the sf “innovation” center

According to Wikipedia, an innovation is “something original, new, and important – in whatever field – that breaks in to (or obtains a foothold in) a market or society.” It is something that thousands of startup companies in Silicon Valley dream to achieve in what seems like an exponentially faster pace than ever before. For larger companies, like Target, innovation is crucial in being able to stay ahead of the curve. In recent years, many large companies have gone as far as establishing labs or “skunkworks projects” in Silicon Valley to be close to the hotbed of innovation. One of the reasons I love Target is because we took the step to be one of those companies.

The San Francisco Innovation Center opened up shop at the end of 2012 with the purpose of being one of many teams within the company to understand what innovation means for Target-, a company that had just turned 50 years old. When I first joined the team, it was a group of five tech-savvy individuals in a tiny room in a shared office space (top image) and a stack of blank Post-it notes waiting to be thrown onto an empty brick wall. We felt and acted very much like a startup, only within a large company that sat thousands of miles away. And like many startups, we found ourselves on a journey to define who we were and what we planned to achieve.

For weeks we networked with startups and venture capitalists in the Valley to brainstorm and shape the direction of our office while beginning to evaluate new opportunities to test. Our wall gradually filled with Post-its of ideas we wanted to pursue and with that came new faces on the team to support our growth. With a mix of product managers, designers, data scientists and engineers, we quickly set a course to help Target deliver a great experience in-store both online and on-the-go. Whether it meant using image recognition to help customers retrieve nutrition information by snapping a photo of a product, understanding the applications of wearable devices, or using location technologies to alert customers of deals and promotions when they are in an aisle, we are constantly testing, learning and iterating  in hopes of accelerating Target’s adoption of new ideas and technologies.

As of May, we finally moved out of what seemed like a closet compared to the lovely office space (bottom image) across the hall into which we relocated. Outfitted with dry-erase walls and more space for Nerf-gun wars, there is never a dull day in the office! Fast forward to today… I’m approaching my one-year anniversary with Target and cannot believe where the time went. With spectacular teammates and such a collaborative corporate culture, I have a ton of confidence that we’ll able to “innovate” for Target. Even today, we still find ourselves brainstorming and iterating upon our definition of what innovation means for the company in response to the ever-changing world around us.

What do you think “innovation” means for Target? Leave your thoughts below.

Want to learn more about digital opportunities at Target? Explore careers here

4 Replies to “the sf “innovation” center”

  1. Innovation is a fresh start for Target, it will make us great and rememorable. It’s the bullseye logo and the talented people within the company. Innovation at Target will make history for many more years.

  2. Derrick, talking about innovation… I just heard about Target’s release of the Sustainable Product Standard. I represent, Green 360, a program based in San Francisco, that is helping high school and college students explore and hopefully choose Green Careers. What careers might we share with students that are emerging as a result of Target’s new and very cool commitment to Sustainable Products?


  3. Hi Laurie-

    Thanks for commenting! As a company, we are committed to sustainability both in our stores and at our headquarters locations. I would encourage you to explore all of our sustainability-related articles at the link below, and be sure to follow our involvement at the Net Impact 2013 Conference this week!

    Elisa & the Target Careers team

  4. Innovation is great for any company, but the emphasis in retail is great for Target and others to better understand their consumers. Updates in technology will allow Target to connect with consumers with ease and enhance business both online and in-store. Integrate innovation across the board and into the company’s culture will generate better ideas, commitment, and dedication to the brand as well as loyal customers. It is refreshing to see more and more companies utilizing innovation as a means to improve the business. Initiatives in the future will build trust amongst consumers and build a trustworthy brand that others will be willing and excited to engage with. It will be interesting to see how these innovations will affect Target and their competitors in the future, but for now, instilling these values in the culture will do wonders for the brand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *