innovation | May 28, 2013

When Times Get Tough, The Tough Innovate: Retail Speaker Doug Stephens

The United States has recently been struggling with an unstable economic climate, political polarization, disruption and adversity, retail speaker Doug Stephens says in an interview. All of those forces, however, have actually proven to have positive reperccusions in terms of innovation. At the Dx3 Conference, The Retail Revival author explained that adversity sparks innovation. "Just as humans have to innovate in bad situations, I really believe that adversity is the mother of invention," he says. Although the relatively stable economic conditions in Canada (paired with decreased competition and a strong middle class) have been good for business, a tranquil industry doesn't force companies to break the mould and try new things.

Instead of avoiding adversity, Stephens suggests that companies should embrace it. It's no longer in an organization's best interest to be a "fast follower," he explains—they should be stepping up to the plate and taking risks. In technology especially, Stephens says that the strategy has always been to let someone else take the plunge and then jump on board after seeing if the ROI has been substantial. However, as the speed of technological advancement has increased, that strategy simply doesn't work anymore. Stephens, founder The Retail Prophet consulting firm, argues that the key to success is being a first mover. "There’s no waiting on the sidelines any more," he adds. "If you want to wait on the sidelines, you better get used to being irrelevant and out of business."

It's also possible to draw from the innovation taking place in other nations as inspiration for your own initiatives. Outward thinking can be extremely beneficial to sparking inventive new business strategies when working in a stable marketplace, Stephens adds. He says Canadian organizations, particularly, are well-versed in this kind of thinking, and it would serve the nation's companies well to extend this strategy into their innovation goals. With the tech sector moving so quickly, it is best to think toward the future rather than get stuck in the past. As one the world's foremost retail and consumer futurists, Stephens always has fresh insights on the retail sector to share with his audiences. In his lively keynotes, he shows us how to break away from the pack and give customers what they want—well before the competition even sees you coming.

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