BrainTrust Query: Heritage vs. Innovations vs. Relevance
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail Contrarian, the blog of Dynamic Experiences Group
In an interview published a few years ago in Fortune magazine, Disney CEO Bob Iger was asked if Disney’s lessening emphasis on animation was diminishing the company’s core brand strength and legacy. In his answer, Mr. Iger said that animation is a “great wave maker for the company” and that they still have a very vibrant creative engine in both Pixar and Disney animation. But he went on to say something quite thought provoking. “When you deal with a company that has a great legacy, you deal with decisions and conflicts that arise from the clash of heritage vs. innovations vs. relevance. I’m a big believer in respect for heritage, but I’m also a believer in the need to innovate and the need to balance that respect for heritage with a need to be relevant.”
Heritage vs. innovations vs. relevance. This is something that almost all retailers will face at one time or another. This is true whether the heritage comes from being a multi-generation family business, a focused corporation or a successful entrepreneur.
If we’re not careful, the past can become an impediment to today’s and tomorrow’s success. The world changes, our customers change and our competition changes. At the same time, a company’s heritage is its foundation and more often than not has been a guiding light through these changes.
It doesn’t matter if a company has been in business 100 years or 100 days, there’s always some conflict between the past and the future. In my third year of running the Bose stores, one of my colleagues suggested trying something new. I said to him, “But we don’t do it that way.” He replied, “Exactly. That’s why I’m suggesting it.” In three short years I had become stuck on doing something a certain way — and only that way — because that’s the way we had always done it. We tried it his way and he was right; it was a better way.
Heritage should never trump innovation unless the innovation is in conflict with a company’s core values and principles. In the same respect, I’ve seen innovation damage a company because of the impact on its relevancy in the marketplace. The balance that Mr. Iger pointed out between heritage, innovation, and relevance is so important to retailers and vendors, especially for multi-generation ones. Time and time again we’ve seen retailers, so much a part of retailing history, fail to survive because innovation took a backseat to heritage and, as a result, they were no longer relevant.
This isn’t just a Mickey Mouse thing; this is about survival and success.
Discussion Question: How should conflicts over “heritage vs. innovations vs. relevance” be resolved? Can you think of a good or bad example of this principle in retail?