Great ideas, and lessons, can come from anyone. Yes, even a 5-year-old.
As reported by the Washington Post, 5-year-old Alice Jacob wrote a letter to the fashion retailer, Gap.
In the letter, Alice urged Gap to consider going beyond the “pink” and “princesses” stuff common in their girls section. Instead, she recommended more variety in the clothes they offer; clothes that were cool and non-gender specific.
Letters, emails, tweets, and others forms of communication between consumer and company aren’t uncommon of course. But what is common are the canned responses company’s typically reply with such as “We’ll take that into consideration,” which almost certainly means no action will be taken.
Gap, on the other hand, did things differently.
Jeff Kirwan, President and CEO of Gap, personally responded to Alice’s letter, which you can read in its entirety here. It’s not everyday you get a response directly from the CEO of a large publicly traded company.
Responding to the letter, Kirwan agreed with Alice’s assessment that there should be gender neutral clothing. He could have left it at that and said thank you for the feedback. Instead, he went step further by talking with Gap’s designers to develop more fun clothing that boys and girls can enjoy together.
Thanks to Alice’s letter, change happened.
Why is this story important and what does it have to do with innovation leaders?
Two important lessons from a 5-year-old
There are two important lessons that every company can learn from this story.
1. We live in an era of consumer choice where products and services alone are no longer the absolute differentiator. Just look at how Facebook is copying many of Snapchat’s features and functionality.
In 2019, the biggest differentiator is customer experience. Beyond building products and services, this should be the highest priority for companies.
Consumers have a seemingly unlimited amount of options and won’t hesitate to take their business elsewhere if they’re not treated right. Having a mechanism in place to listen to customers and get insight into their experiences with your business is crucial.
How Kirwan handled the letter from Alice is a perfect example of customer service. He listened, empathized, assessed the situation, and then took immediate action.
2. A core belief at Planview IdeaPlace is that great ideas can come from anyone, anywhere, at any time.
We see it all the time with our customers.
From AT&T’s viral “No Texting While Driving” campaign that was hatched by a Front-Line Customer Support Representative in a Detroit call center, to a secretary who saved a well-known luxury car and aero engine manufacturer millions of dollars in lifetime revenue loss with an idea that was inspired by the movie Minority Report.
Tapping into the collective intelligence of employees, customers, partners, or general public is the smartest strategy any company can use to spur innovation. As the AT&T and manufacturer examples perfectly show, you never know where a great idea will come from.
As Justin Bariso says in his Inc. article covering the Gap story, “So often you can get the best feedback from the person you’d least expect to offer it.”