive-thru window?

One answer would be to re-imagine the drive thru and takeaway by learning from the automats of the 1930’s and 1940’s (the last one in New York City closed in 1991) and Amazon Lockers.

Food Locker Automat 1936

You can create lockers for warm food and lockers for cold food. Before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began spreading across the globe some companies were experimenting with food lockers combined with mobile ordering at ballparks:

Food Lockers with Mobile Ordering at Ballparks

And, Pizza Hut was experimenting in Hollywood with Pizza Lockers to eliminate interactions with employees (picture top of article).

One could imagine that as Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdowns stretch from weeks from months, and the virus lingers for the next 12-24 months, and fears of individuals linger potentially even longer, restaurants may want to re-imagine how they configure and leverage their physical space.

Is it worth redeploying an external wall of the restaurant to optimize to go or takeaway orders?

The idea isn’t that difficult for an individual restaurant to adopt as there are companies manufacturing food lockers already, and they can be combined with PIN’s to unlock them that can be delivered by email or mobile platforms and reset after each use.

During a virus outbreak (or on an ongoing basis) sanitizing wipes could be provided or if the lockers are on the street, then one employee could be staffed for delivering food from the kitchen to the lockers and then sanitizing the lockers on the outside of the restaurant.

Have you seen this type of solution growing in your part of the world?

Innovation or not?

Accelerate your change and transformation success

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Delivering Pizza to the Homeless

Delivering Pizza to the HomelessInnovation can come from a number of different potential sources of inspiration and insight. The most typical source of course is understanding customer needs. This is the source for the whole design thinking movement, but there are still a number of other potential sources of inspiration and insight for potential innovations. But, in this case we will be examining a potential innovation building not only on an unmet customer need, but one that iterates on previous attempts by a company to address the same unmet customer need – the desire to have a pizza delivered when you’re not at home.

In the world of pizza delivery, the process has always had at its core, a street address, because the context for both the pizza ordering system and the delivery driver was linked to the world of the street map. But sometimes customers want to enjoy a hot delivered pizza in a place that doesn’t have a street address and companies like Domino’s Pizza had no way to address this scenario. The street address had become an orthodoxy.

By understanding this unmet customer need and challenging this orthodoxy, Domino’s arrived at the concept of the pizza door on a beach in the Netherlands back as early as 2009 (if not earlier). The phone number for the local Domino’s Pizza was on the door and after the order was placed the Domino’s Pizza delivery person would bring the pizza(s) to the door and ring the doorbell to let the customer know when they have arrived.

A creative solution to the unmet customer need, an interesting invention to challenge the street address orthodoxy, but definitely NOT an innovation as it can’t scale to replace the street address centric approach to pizza delivery.

But, Domino’s Pizza hasn’t given up iterating on this unmet customer need and recently launched their latest approach to solving it which they call Domino’s Hotspots.

Domino's Hotspots

The concept is simple:

Stop defining delivery locations by street addresses, and instead define them by GPS coordinates.

As soon as you stop limiting potential delivery locations to places with street addresses and instead view it through a mobile-centric lens (including GPS coordinates and location-based services) then you can start mapping popular locations without street addresses to GPS coordinates that both customers and delivery drivers can use to get pizzas to customers, while also sending customers text updates of both the progress of the order and the pizza’s ultimate arrival at the chosen location.

It’s all driven out of the Domino’s Pizza mobile app, which also makes it a great way to create customer loyalty, to gather customer behavior data, and to drive repeat business.

So, what do you think?

Innovation or not?

Accelerate your change and transformation success

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

Value Access Example – Domino’s Steady Pizza

Helping People Extract the Value You’ve Worked So Hard to Create

I came across this great video from Domino’s Pizza Brazil that shows their new Steady Pizza concept.

It’s a perfect example of the Value Access component of my Value Framework for Innovation, and how Value Access can help you better deliver the value you’ve created for customers (literally).

The concept of the video starts with a simple question:

How do we help to reduce the chances of a delivery fail?

I love this.

The result of the concept is a piece of delivery equipment that not only helps to reduce the chances of a delivery fail, but also serves as a great marketing gimmick.

Too many people after working so hard in the Value Creation step of innovation (which in large part is invention), just stop there and think they’re done. Don’t!

So ask yourself:

Value Access — What can we do to help people access this value?

Value Translation — And even more important, you must keep in mind how you are going to translate that value for people, to help them understand how this new solution will fit into their lives AND is better than their existing solution and worth the trouble of replacing it.

Always remember:

Innovation = Value Creation (X) Value Access (X) Value Translation

Build a common language of innovation on your team

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.