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.
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