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Innovation thinking ... the Chick-fil-A way
Posted By: Elynor Moss on October 15, 2019

Learn from a top Chick-fil-A exec how the company innovates.

Come meet Chick-fil-A’s Leo Chan, senior innovation lead, at our upcoming Restaurant Innovation Summit in Cleveland, Nov. 5-6, where he’ll share thoughts on innovative thinking and its effect on business.

Up until six or seven years ago, Chan didn’t even think “innovation thinking” was a field.
Now, he says, “It’s a discipline people are starting to really value and it’s going to impact more industries, jobs and the hiring process. It’s not just about how we work. It’s about posing evocative questions that allow us to ask why? why not? and what if? It enables us to think and invent more effectively.”

From our recent conversation with Leo:

Two approaches to innovation: At Chick-fil-A we’re doing a lot of things right when it comes to innovation. First, it’s everyone’s job in the organization to think about how to improve things, on both large and small scales. I’ve worked in two different models of innovation: decentralized and centralized. In my experience, the decentralized model, which we use at Chick-fil-A, is powerful because it encourages everyone – not just members of an innovation team – to think about how we can innovate in all areas of the business.

Top-down buy-in: The company has good people and a dedicated innovation space, called Hatch. Our innovation framework came from CEO Dan Cathy in 2009, and started ramping up in 2012. For Dan, innovation was something passed down to him. His father, Truett Cathy, was a true entrepreneur and business leader. He inspired innovative thinking in all of his kids. From there, it flowed down to the business’s leaders and employees.

Culture-building ingredients: I am big on building an innovation culture, however, there are several components involved. If you don’t have a process for innovation – which includes an ability to understand, imagine, prototype, validate and launch the project – you need to establish one. The people, process, words and definitions [or taxonomy], programming and communication channels, all help to establish the innovation culture.

Putting the customer first: From an innovation point of view, things like upstream ordering, where we take orders outside by iPad so the order is ready by the time the guest arrives at the point of sale, that kind of thinking translates into actual deliverables for our customers, operations, and teams. Innovation thinking affects everything – even our supply chain and distribution. We are looking at different ways to do all kinds of things all the time.

Restaurants require innovation thinking: It’s such a different society today. No business is safe from disruption, and the only way to prepare yourself is to do things better, make them more human-centric. That’s what this is about – thinking about humans and opportunities and using those opportunities to build a better customer experience.

Register for the Restaurant Innovation Summit today. https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ereg/index.p...

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