Creating a Lasting BZZZ with PECO Innovation Labs

Published on September 25, 2018 in PECO Culture and Leadership & Development
Allison Lembright
Allison Lembright
Graphic Designer

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This month’s #PeopleofPECO theme is focused on our BZZZ-worthy associates, retailers, and industry trends. Allison Lembright has created quite the BZZZ at PECO since she joined the company in 2014. In that time, she’s gone from co-op to full-time graphic designer -and recently pushed herself even farther as a leader of PECO’s Innovation Lab. Read her story below.
 
One of PECO’s core values is to “always keep learning.” There are numerous opportunities for continuous learning at PECO through programs such as PECO NOW and PECO University, including a variety of development courses, training opportunities, and even a full week dedicated to improving leadership skills.
 
Last year I had the opportunity to get involved with the PECO Innovation Lab, a program that allows associates to go even further with their development. The Innovation Lab is an annual program that places associates from various departments on a team and assigns them a real-life business question our company is facing. The team develops a solution and ultimately presents their research and findings to the executive team that reviews it for implementation.
 
Well, it’s been a year since I was a leading participant of the 2017 Innovation Lab. We were assigned to research what the shopping center of the future consisted of and how Phillips Edison could fit into that future. After much research and brainstorming, our team decided that it wanted to design a shopping center that created community buzz and excited consumers through shopping, living, working and playing all in one location.
 
For four months, I balanced my normal workload while leading the Innovation Lab. While it took a lot of hard work and dedication, I learned more about what I am capable of through this experience than anything else I had done in my professional career. As our next Innovation Lab is kicking off with a new group, I’ve reflected on what I learned during my own experience a year ago. Here are the top lessons learned:
 
1. I need a push every now and then.
 Before the Innovation Lab, I was comfortable. Every day at work was different, but I knew the gist of what to expect. Read through the marketing requests. Answer emails. Send marketing materials to leasing agents for approval. It was time for me to be pushed out of my comfort zone and the Innovation Lab pushed me beyond anything I had been used to.
 
To start, I had not done that much research in years. I was a little rusty. I had to push myself to focus and to find the proper retail insights that fit with what my group had planned for the shopping center of the future. I pushed myself to learn more about the retail industry. I pushed myself to understand what new technologies are being made to make shopping easier and more futuristic. By the way, researching about the latest technology revolving around grocery-anchored shopping centers and retail is way more exciting than it sounds. Driverless cars delivering groceries? Shopping from your sofa through virtual reality apps? Using touch screen mirrors in dressing rooms that recommend more clothing for you to try? How incredible does this sound?!
 
After all was said and done, the extra effort was worth it. Our team exceled, and I learned a lot that has continued to benefit my position to this day.
 
2. I enjoy being a leader.
I am an organized person I actually enjoy creating to-do lists and scratching off what has been completed. This organization helped me stand out as one of the leaders of the Innovation Lab. We had so many ideas for the shopping center of the future that we needed an organized person to keep them all straight and to keep us focused. I was encouraged by my manager, Emily Kendall, to go for it and be the leader that the group needed. Her faith in my ability helped me push myself to take on that role.
 
For the first time, I was willing to be that person. I scheduled every meeting and took notes during every discussion. I made sure we were hitting our deadlines. I delegated assignments to the group so that everyone could participate. Turns out, I liked this role. I felt confident that I would be able to keep everything straight as well as hold everyone – especially myself accountable for our jobs. And selfishly, I loved the feeling of everyone depending on me to help guide our way.
 
3. I am more than just a “graphic designer”.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being the graphic designer at Phillips Edison. I am lucky that I get to be creative every day, my team trusts my professional design eye, and that I never have the same day twice. But what the Innovation Lab taught me is that I am more than what the name card on my cube says.
 
Through this experience, I was provided with a great opportunity to collaborate with other departments to develop and improve our leadership, creativity and critical thinking. For the past year, I have been taking this new knowledge and experience and bringing it to my role where I can provide a better service to my team and company.
 
After the Lab
One year after our presentation, the ideas we came up with have continued to create a BZZZ at PECO. After our Innovation Lab, theCOLONY was established. This new group includes a variety of associates that continue the research and development of the shopping center of the future. This cross-functional team is a continuous investment towards the project that our group started- and proof that our work is valuable to the company. Not only will this ongoing group continue to promote cross-department collaboration, it will work towards improving our shopping centers and the company as a whole. And I’m proud that I played a part in starting the BZZZ.
 
Allison Lembright
Allison Lembright
Graphic Designer