Developing a Culture of Innovation

How leaders can purposefully take innovative ideas from the c-suite to the c-store.

July 14, 2021

Inspire Innovation Through Culture Convenience Matters Episode 292 Cover

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—A convenience store that doesn’t continually innovate can find itself left behind. “[Innovation has] become a staple of business strategy,” said Soren Kaplan, managing principal of Innovation Point, during this week’s Convenience Matters podcast, “Inspire Innovation Through Culture.”

Kaplan recently presented at the NACS Leadership Forum on his book, “The Invisible Advantage: How to Create a Culture of Innovation.”

Kaplan pointed out that with all the disruptions businesses faced—COVID-19, social unrest and more emphasis on the environment—more people are recognizing “that innovation is important for growth and meeting customer needs. … If you don’t innovate, you could get disrupted right out of the game.”

Innovation can become a competitive advantage. One example he gave was how to tap into the footprint opportunity convenience stores have.

“Keep it simple and recognize who you’re serving and what their needs are,” Kaplan said. “The problem with the word innovation these days is everybody thinks it’s like this big disruptor—that you have to be the next Apple or Netflix. But that’s not what the majority of innovations are—they’re things that are about meeting consumers needs and pain points.”

At the end of the day, retailers need to remember who they are serving and continually think about ways to serve them better. “The best starting point is to figure out what are the problems that exist that you can solve for real people,” he said. “It’s really as simple as that.”

One of the biggest excuses for not being innovative is the time factor. “I don’t know how many times I hear people basically say they don’t have time to innovate,” Kaplan said. “That’s just code for saying you don’t have time to think about your future.” He encouraged retailers to figure out the smallest experiment they can do to test their biggest assumption. “How do I test these things at a very low cost without much effort to give me the answer?” he asked.

Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 280 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at Episodes have been downloaded more than a quarter million times by listeners around the world.