Key Takeaways: Head Start >Digital eLearning Series

NGA Foundation & Cornell University: Head Start >Digital eLearning Series

Each year, through the generosity of PepsiCo, the NGA Foundation holds its Executive Leadership Development Program at Cornell’s campus in Ithaca, NY. This year, like so many of our member companies we had to shift our operations to be able to safely provide quality leadership training to independent grocers and wholesaler. With Cornell, we developed an entirely new program,  held in a “virtual” format, with both speakers and attendees connecting using digital technology.

Below are some of the key learnings and takeaways from the week.

COVID-19 has accelerated changes already underway in our industry. 

Digital technology served as a key, foundational element of the retail customer experience throughout the early days of the pandemic, and our lineup of program speakers shared how the events of this year are impacting our industry and the consumer, in so many ways that will likely serve as the “new normal” for retailing moving forward.

Transient advantage is the new normal. 

Digital retail experiences have played a profound role in the lives of consumers here in the US and around the world through this crisis..  Everything we thought was going to happen has been disrupted, and while we might be tempted to throw up our hands and say our strategy is no longer useful, Professor Bill Drake made a case for the Transient Advantage where Speed is paramount.  Fast and roughly right decision making must replace slower more precise planning that we are accustomed to.

Small retailers can leverage their agility to compete with the large chain stores

Digital transformation is accelerating all areas of business especially in the Supply Chain.  Small retailers should leverage their size and agility to source locally and rapidly implement online shopping and curb-side pickup to effectively compete with the large National Chains.    Large retailers have more centralized decision-making whereas decentralized decision making can work to the advantage of smaller retailers.  Professor Vishal Gaur introduced scenario planning tools and methods to optimize the supply chain and improve profitability as well as benchmarking data across the retail sector.

Values and authenticity will represent true north for the people leading and going through this transformation.

Clarence Lee’s message to the participants focused on digital marketing and the need to invest in tech talent and data scientists.  He posed the question, “what is agile decision making?” and made a case for defining Objectives and Key Results and linking this to Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and the need to connect new tools with an old concept: digital marketing + the Customer Funnel.

Steve Sauer, Sr. Lecturer spoke about how the transition to digital changes the way retailers and manufacturers do business.  He spent time on each of the areas: digital consumer, store operations, digital marketing, supply chain, back office, and digital fresh the digital transformation.   The discussion shifted to leading people through this transition, introducing Haidt’s model of the elephant, the rider, and the path.

Firms that provide process and resources for trying out new ideas and new ways of approaching problems will foster a creative culture. 

Creativity is the combination of novelty and feasibility.  Professor Beta Mannix explained that we tend tobelieve we want creative ideas – but in truth, we have a love/hate relationship with creativity – often rejecting novel ideas for being “just too weird.” Many of the greatest ideas that we now accept as “necessary” were initially rejected for being crazy – everything from personal computers to overnight delivery services.

Retaining gains in online pick-up or delivery as we emerge from COVID-19 measures will depend heavily on creating value (through convenience or services not offered offline) or replacing some of the unique benefits from the in-store experience (e.g., by substitute social experience).

Vague or uncertain information leads consumers to make decisions and associations based ongist. This leads to the perception that consumers care deeply about things that are only noisily correlated with what they truly care about (e.g., health versus organic or local).   Online retailers can use the same fuzzy reasoning to lead consumers to accept price differentials. Trust in the food industry and the government to provide a safe food system lags trust in consumer advocacy groups.  While the increase in use of online pickup and delivery has been dramatic under COVID-19, it has been a small slice of consumers.

What is the Politics of Business and the Business of Politics?

Our nation is divided, and the outcome of the upcoming election with have implications in our personal and professional lives.  Professor Glenn Altschuler led a fireside chat on the Business of Politics and the Politics of Business.  Hyper-partisanship (fueled by gerrymandering and primaries, which create safe districts and give ideological zealots in each party more power to select nominees) is dividing the nation.  Americans’ relative lack of interest in politics, dislike of politicians, and (therefore) willingness to buy the policy “package” of their party. Glenn’s thoughts on the two candidates for President.

Trump must get massive turnout from white voters without a college education; win back support from senior citizens and suburban women.  More trusted on the economy than Biden.

Biden runs as a “wounded healer,” more likely than Trump to effectively address the Coronavirus and provide quality health care.

The future is inevitable, but it is not predetermined. 

True leadership influence happens at the nexus of Ethos (Credibility), Logos (Logic), and Pathos (Emotional Connection) Of these, Ethos is the most foundational. It comes from perceived expertise, perceived trustworthiness, and genuine self-confidence — the latter of which stems from knowing who you are and what you stand for (Core Values).  As Professor Risa Mish pointed out, you manifest your Core Values to others by consistently aligning your behaviors with your beliefs. That is true for you as an individual leader, and is also true for your organization — if you claim that your organization stands for X, Y, and Z, everyone in the organization has to behave in ways that consistently manifest those values.

Retired Four Star General George W. Casey, Jr. talked about VUCA Leadership.  VUCA is an acronym that stands for “volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.” Leaders must understand and counteract the impacts of the VUCA world to lead more effectively today.  General Casey gave the participants a “battle tested” plan to thrive.

Scott Bearse closed the week with thoughts on the future of retail.  Indeed, the penetration of eCommerce sales revenue on overall retail sales has been on the rise for years now but has been accelerated by the pandemic.  Technology is driving exciting developments in the Retail Customer Experience challenging retailers to translate the critical elements of a brick & mortar shopping experience to digital.  The normal rules do not apply today.  Scott shared the key lessons below.

  1. Be ready be agile
  2. Inspire and enlist the team
  3. Survive and negotiate
  4. Follow the customer
  5. Be a gamechanger
  6. If you fail. Fail fast and learn
  7. Make your own future

If you were unable to attend the Digital Learning series Head Start, Cornell has an open enrollment program this November called Rethinking Retail + Brands.

Cornell University’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and its SC Johnson College of Business is excited to announce the launch of the first ever ReTHINKING Retail & Brands live Virtual Conference.

ReTHINKING Retail & Brands is an intensive three-and-a-half-day virtual program where participants interact directly with leading Cornell faculty and industry experts to develop new strategies to address the significant challenges facing retailers and brand owners today. Divided into themes of Strategy, Operations, Technology, and People, and guided by the Architected Solutions Framework, this immersive program will provide actionable ideas and practical tools that will help you unlock new value streams for your organization and customers. You will walk away better prepared to not just survive but thrive in today’s turbulent and fiercely competitive retail and consumer packaged goods landscape.

Virtual Conference Details

Length          3.5 Days

Dates            Nov. 10 – Nov. 13th

What You will Learn

  • Understand how the consumer has changed and retail is undergoing rapid transformation and acceleration
  • Rethink innovation and brand strategy and apply this to your business or brand
  • Learn about supply chain scenario planning and create a framework to become more agile and flexible
  • Leverage Deep Tech to unlock new value streams for your organization and customers and steps to digitize your business
  • Discover how to change your organization and deliver high performance results
  • Build and expand your network

What You will Earn

Participants will earn a professional certificate in ReTHINKING Retail & Brands from Cornell University’s Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics, SC Johnson College of Business*.

To learn more: Click Here to Sign Up

*The Dyson program was recently ranked number 7 according to U.S. News & World Reports’ annual ranking of colleges and universities, and Cornell University ranked number 9 in overall scores ranking according to the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings.