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Successful innovation can be as simple as serving up mac ‘n cheese for dinner

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The word innovation often strikes fear into the hearts of many as it is so often associated with making big, “blue-sky thinking” changes. The kinds of changes which disrupt working life, really challenge the way we approach whatever field we work in, and often at great financial expense.

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But as my colleague Jon discussed last week in his post Government Digital Services: building up the blocks of incremental innovation, thinking of the innovation process as a continuous wave of incremental innovations, rather than just one dramatic leap. Not only does this spread the risk, generating predictable returns but it also allows dramatically new products, concepts or ways of working to be tested on a smaller scale and adjusted accordingly before being rolled out.

This is exactly what office worker’s lunch-time favourite Pret a Manger has just announced it’s doing by trialling dinner service at its shop on the Strand in central London. The store will serve hot evening meals like meat balls and macaroni cheese, and offer alcohol for the first time as a way to draw in the pre-theatre crowd in the area. If successful, it will roll the same concept out across other sites.

The move marks a step-change for the company, which has been fighting increasing competition over the last few years as healthy lunchtime options such as Leon, Crussh and Pod have been expanding aggressively. As Pret’s marketing director Mark Palmer explains “When you pay high rents on an established infrastructure, you have to look if you do something new in the times where you’re not traditionally as strong.” I think this is a very positive way to approach squeezes and the same principle could, and should, be applied elsewhere.

We’ve actually been working very closely with Waitrose, who sit within an equally saturated and highly competitive and lucrative market. They’ve been using our Idea Spotlight solution to gather these kind of incremental ideas from everyone in the business, including shop floor staff, to help them stand out against their counterparts.

We’ll be sharing more about their success shortly but in the meantime I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled on Pret…and maybe going down to the Strand to try some of that mac ‘n cheese.

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