How One Sticky Note Changed Everything at Canada Post
A little over five years ago, Deepak Chopra was fresh on the job as the new Chief Executive Officer of Canada Post. The company was still reeling from the recent recession and struggling to keep up with the increase in digital news substitutes. They were downsizing, and fast.

At this time, a proposal landed on Chopra’s desk accompanies by a sticky note that read, “Sorry, this proposal got caught in the transition, please sign and return back to me. Thanks.” Now, Chopra could have easily signed and gone about his day. The proposal was to eliminate a small innovation team that had been deemed unnecessary.

Acting on an Inkling

In all likelihood, the department had no idea that they had been placed on the proverbial “chopping block,” but before signing, something told Chopra he should meet with the group. So he made a trip down to the basement where he found two permanent and two temporary employees in an old office with limited resources.

The team was working on an iPhone app, despite the lack of a company-issued iPhone that would allow them to adequately test their work. Instead, they were bringing their own devices to work everyday in order to examine their progress.

In spite of limited resources, Chopra found the team to be extremely energetic and passionate about their project. He also recognized the importance of their work as it pertained to the Post’s future and he knew that an increased ability to deliver a seamless experience for online users would help the Post gain a distinct competitive advantage.

As such, Chopra inquired how he might be able to help the small team. “We need $30,000 and a company-issued iPhone to finish the project,” they responded. Chopra approved their request later that day.

The Results

Now, fast-forward half a decade. In 2015, Canadians tracked more than 425 million online purchases with Canada Post, and the app created by this small, forward-thinking innovation team helped to track nearly 70 percent of those purchases. The app has been downloaded by more than 1.5 million Canadians and consistently ranks in the top 10 among free business apps on Apple’s Canadian app store.

The Key Takeaway

According to Chopra, this “was more than a success story. The fact that we almost quashed it was symptomatic of a wider problem. Inability to innovate was not the biggest threat to our future – it was a failure to recognize the need to innovate.”

Persuading senior management to agree with Chopra’s approach to innovation and business development was no small task, but as more examples of innovative success began to pop up, leadership slowly came around to the importance of trying, even if that sometimes meant failing.

As Chopra concludes, “After we green-lighted one small team’s app, we saw the value of innovation. Now, we are ambitiously reorienting our business. We are aggressively moving from a mail-centric to a parcel-centric model. And, in the process, we are breathing life, purpose and future into an old-economy business that has quietly become the No. 1 parcel company in the country. We may not be a startup, but we have demonstrated we can innovate like one.”

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Posted by: DSR
Thursday, September 1, 2016
Tag: Business Start Ups
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