'Get into trouble with the leadership,' advises Tesco Labs Nick Lansley

Nick Lansley, head of open innovation at Tesco Labs, says innovation requires collaboration and needs a culture that is tolerant of failure.

Tesco Orchard: social network allows customers to try products before national distribution
Tesco Orchard: social network allows customers to try products before national distribution

Lansley argued at the Internet Advertising Bureau’s Mobile Engage conference yesterday that people who take a risk should not get sacked just because it goes wrong.

He said: "You obviously don’t bet the company on that product – you should have tested it a bit, but you should be trying things that don’t work out [because] otherwise you might never know."

As part of this philosophy, Lansley agrees with the saying that "it is better to ask for forgiveness than for permission" and pointed out he has risked this himself by launching a Tesco app without permission from the leadership team.

An unwritten part of my objective is that I should get in trouble with the leadership about twice a year.

He added: "An unwritten part of my objective is that I should get into trouble with the leadership about twice a year."

Engaging customers with the development of products is also important because they "might take it in an interesting new direction", according to Lansley.

Tesco previously preferred not to display products to customers too early on in the development cycle, to avoid giving anything away to rivals like Sainsbury’s and Asda.

However, this strategy led to the creation of applications that were not always what customers wanted and later required alterations, said Lansley.

Tesco’s The Orchard social network was described by Lansley as "very interesting" because it allowed a customer to join and try products early on before they were rolled out nationwide.

Lansley also credited the "great ideas coming from small companies" and said the Rainmaking Loft start-up incubator it supports financially was a "pool of wisdom".

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