If you understand others, you are smart. If you understand yourself, you are illuminated. - Lao Tsu
I recently had the opportunity to take the attendees at the Retail Executive Summit (RES) through a workshop focusing on their approach to innovation and change by leveraging a profile called the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI). My goal? Align each leader to recognize and understand the nuances of each of their team members. Engage each leader to begin thinking about how to effect in-store experience design by understanding shopper preferences. Inspire each leader to leave our session feeling smarter and more illuminated!
Most of us intuitively know how we would describe our leadership style. Some of us have a passion and preference for numbers and analytics while others of us 'trust our gut.' Some of us know we love diving into the process details, while other of us prefer to only focus on the big picture and the next innovative idea.
The RES session was interactive and engaging – and triggered a multi-day conversation centered on the importance of culture in addition to technology and process innovation in retail.
We started with the theory of the case around HBDI where our goal was to get everyone on the same page in understanding the 4 quadrants of HBDI. The participants at the RES were high-level executives, many in technology and marketing roles, from large and small retailers across the globe.
Many of the IT leaders had a traditional blue/green profile, whereas many of the marketing leaders had a traditional red/yellow profile. This makes sense as the way in which we are wired leads to preferences in what we are attracted to and to those things in which we are most interested (e.g., courses we study, careers we pursue). Just as leaders have different HBDI profiles and natural operating styles, so too, do various retailers as evidenced by their culture and what they are “known for” within the industry.
For example, Wal-Mart’s marketing message is all about numbers and saving you money. Home Depot’s is centered on process (getting projects done). Nordstrom is known for in-store guest experience and understands the value of knowing your name and shopping preferences (personalization). Apple is centered on innovation and fueling creativity. These cultures attract a “type” of shopper and ultimately impacts who shops, and spends, at their stores.
The research shows that gender-balanced, Whole Brain teams are capable of greater creative output than “similar” groups, and can be up to 66% more effective. While the RES attendee group was not an “actual” team, the “room” profile was “triple dominant” with strong preferences to operate in the blue, green and yellow quadrants – not surprising given the importance of these quadrants in retail.
Lastly, we applied what we learned from the HBDI to how retail leaders view change and innovation. I introduced the notion of the “Backward-Z.” In theory, we all know that whenever we are looking at a large-scale change or innovation, it’s important to start with the big picture and drill down into the details.
In practice, we tend to jump immediately to where we most “prefer” to operate. By following the “Backward-Z,” we provided an easy way to explore change and innovation while making the biggest impact. Every “preference” still has a voice in following this model.
Understanding team preferences and consumer preferences is an absolute critical success factor for retailers. Retail leaders must acknowledge, understand, and invest in creating a culture centered on knowing not only the “preferences” of their shoppers, but also the “preferences” of their own retail cultures and environments so they can best serve their shoppers.
Monique Honaman is a partner with ISHR Group. Based in Atlanta, GA, ISHR Group provides leadership assessment, development and coaching services to clients globally. Every leader has a story; every leader has a style. It’s about connecting those stories and those styles to help every leader operate in his or her most authentic manner. Monique can be reached at Monique@ISHRGroup.com / www.ISHRGroup.com.