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Erik Qualman’s 5 ways to design a culture of innovation

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In the digital age, leading by example can be tough for retail executives that don’t know where to begin.

At NRFtech 2017, best-selling author Erik Qualman explored evolving technologies that are empowering retailers to be disruptive — or risk becoming disrupted. Qualman challenged attendees to see these guidelines as a starting point to develop habits that can inspire innovation from within.

  • Simplification. The moment someone starts multitasking, Qualman said, their IQ drops by 10 points. Eliminate multitasking and help your team stay efficient by taking breaks. Employ the 20-20-20 rule to keep minds and eyes fresh. Qualman reminds us that an innovator’s secret sauce isn’t adding things, but taking them away.
  • Truth. Try searching your name on Google (if you haven’t already). The results may surprise you; often, they don’t align with your vision for yourself. Write down what you want those results to be in a few words and structure your goals around it.
  • Action. Cultures within companies don’t embrace failure. But it isn’t failure itself that makes companies successful, it’s how you fail — evaluating and applying lessons learned from failures. Qualman stressed failing fast, failing forward and failing better: Consider ways to turn your brand’s very public misstep into an opportunity to become “flawsome.”
  • Map. Strong leaders know that plotting and planning a course for the future — and sharing that vision internally — is key. It should be firm in destination but flexible in the path; when times get hard, Qualman said, this can help keep the competition at bay. 
  • People. Retain people and attract talent by “posting it forward.” Showcase your employees’ success on your company’s social networks. The public display of their accomplishments are ultimately a demonstration of your organization’s value and culture.

This process, Qualman said, can help figure out your “digital stamp” on life. What do you want your “digital legacy” to be? It allows you to help drive your own future, rather than being driven by it.