Former Crate & Barrel CEO on Innovation: ‘Bring Down the Hurdle for Experiments’

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CEOs on INNOVATION
This interview is from our CEOs on Innovation report, in the Fall 2017 issue of Innovation Leader magazine.
Sascha Bopp spent five years as CEO and COO of Crate & Barrel, the housewares and furniture retailer founded in 1962 and owned by Germany’s Otto Group. He’s now Co-Founder and COO of the architectural technology startup Blueprint Robotics.

When it comes to innovation, it really only works if the CEO is the champion of it. The main reason is that in an organization, you constantly have a ton of pressure and competing priorities. Innovation is something that never pays off right away, and it has no certainty of paying off. If you have other priorities that have immediate payoff, you will always come back to what is most urgent, right now, and put on the side any investments for the future.

But the organizations that have the spending power and the mission to dedicate entire branches to innovation—having a Google lab or Apple lab—are exceedingly rare. At Crate & Barrel, I was the key guy for anything innovation. If I thought it made sense, then it was going to happen. If I wasn’t behind it, then somewhere in the organization, someone would put the brakes on: “This is great, but right now, we have other priorities.”

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