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Industry leaders brainstorm disruptive innovation

Ann Christensen of the Clay Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation delivers transformational knowledge at the 2015 NEW Executive Leaders Forum.

What once seemed impossible is now transformative, Ann Christensen, president of the Clay Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, told nearly 350 industry leaders at the NEW Executive Leaders Forum, July 28 outside Los Angeles.

The retail/consumer goods companies who get ahead of change with disruptive innovations of their own will succeed, Christensen said during "Start now: Achieve Greatness through Disruption Innovation.” Leaders should ask themselves: What is changing now and what change should we be leading?

The three litmus tests for disruptive innovations are:

  1. Does the innovation target customers who historically haven’t been able to do something themselves due to lack of money or skill – or both?
  2. Is the innovation aimed at customers who will be delighted to have a "simple” product?
  3. Will the innovation help customers do more easily or effectively what they are already trying to do?

During table discussions, industry leaders shared their own experiences with disruptive innovation, including online education that gives skills to part-time workers or working mothers that allow them to advance their careers; using social media to communicate with young part-time employees; and new strategies for retaining high-potential Millennials.

"There is a cultural transformation happening, and Millennials are a disrupter,” said NEW Forum Co-Chair Trudy Bourgeois, president of The Center for Workforce Excellence. "For many of us who grew up in the industry, when our companies said ‘Jump,’ we asked, ‘How high?’ The next generation may answer, ‘I may have to jump ship.’”

One retail leader shared some insights from her company’s Generations employee resource group: younger employees didn’t want to refer people to the company, because they didn’t feel it was open to new ideas and innovation. "We brought in a third party consultant with actors who demonstrated what is actually happening in our company. Our leaders were asked what they personally plan to start, stop and continue to change our culture.”