Yesterday VentureFuel and Be The Machine hosted the LIFT (Leadership in Fast Times) Summit at Nasdaq in Times Square. Our goal was to bring together an elite group of leaders to discuss best practices in navigating change, driving innovation and excelling in a climate of relentless disruption. I wanted to share a few key take-aways from the all-star line-up of leaders as well as a few quotes that were captured by attendees and shared on their social media feeds from the event – #liftsummit – all hail, the wisdom of the crowd.
The Change-Maker and Gifting Chief
Featuring: Beth Comstock (Former Vice Chair of GE and Author of Imagine it Forward) and Chris McCann (President and CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.)
Leaders are the ones who must set the tone for change, but Change-Maker-In-Chief isn’t the right name, as innovation and change cannot be one person’s responsibility. It needs to be an organizational mindset.
Create support from the top for exploring new technology and innovation and set aside a “learning” budget to explore the new. If not, the new becomes the now and you are already behind.
When Beth said, “If you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it” I almost walked off stage to get a notebook – what a line! Both Chris and Beth talked about the value of storytelling in helping to imagine out the value of innovation. What is the headline down the road? Write your press release for the future, and reverse engineer to achieve that press release.
Chris talked about leading by creating an approachable and collaborative culture where “We don’t celebrate failure, but we certainly encourage learning from mistakes and trying new things.” They then traded stories of FailCon (Beth) and The Millennial Vase of Doom (Chriirs) which essentially showed that mistakes can actually be leadership moments to drive future growth and a culture of progress. You need to break the fear of failure and recognize these aren’t failures but perhaps indirect paths to the right solution.
Listening to your consumers, watching what new tech and platforms they are trying out and+ co-creating with them enables you to stay ahead of tech trends and gain first mover advantage. Whether that is the 1-800 number, Dot Com, or now, conversational commerce - all of which 1-800-FLOWERS.COM has been a first mover in. Beth’s trendspotting advice was to keep a list of “interestingness": when you see something once, note it as interesting; twice, note it as coincidence; and a third time, declare it a trend and explore.
Quotes from the Crowd on Social:
“The key to being a Change-maker-in-Chief requires picking your head up and spotting the trends. Empowering people to act and on those trends is key to making that work.”
“Is it a trend? Ask yourself, is it now, next or never?”
"If you can't tell it, you can't sell it"
“Find the internal champions, the change agents and empower them to try new things, explore, test.”
"The future of gifting is about human connection”
The Professor and The General
Featuring: General Jim Mattis (Former Sec. of Defense) with Professor Scott Galloway (NYU Stern and author of The Big Four and The Algebra of Happiness)
Have you ever been to a business conference where a speaker gets a standing ovation, before the panel even begins? That is how the crowd greeted General Mattis. Scott masterfully guided the conversation from the battlefield to the board room to the White House as the two of them dove into learnings for the business executives in the audience. The quotes below are a snack-able sampling of the wisdom shared. My biggest takeaway is that a leader’s job is to set clear vision, then take -your hands off the wheel and give your team the freedom to execute to achieve that vision.
Quotes from the Crowd on Social:
"Protect the mavericks in your organization."
"Take ownership of your own learning and development."
"Trust is the coin of the realm."
"Put others first."
"First listen, learn, help, and then lead."
"Leadership is dependent on transparency and alignment."
"Humility is paramount."
Experiences + Technology + Authenticity
Featuring: Alicia Tillman (CMO, SAP), Jim Mollica (SVP of Global Consumer Engagement & Commerce, Under Armour), Bob Carroll (VP Business Development, California Milk Advisory Board) and Andrew Green (Global Dir of Innovation, AB InBev)
Alicia began by discussing the importance of having a NorthStar mission to guide an organization (BHAG: Big Hairy Audacious Goal), and further about the importance of finding your napkin moment (your founder story) to help you refine your companies’ authentic purpose. That authenticity was core to each panelists’ business and guides their decision making around positioning, storytelling and innovation. As Jim put it, “At Under Armour, we use our brand purpose as a brand filter for decisions." Bob shared that CMAB’s purpose and focus is supporting real food, made by real families.
Selling in new and different is about solving unmet consumer need and getting key internal stakeholders to see the value you are providing them. Andrew spoke about the importance of getting what’s possible in front of those people who are nose-down focused on the day-to-day to get them excited and encourage buy- in. Bob shared the importance of in-person meetings to iron out any impediments and create organizational momentum and enthusiasm. By getting stakeholder buy-in, delivering value and exceptional experiences for your customers – you empower your organization to develop new ways of thinking that drive growth.
The group riffed on the gap between what customers expect and what they get. That the true purpose of innovation is to find ways to close that gap. Alicia cited the experience management that SAP focuses on throughout the entire customer journey. Bob detailed how the Real California Milk Accelerator (the largest dairy contest of all-time) is bringing new liquid milk products and ideas to consumers based on their evolving expectations. Jim talked about the connected ecosystem that Under Armour has created with Map My Fitness, which is the largest digital health and fitness community, and how much of their innovation begins by thinking of customer challenges – untether the run, have a real-time coach and creating create community. Andrew discussed how The Beer Garage is tackling unmet needs across AB InBev to tackle solve a diverse set of challenges from dynamic creative optimization to AI credit lending.
Unmet consumer needs + experiences + story telling leads to change.
Quotes from the Crowd on Social:
“Data will always have a place in marketing, but creativity and storytelling brings brands to new levels.”
"We live in a world where consumers demand authenticity"
We set out to uncover how to Lead in Fast Times and what became clear was that authenticity created a NorthStar that guides these leaders as well as their teams. It's not about “Command and Control” but about solving unmet needs and creating feedback loops with your team and your customers. Authenticity of purpose creates guidance, so as technological change and disruption arise (and they will), your team can navigate to solve your consumers' unmet needs.
Check out our 5 featured Startups from the LIFT Summit: LIFT Summit Startup Pitch Recap