The Top 10 Ways to Position Your Company for Growth
PrintThe Top 10 Ways to Position Your Company for Growth
By Barbara Rose
For the connected, information-driven food industry of the future, it won't be business as usual.

In a world where complexity is growing as economic growth slows, connecting with both employees and customers is more essential than ever before. A connected world offers rich opportunities to engage your customers, partners and employees around the world. And food industry leaders who fail to fully exploit the potential of the latest tools in operations and marketing face an increasingly unforgiving environment: Consumer markets representing about 80 percent of global gross domestic product are slowing, according to RetailNet Group, a Waltham, Mass.-based publishing and advisory company focused on chain and online retailing. "The biggest mistake a retailer can make today is to project the past into the future," says Dan O'Connor, RetailNet Group president and chief executive. "What retailers need to think about is how to bring a picture of the future to the present."

Retail Leader asked a host of experts and futurists to share their insights on creating a future-friendly food industry. Here's what they told us.

Julie Hall Bill Bishop Edward Gordon Andrew Razeghi

1. Innovate, innovate, innovate
Brainstorming to come up with the next big idea is no longer sufficient. Innovation is a discipline, just like accounting or marketing.

"You need to approach it holistically, embed it in the organization and make it someone's job," says Andrew Razeghi, an adviser to Fortune 500 companies and a lecturer at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Ill.

Instead of finding the next billion-dollar product, innovating means answering the question, "How do we distribute, merchandise and manage in a world in which we'll have many smaller brands instead of big category killers?" Razeghi says.

After leaders define innovative behavior for their organization, they need to reward it, says Lisa Gundry, professor of management and director of DePaul University's Center for Creativity and Innovation in Chicago. "People need to be able to safely experiment and try new solutions. They need support from the top of the organization all the way down."

2. Cultivate collaboration
Strong, trusting relationships with partners, customers and employees are central to creating an organization where information flows freely and innovation flourishes.

"Leaders need to look hard at the issue of trust and develop a collaborative style and process where there's a true unified effort to serve the shopper," says retail food analyst Bill Bishop, chairman of Barrington, Ill.-based advisory firm Willard Bishop and chief architect of Brick Meets Click, an online community focused on the future of retailing.

Collaborative tools from online chat to wikis will grow in importance as Generation X-ers assume leadership roles and the Millennials, known as the digital generation, continue to enter the workforce. Younger generations will demand more collaborative approaches, both as employees and customers.

"You need to embed [innovation] in the organization and make it someone's job."

— Andrew Razeghi,

Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management