17 MARCH 2021

Creating a culture of innovation

Innovation isn’t a word I particularly like – I think it’s often misunderstood, overused or difficult to relate to.  But, put simply, it’s a fancy word for coming up with better ways to do things and those new things come in all shapes and sizes.  For this reason, it plays an essential role in solving problems and adding value. 

The backdrop for real estate innovation has never been clearer.  Striving to deliver exceptional customer experience whilst creating the best places and spaces has become an imperative for all property companies.  All this with a greener, healthier, more conscious view of the world. 

In finding ways to achieve this, culture and mindset are crucial.  It’s not about a few individuals thinking about innovation, we need to instil a culture of curiosity across the whole business – questioning, evolving and pursuing new thinking as the industry rapidly transforms.  This may be something least expected from a 340 year old business, but I’d actually argue Grosvenor has a huge pedigree in pioneering change in property and cities.

So, this year, in my first act as Grosvenor Britain & Ireland’s Innovation Director, we’ve put this ethos at the heart of everyone’s job.  Our staff know us best, they know all our pain points, and the challenges of daily life that those we support – retailers, residents, office workers, visitors - face.  They can help us decipher the problems and find better ways to do ‘things’, working with our customers, partners and stakeholders.

We won’t magically innovate because we say we will.  Labels don’t work but weaving this thinking into all aspects of our business should support long term success, rather than result in being a ‘flash in the pan’. 

To focus this activity, we’ve launched Future+, an employee-led innovation programme with the aim of creating a more positive future for our business, the communities where we work, and the wider world. 

We’ve empowered everyone to get involved, explicitly encouraging curiosity and a desire to make things better.  Our performance management system is now underpinned by innovation, we’ve delegated budgets to teams, and established new recognition models to drive this activity. 

It’s early days, but the signs are positive with a host of solutions already being trialled.  We are automating repetitive processes, we’ve run our first hackathon, we’re trialling new solutions to cut energy consumption, augmented reality opportunities are being explored, we are investing in tenants businesses to support their recovery, and we are trialling a digital concept to let our retail space by the hour.

Delivering results won’t be easy.  Not everything will be a success and we must accept failure and learning as part of the process, but our long term approach allows a far-sighted perspective on where we want to be.  It’s a hugely exciting time to be leading change in this area.  Collaboration will be at the heart of our innovation activity and our door is wide open to all possibilities.

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