Monday, June 26, 2006

Service Innovation

This is not for those people who think that Innovation is about boffins in laboratories or selling technology from academic institutions into industry. As the UK becomes even more dependent on service industries a new type of innovation is emerging. Beware traditional gurus and business consultants, as there is competition out there.

I had the good fortune to be in the audience at a recent design event, where one of the speakers was Ralph Ardill, founder of the Brand Experience Consultancy. He is a designer with a track record of bringing life to some of the world’s leading brands such as Ford and Coca-Cola. Those in the know will already recognise him as being the person who led the project to design and build the Guinness Storehouse, currently the most famous visitor attraction in Ireland, and voted by some as the best in the world. Not many years ago it was an empty building within the perimeter of the Guinness brewery.

His foresight, and some may say creative thinking, led to Guinness buying into the idea of the ‘Pint building’, combining a tourist attraction, training and conference facilities, exhibition and retail space and regeneration of the local area. The multi disciplinary project team was pulled from many different business areas and was installed as a pseudo board to run the development project. Everyone, even the builders, were labelled as ‘creatives’ as each person had creative input.

Project structures were kept to a minimum, transparency was key and knowledge transfer was seen as high priority. Finally they defined their own language to avoid misunderstandings amongst the many represented disciplines.

Like many great innovation projects, the team managed to get their own space and define their own work environment but with specific targets. Add to that the vision and commitment of Guinness. The result, a bunch of right brained people led by (gulp) designers turned a leaking wreck into a major tourist attraction bringing in over 300,000 visitors per year at an average spend of 35 euros. Visit and see for yourself. Is this the future?

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