Simple innovation & fear

I met a really smart person yesterday. It was a stand up conversation after a business breakfast seminar where like minds often gather to share a few ideas before parting ways. In this short time, it must have been less than 10 minutes, she managed to impart upon me two very innovative ideas that I immediately wanted to share on startup blog. They may not be new, but she put a certain spin on them and I’m yet to see them in market. A smart brand that actually cares would find a way to implement them.

1. The Full Supermarket Trolley:

Supermarkets should have an isle for their most valuable customers – those with full shopping trolleys. Instead what they have is specific isles for their least valuable customers – those with hand baskets. What supermarkets should have is a policy that says if your trolley is full – you never have to wait behind a person with one or two items or a hand basket. Maybe you press a button for the ‘golden trolley lane’ and someone comes from out the back to help you or something. Counter intuitive sure, but this is the type of thinking real marketers do, while engineers and logistics managers chase efficiency based on non customer metrics.  While it’s easy to argue that it is all too hard, and that there is no quick way to scan all the items of a full trolley, it really is just old world thinking getting in the way of actually caring. In the age of ‘self scanning’ checkouts, surely every person using a trolley could self scan their items with a mobile scanner as they place them in the trolley.

2. The 19 hour Hotel Room:

We check into hotels in order to have somewhere to sleep and it is expected that this is largely overnight. But in this day and age, why should it be? With hectic business travel and strange flight times, surely the period of stay should be up to the customer. So why don’t any 5 star hotels allow you to choose the 19 hours you need? It is because they are more concerned with the rostering of their cleaning staff than they are with their paying customers. The regular business hours or work day is yet another legacy relic based on a passed era. Surely the staff can be reorganized around the customers?

Both of these are simple innovations we are yet to see. Both are technically possible. Both would create interest and attention. Both would reward valuable customers. Both are yet to happen because of inertia and fear.

A funny thing about these innovations and fear, is that the person who shared them with me didn’t want me to link back to her in this post. I immediately told her that I wanted to share her ideas with my readers and give her the due credit, but she didn’t want it. When I asked her why, she mentioned that some of her clients where large supermarkets and she didn’t want to upset them or big note herself. She said I could blog away, take the ideas….. And while I can see her point, and respect her decision, I can’t help but think that the world (and maybe her business partners) are missing out on more of her wisdom because someone just might be offended.

Ironically, the same fear that stopped her ideas being implemented in hotels and supermarkets, is the fear she is suffering from. The fear of upsetting the status-quo for a minority, at the expense of making things better for the majority. In reality almost all innovations have a cohort of detractors, it’s just the way it is. We should push things forward regardless.

Startup blog says: Ideas need to be free and shared, and if our sentiment is positive, nothing should stop us.


8 thoughts on “Simple innovation & fear

  1. Love the hotel room idea. And the Golden Trolley Lane – thats great stuff.

    One thing though on the supermarket front…I’m afraid your friend has been (long) beaten to the punch with Self Scanner trolleys. Both Sainsburys and Waitrose in the UK already have this facility. You just pay at checkout and they randomly check the odd basket / trolley here and there. Plus you swipe your loyalty card at the start so all the data is collected / points are awarded. Alas our retailers continue to lag (although did you know that Australian shoppers have the highest propensity in the WORLD to self-scan when the facility is made available?).



  2. Sadly, our world is filled with so many great ideas that people seem to sit on for fear of rejection. Or is it apathy?
    I’ve seen it in boardrooms, right through to the coffee shop with that mate who is always cooking up great ideas but never really can muster up enough energy to give it a red hot go.
    But as you rightly point out, gotta stay positive and keep sharing.

  3. Didn’t know that Ed. Although as soon as bar codes are replaced by RFID then we can just walk through a scanning facility and paid automatically which will make life better for everyone…. Or even better, someone can disrupt the supermarket system and give us a seriously on-line solution to wasting time in a supermarket…


  4. Yep, I reckon this is a big part of why startup culture is becoming so strong… we are just sick to death of legacy businesses dragging their feet into the future… so we just go around them!

  5. Wow, I absolutely LOVE the full supermarket cart idea! Not only would those with full carts benefit, but it would free up lanes for everyone else. Having just one or two things to purchase and being stuck behind a full cart is just as frustrating as the opposite situation.

  6. Great shopping trolley idea to make customers who buy more, feel ‘special’. However, I can see where your friend is coming from, It would also reduce point of purchase sales supermarkets get from customers waiting in line; who make those last minute decisions to get eg. freshmints, a chocolate bar or a gossip mag.

  7. I’ll add a caveat that the self scanner service offered by Sainsburys & Waitrose isn’t available in every supermarket. Waitrose do however, open up tills as soon as they see a bit of a queue forming at the other tills, which is far better than my experience of other supermarkets who have about 24 checkouts but only a max of 10 open at any time.

  8. Love the hotel idea too. I travel a lot in my job & for years I have often booked a second night at the hotel just so I can check out later if I have covered a night shift. So much better if I could choose my 19hrs & save the company money.

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