This week the podcast goes to new depths as I make my way into John Lewis’ bunker called ‘Room Y’ to talk to innovation manager John Vary.

Watch the video below, or skip to the bottom for the audio-only version.

Through the reception, past the offices to the back of the building and beside some skip bins – Room Y is where John and his team have free reign to innovate, create and inspire new thinking in the company.

You might have heard about John Lewis’ ‘Any Shape Any Fabric’ sofa service using 3D printing and RFID tagging – that was one of John’s first projects.

We spoke about that in detail, plus his thoughts on innovation, and more. I also asked him about his techniques for getting corporate buy-in in such a big business – I found his answers really interesting.

John on…

His latest customer innovation Sofa Studio:

We took 20 shapes because this was a minimum viable product that we would put into store and see how we could learn from how customers would engage. And it was crazy. We had around 65,000 customer interactions in the 10 weeks it was in store, and we saw an uplift of around 54 percent on those shapes.

The importance of customers for innovation:

We don’t want to do stuff just off the shelf. We want to revolutionise the way John Lewis customers engage with the brand, and by really understanding them, and designing for them, and with them.

That tech in innovation can be scary:

Technology needs to be embedded in the architecture of where you are. People need to see it and believe it and want to go and explore. Because if they see all of these cables on the table, or there are electronics on the desk, people are more sceptical … I might break it, or it’s I’m not digital.

How to win online and off:

Constant curation of experience is going to touch both the digital and physical worlds and the winners will be who has the best curation.

John Vary, innovation manager, John Lewis