Innovation at Extra Space Storage not only helps us keep our competitive edge, but we believe an innovative workplace also results in happier, more motivated team members. As one of our core values, innovation provides opportunities for employees to harness their creativity, think outside the box, and ask “why.”
Here to share some of the lessons and skills they’ve learned in leading innovative teams are Extra Space Storage leaders Jeff Stott, Chandra Maddukuri, and James Hafen.
Significant Innovation Can Happen Through Small Changes
Jeff Stott, Senior Vice President of Information Systems Technology (IT), creates an environment of innovation by encouraging small continuous improvements.
“There is a misconception that innovation has to be a significant and sweeping change. In my opinion, thousands of small innovations are better than one or two large innovations,” says Stott. “That approach is harder to duplicate and creates a more sustained competitive advantage.”
Stott’s team conducts retrospectives and post-mortems after a project is delivered to encourage ongoing innovation and improvement. The intent of these exercises is to reflect on what worked well and what can be done better.
“The spirit of the post-mortem is that it is blameless. It allows teams to be self-critical without fear of punishment,” Stott shares. “I love this practice because it lets everyone participate, and no one needs permission to make improvements. Over time, this builds momentum and creates significant lasting change.”
Great Employees Are the Key to Innovation
Chandra Maddukuri, Senior Vice President of Data Science & Revenue Management, believes that change doesn’t just come from the top down. It takes courage from employees to pursue new ideas and innovation.
“A new idea often takes us into unknown territory. All of us fear the unknown, and businesses are no different. In my experience, employees are capable and comfortable pursuing new ideas,” he shares.
Maddukuri believes that change for the sake of change does not add value. Innovation must be purposeful in that it should drive value and be appropriate for the spirit of the company. It takes sound judgment on the part of the employee to recognize a good idea and execute it.
“In most cases, success or failure of an idea boils down to whether the execution is effective. Great employees are good at getting things done well. They are the key to innovation,” Maddukuri adds. “Teams and organizations that succeed at innovation are the ones that attract and encourage such talent and give them the space to succeed.”
Courage, capability, judgment, and execution—that’s a lot to ask of employees. But Maddukuri says, “Such employees exist at Extra Space Storage, and I have been lucky to work with many of them in my career.”
There’s Always Room for Improvement
James Hafen, Senior Vice President of Product Development, recalls that forward-thinking and innovative technology has been part of the Extra Space Storage culture since his early days with the company over 20 years ago.
Seeking out better properties, creating better branding, focusing on operations and technology, and finding unique ways to delight customers are all areas that Hafen points out as innovative successes. Even so, Extra Space Storage is a large, complex organization and continues to face new challenges.
“We can sometimes think that storage is a simple business that doesn’t benefit from differentiation and innovation,” says Hafen. “While that may be true in some regards, there is almost always room for improvement. Moreover, it is often the case that ‘simple’ businesses are prime targets for disruption.”
Being a disruptor will occasionally lead to failures or mistakes. Sometimes, the best ideas and execution attempts can’t explore every facet of potential risk. Learning quickly from failures and moving forward is the objective.
“I strongly believe that a culture of innovation will continue to separate Extra Space Storage from the competition,” Hafen concludes. “Coupling exceptional digital experiences with our already exceptional on-the-ground product and people will continue to create the best customer experience possible.”
Interested in a career with Extra Space Storage? Learn more about our employment opportunities.