Nordstrom Innovation Lab Youtube image
Nordstrom Innovation Lab weblogo
Nordstrom Innovation Lab weblogo

Here’s an oldie but very goodie about rapid experimentation, rapid prototyping, and validated learning. Useful when considering your hypothesis-driven entrepreneurship. Watch the video then read the short text and answer the review questions.

Nordstrom is an American chain of luxury department stores ranked 188th in the Fortune 500, with annual revenues of USD 18 billion. From 2011 to 2014, Nordstrom’s Innovation Lab acted as an intrapreneurial tech start-up within the huge retailer. Its impact extended into the entire company when in 2015 it pivoted to make innovation ‘everyone’s job’.

Here’s an example of rapid experimentation in app development. During its heyday, the Innovation Lab undertook a ‘flash build’, using lean methodology to create a new iPad app to help customers buy sunglasses (see videos). Occupying the sunglasses department of the Seattle flagship store, the team erected a sign saying ‘Innovation Testing in Progress’ and gave itself a week to construct the idea, build the feature, and launch it.

They walked into the store not knowing what the features were or what would be most useful to build. The team ‘wanted to get to the point where we had something that was good enough.’ The team was composed of a human factors designer, a design thinking catalyst, an open innovation specialist, and an iOS developer.

The first thing they did was create a ‘user story’ map by interviewing actual customers and putting Post-its on a whiteboard to depict the customer’s journey toward purchase. They designed an easily changeable paper pretotype, including simulated buttons and actions.

Within minutes they had feedback from real customers. The team brought their user experience to the task, saying to customers ‘I’ve created a paper version of an app, and I’d like you to use it like you would normally use an app.’

Using the results of the paper version, on day two they had the first working software pretotype.

On day three they had the first version where customers could look at images of themselves with different sunglasses side by side.

On day four the corporate buyers came down to test out the system. Oh oh! They immediately noticed a polarisation problem, where the glasses appeared black on the iPad image because the video cancelled out the polarisation.

By day five, with all the feedback, they launched a counter-top version with animation, titling and zoom, and which recorded metrics.

The outcome was an iPad app that allowed customers to view side-by-side pictures of themselves wearing different pairs of glasses. The team was able to build (and multiply iterate) a full-featured iPad app in a week.

They left the department with the app running as an experiment. When they returned, they found that the experiment had not caught on. After more interviews and observations, they discovered that it was not because the customers did not like it; it was the salespeople who had to be convinced. Eventually they rolled it out to sunglasses departments across Nordstrom.42

Questions

1         What would you do for a one-week experiment?

2         Do you think it would be hard to have a design lab inside of a large corporation?

3         What lean methods did the Nordstrom Innovation Lab use?

4         Can intrapreneurs in large companies benefit from lean methods?

Howard Frederick
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Howard Frederick

Leading world expert in Entrepreneurship Education
Have coached 1000s | Design Thinking trainer
Greater Boston Area
Howard Frederick
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