Big Data has been all the rage for the last couple of years as companies try to figure out how to mine all of the bits and bytes that are captured and stored from their business processes.
This weekend electric vehicle (EV) charging company Better Place announced that they are shuttering the company and liquidating their assets (WSJ Article). Over the previous few years, Better Place had raised more than $850m in venture funding from well-known investors like Morgan Stanley, GE Capital, HSBC and VantagePoint Capital Partners. Armed with lots of money and ambition, Better Place wanted to revolutionize the automobile industry by allowing EV customers to have a monthly subscription to their fuel plan just like they did to their mobile phone plan.
It seems like everyone is jumping on the Ron Johnson “failure” bandwagon the last few days. Being that he was a fellow hometown kid from Minnesota and having earned his retail chops at Target Corp I had followed Johnson’s tenure at JCPenney pretty closely over the last 17 months. When Johnson and his team launched their “Transformational Plans” for JCP back in January, 2012 I had watched the entire 93 minute presentation. I thought the presentation was articulate and very well thought through. Interestingly enough just last month I had overheard my wife commenting to a friend how she had stopped into one of the newly redesigned JCP stores and really liked it. That was the first time that I had heard her praise JCPenney in at least 10 years. Her friend had responded that she too had visited the store and really liked it. Having spent most of the last decade in retail I am always a little leery of the “sample-of-one” but two suggests a possible trend.
Earlier this month there was a great and refreshingly candid interview from the Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) with former Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley that captured his thoughts on what companies get wrong (Link Here). The interview hit on so many of the topics that I have tried to capture over the last few months that I thought I would try to highlight a few:
For the better part of the last decade I had focused my career on driving innovation for Best Buy, a Fortune 100 retailer, and the undeniable king in the consumer electronics category. When I joined the company I was focused on identifying innovative products and services that were specifically tailored for the needs of their newly identified customer segments. I then joined a team where we focused on creating new concept and prototype stores and lead the team responsible for the Escape concept store in Chicago. Eventually we shut down our two concept stores and I worked to reshape the team into an internal capability that could deliver new prototype stores (i.e. Best Buy Mobile), new retail models (i.e. Best Buy Express), and identify new growth product and service categories (i.e. Personal Transportation, Home Energy Management, and Health & Fitness).
Last June marked the fifteenth year since I graduated from b-school at the Carlson School of Management. Over the summer I had been asked by the school to do an interview and answer a few questions looking back on my experience. I had recently published a blog post on “Three Things I Learned in B-school” that focused on the lessons that had followed me throughout my career but as I prepared for this interview I was thinking more about how much had changed in the world since I had graduate. I was quickly blown away with my quick list of changes that I had written down: medical discoveries, the Internet explosion, software development, redefining business and leadership theories, and the advances in telecommunications to name just a few.
So I thought I would take a break on this post from my usual topics of failure or innovation and instead focus on a lesson in leadership and philosophy. Last week Alan Wurtzel wrote an insightful post titled “What Circuit City Learned about Valuing Employees” for the HBR Blog. The article describes how important it is to respect your employees and give them the opportunity to grow. For the first 50 years this was a core value at Circuit City but by 2000 the company’s executives had all but eviscerated that belief and by the end of 2009 Circuit City was gone. As I read this article I kept thinking that these were some very important lessons to be learned for every retailer, especially Circuit City’s last remaining true competitor, Best Buy.
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