Walmart: Driving Innovation at Scale

By Amy Wilkinson, Hieu Nguyen
2020 | Case No. OB109 | Length 18 pgs.

In 2014, Walmart was at an inflection point. The world’s largest company wasn’t sure how to evolve and innovate to win over the next 30 years. In a leadership change that year, Doug McMillon rose to become Walmart’s new CEO. Soon after, he hired Lori Flees, a Bain & Company partner, to lead Walmart’s Corporate Strategy and drive innovation at scale.

Flees led Walmart’s acquisition of Jet.com for $3.3 billion and together with Jet founder Marc Lore stood up Walmart’s internal incubation arm called Store No. 8. With an internal venture-capital style approach, Store No. 8 focuses on developing technologies that are at least 3 to 5 years out. All Store No. 8 companies operate as independent entities with CEOs, boards, and business metrics.

Store No. 8, however, is not Walmart’s only weapon to drive innovation at scale. Flees moves to lead the Next Generation Retail team structuring symbiotic partnerships with other powerful industry players through a variety of tools. Then she transitions again to bring “everyday low prices” to health care.

Learning Objective

This case is designed to help students learn how large-scale companies drive innovation and how to be an entrepreneur within an existing organization. Students discuss how Walmart incubates new businesses to think about and develop the steps they would use to catalyze innovation within an existing company.
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