Reality Show Innovation

Here’s an interesting tidbit from Business Week magazine:  Last year, Best Buy selected four groups of salespeople, all in their early 30s, and had them live together for 10 weeks in an LA apartment.  Think “Real World” meets creative collaboration.  One successful idea that emerged from this hothouse is the “Best Buy Studio”, which provides web design services for small businesses.  The person who had the initial idea said “we talked about business models while making spaghetti.”

This is a rather extreme version of what I call an “innovation lab” in my book GROUP GENIUS.  Innovative companies have been finding success with this technique for at least a decade: relocate a cross-functional group of ten to fifteen people to a new location for anywhere from two weeks to three months; release them from all day-to-day responsibilities; and charge them with coming up with great new ideas.

Whirlpool has a similar effort under way called “Real Whirled”. They send 8 sales reps to a house in Benton Harbor, Michigan for seven weeks.

The manager who ran Best Buy’s “real world” idea incubator, John Wolpert, had previously done it at IBM–in their “Extreme Blue” incubator in Austin, Texas.  If you’re interested, he charges $75,000 for each ten-week session (that includes room and board).

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