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A Retail Publication

Issue 1 • 2010

Break-away Thinking
At the top of a new year, a new decade itself, with its faint air of mystery and published by Harvard Business School
in fact, thoughts run naturally to fresh association with renegade non-corporate professor Robert D. Austin, “Kind of Blue:
beginnings. Businesses in search of types, still doesn’t seem at home in the Pushing Boundaries with Miles Davis.”
ways to respond to the shifting economy world of commerce. Non-musicians—such as managers who
and its changing values will be urged aim to spark and sustain innovation for
“to innovate” or to “value innovation. According to Bruce Dybvad, president competitive advantage—can learn a lot
”They’ll meet with consultants and of Interbrand Design Forum, business of new notes from this story of creation
creative agencies that use the “i” word leaders who have been taught to rely on and innovation.
indiscriminately (“We innovate!”) established procedure and knowledge
reducing it to a tired buzzword that has to achieve their goals need a better under- Since it hit the airwaves half a century
something to do with being creative. standing when it comes to contracting ago, Davis’s jazz compilation, Kind of Blue
for creative services to generate improved is the most commercially successful jazz
Before any meaningful effort can be business performance. album ever which, beyond the beautiful
made towards finding a bold new way music, makes it worthy of examination
of competing, there needs to be some “I see a positive trend towards deciding in a business context.
clarifying of terms. “Innovation” means to bring creativity to the table, but a
simply “doing something in a new way.” counterproductive tendency to buy As professor Austin tells it: We conceived
In business, that translates to “the creativity by the pound,” says Dybvad. the study to get at questions about how
conversion of a new idea into revenue “Procurement officers are trying to get the creative process “detaches” from past
and profits.” Something customers want. the best deal on creativity, as though successes enough to leap to new levels
it were a commodity. It’s not. Yes, of success. You might call this “jumping
There is a growing acceptance around creativity is a process but few people to the next S-curve,” the pattern that new
the term “design thinking” based on the know how to bring about the environ- innovations typically follow. At first, early
success of companies like Apple and the ment, the chemistry and the provocation adopters use them. Then more people
consumer preference for products with that net the great, disruptive ideas that jump on board. Finally, the innovation
a sophisticated aesthetic. are actionable—that can actually move saturates the market. Often companies
your business to a new place.” have trouble getting a new S-curve going.
But “creativity” —the birth of those new Artists do, too. People want to stay with
ideas—has gone missing in the forest of A lifelong jazz aficionado, Dybvad points the thing that has brought great success.
jargon. Maybe that’s because the word to an intriguing case study recently
Miles Davis defied the critics who The “business” version of that might be: “We work in short creative bursts that tend
thought he had peaked with his previous get great materials, simplify the task to its to bring out the magical, playful qualities of
compilation, Milestones. But Kind of Blue essentials, put your smartest people on it, creation, not long drawn-out sessions that
was a dramatic break from his past, and force them to listen—to each other, to mentally fatigue. And yes, the quality
very successful style. Davis himself is a the interaction between the company and of our talent can’t be overstated. Much of
fascinating example of a “manager” of its customers, and to the market. the process is based on chemistry, an affinity
creative people and processes. His ability for staying in tune with one another. That’s
to nurture talent is legendary. Finally, Miles Davis was known to have a why not all creative teams are equal. The
the process that led to Kind of Blue is an preference for first takes. Kind of Blue was definition of ‘creativity’ is simply ‘something
example of pushing boundaries and taking recorded in two short sessions of only derived from the imagination.’ If you’re
experimentation right up to the edge of five and three hours, respectively. Short searching for creative consultants, search for
failure in the pursuit of something new; sessions help musicians’ creativity to those who know how to imaginatively frame
Davis pushed his musicians “to the flow and first takes often have a magical questions, consider multiple perspectives and
edge,” but he did it in a way that effectively quality that only exists when musicians celebrate instinct and intuition.”
managed the risks. This might be some- are approaching something without an
thing we can learn from in business as well. overly detailed plan. Working with a very Austin’s findings seem to agree: One of the
loose script forces you to listen intensely big problems in innovation is how to free
Davis was looking for ways to break out to ensure that your contribution is yourself from preconceptions, to get outside
of a straitjacket. He wanted to more fully contextually relevant to what everybody your expectations and normal tendencies,
realize the incredible potential of his team— else is doing in the moment. so that you can create something really new,
John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill without creating more risk than benefit. It
Evans. How could he give them more can be risky to push people or a process to
freedom, more empowerment? Maybe A simple framework that “the edge.” But what we’ve seen in various
he realized that radical simplicity was one cases is people, teams, and companies
way to create great music in a very short
allows for the unexpected coming up with strategies to get to the edge
time. He forced the musicians to approach “This is a fascinating example of leadership,” without suffering serious damage. We see
the music without any expectations or says Interbrand Design Forum’s Dybvad. people getting really clever at experiments
preconceptions, often by giving them “Davis did the opposite of what the music with cheap parts, or doing the risky things
minimal sketches and sparse instructions. world expected him to do. He turned inside a computer-based simulation.
Maybe he realized that this recipe could away from his previous success. I look to
be improved further: get good songs, it as further validation of our own creative Miles Davis shows us another way. Get really
simplify them as much as possible, get teams who tend to be contrary in a good people and put them in situations they
the best players in the world, and force purposeful way. can handle, but also circumstances that
them to listen to the music by not telling challenge them and their preconceptions.
them what to do. What would happen if you put great people
on a business problem and refused to let
them solve it in a habitual way?

One of the big problems in innovation is “The pressures of commerce have a way
of wringing the creativity out of business

how to free yourself from preconceptions solutions,” says Dybvad. “But the economic
downturn has changed things. Businesses
need to get to innovation quickly and
efficiently. To do that, they need the
freedom to question assumptions about
As in conversation, everything in jazz is “It’s an eternal challenge to reject the consumers and markets. Which requires
about the interaction between the players. norm, to push and be provocative without an extraordinary creative process, one that
The legendary recordings of jazz are the scaring the client to death. It’s all how you opens minds, allows for improvisation and
result of superb individual performances, frame it. We create an environment, a pushes boundaries with a purpose. Not all
great listening and interactions within a culture, for new ideas by giving ourselves creative is equal. The whole point is to bring
small number of improvisers. To make this an oasis, a bubble away from the usual something new to life that people value.
work, the players adhere to a set of shared analyses and methods. A liberating For us, that means never losing sight of the
codes—almost like language—consisting of, approach with a loose structure that prize—the breakaway innovation that gets
among other things, key, tempo, groove, engages and puts people at ease, so they you to commercial success.”
rhythm, song form, tradition, and harmony. can look at things inside out.
Chairman’s Commentary

The Most Valuable Retail Brands
There’s still plenty to be learned from the top retailers in the U.S.

We’re also looking at what’s possibly the that attracts and touches the consumer,
end of the era of scale as strategy in retail, from real estate to human resources, the
since very few brands opened the stores supply chain, store design, digital channels,
they planned to. packaging and partnerships.

The new entries onto the list are exciting Over the years, we have found that a lack of
because they demonstrate smart, consis- knowledge about how brand works often
tent branding and the courage to stick with leads companies to misallocate resources.
a long-term vision despite short-term When brand guides marketing, retail
pressure from shareholders. executives have a much greater ability to
see the trade-offs with crystal clarity—in
Of course, we always look for innovation, other words, no brand can be good at
and even though entire markets were everything. And in order to play exclusively
hard hit, at least one company will inspire to your strengths, you must understand
you with the sheer amount of non-stop where the true strength of your brand lies
innovating it did to simply maintain share. for the optimum return on investment.

In case you’re new to how Interbrand
We’ve very excited to unveil our second values companies, let me back up just a Thoughtfully,
“report card” of The Most Valuable Retail little. Brand helps a retailer create demand,
Brands in the U.S., an assessment of the not cater to demand, because of the value
companies that are most successful at it bestows on the product or service. A D. Lee Carpenter
managing their brands. strong brand ensures relationships that
create future earnings by growing customer
Because of the economic turbulence preference and loyalty. P.S.
of 2009, we expected some movement We’ll be sharing the league table and its
among the 50 top companies from last We measure the economic power of insights with you at Globalshop in Las Vegas.
year to this. Last year we talked about the brands in order to identify which business As always, we’ll have a very lively, interactive
opportunities in a volatile market where elements create that power. The role brand hospitality room where you can join us to
every consumer decision is up for grabs. plays in any business decision versus the discuss the findings, Room 701.
In that respect, the list speaks to some other components of that choice can be
very impressive plays that have moved gauged and connected to strategy. Looking
companies up in value. at business through the comprehensive
lens of brand can shed light on previously
In a year when almost every retailer unrecognized market opportunities and
poured their resources into chasing help justify new investments.
customers when ideally they would be
focused on engaging them, the fight for The complexity of marketing your brand is
survival has played out in interesting ways. increasing. In fact, the nature of marketing
Some great companies have fallen sharply. itself is changing from campaigns into inte-
grated branding programs—promotional
There are revealing insights in those efforts that are in-store and out. As a result,
falls. For example, the classic reliance on the pressure to understand what works
getting the product exactly right from has never been greater. Brand value is a
moment to moment can set a brand up comprehensive explanation of how to
for a fast and broad drop. Brands tend measure all things simultaneously.
to be more stable when they invest in
innovations to maintain their influence, Brand thinking provides a way to
difference and leadership. orchestrate everything about the business
The Great Unequalizer by Scott Jeffrey

How creativity makes you different,
and keeps you that way.
One of my favorite things about being By representing something more than just
a designer is the feeling I get when I fulfilling a need, the overall experience
realize that creativity is at play. It’s a creates an emotional bridge with loyal
bit hard to describe really, but when I followers. These “brand ambassadors”
encounter something that has a lot of come to expect that creative overtone in
creative thought and energy behind it, I their products and services. It makes that
get an instant dose of inspiration...a bit brand Unequal from the rest.
of an electric charge. And an immediate
appreciation for the results as well. When Maintaining a brand’s creative mindset can Scott Jeffrey
this inspired moment occurs during a be hard and challenging work. Personally, Chief Creative Officer
shopping occasion, more often than not, I tend to see the fun side of creativity, the Interbrand Design Forum
that appreciation inspires me to purchase. side that plays with your senses and the
I think that creativity, when applied environment around you. You can twist Scott and his team have been
against the idea of brand, can be the Great and stretch ideas to bend old paradigms part of many client success
Unequalizer when it comes to an ever into something new. It’s exhilarating when
stories over the past 18 years.
increasingly competitive marketplace. the brand has the freedom to innovate
across the full complement of consumer He believes every retailer should
The retail landscape is littered with me- touchpoints. No part the experience is too have a distinctive, ownable
too brands. “Brand A” will engage a small to consider, since those that appear personality, something that
customer with creativity or a new idea insignificant are often found to have can be “architecturalized” and
and as success mounts, others follow suit. surprising impact.
made experiential. His team
Copying is an easy way to stay current, to
level the playing field. But the brands that Most of the top retail brands employ does everything possible to
rely on innovation rather than imitation creativity to some degree. All too often, support a client’s innovative
always seem to stay top of mind, and however, I find that companies employ thinking, and his love of the
that’s a great place to be. creativity in spurts. Once they arrive at a
creative process is infectious.
solution, they let innovation run its course.
If you sit next to Scott on an
Their particular creative spirit permeates The most successful brands foster a creative
every touchpoint, and the touchpoints fluidity to continuously innovate. They airplane, you may catch him
stitch together to create a unique expe- don’t rest on their past triumphs. The brand writing and illustrating
rience in the mind of the consumer. That’s ambassadors that they create reward them miniature comic books.
when the magic happens. The retailer for their efforts with their feet, their hearts,
becomes more of an affinity brand. and most importantly their wallets.

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D. Lee Carpenter, Chairman & CEO
Jill Davis, Editor
Garrett Rice, Design/Production
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