Last month, I participated in the second-ever CEO Summit, held at the tail end of the winter Las Vegas Market and sponsored by International Market Centers and Eller Enterprises. The two-day event was aimed at C-level executives of gift and home companies.
The slate of speakers covered a range of timely topics, but there was an unplanned recurring theme in almost all of them: market disruption. The opening keynote by marketing expert, educator and author Luke Williams set the tone with a deliberate focus on disruption. Williams walked us through the process of arriving at truly transformative ideas, the subject of his book “Disrupt: Think the Unthinkable to spark Transformation.” The key paradigm shift in his presentation was allowing yourself to be “wrong” at the outset in order to reach the right answer in the end. If you’re right at the start, he says, you’re only making an incremental innovation, a path that will become narrower and narrower over time “until your customer has forsaken you for the new offering you never saw coming.” Ask your employees to think like entrepreneurs that would put you out of business to expose your vulnerabilities and address them.
Charles Garcia, a leader in the Hispanic community who has worked for four U.S. Presidents, talked about opportunities in the domestic Hispanic market as well as in Latin America. While we may already be generally aware of the demographic disruption afoot, Garcia drove the point home by illustrating that the Hispanic population has a median age that’s almost 14 years younger than non-Hispanics, creating higher lifetime spending potential. His main takeaway was to treat Hispanics as an emerging market with its own product needs that may be unique to the specific cultures within it, not just addressing them with a marketing approach.
Other CEO Summit speakers with a predilection for disruption were Vivek Kundra, the first Chief Information Officer for the United States, who emphasized the increasing role that data will play in planning our businesses, and HGTV co-founder Susan Packard, who revolutionized the way consumers think about decorating and home renovation. Fortunately, the only speaker without a disruptive angle was economic forecaster Samuel Wardwell, who projected a 2 to 3 percent increase in economic growth this year and relatively smooth sailing ahead.
It was not lost on me that the host venue for this event has itself been a disruptive force in the industry. For me, that only underscored the possibilities that lay ahead for those courageous enough to challenge existing clichés.