Published 05. Mar. 2020

Master your true leadership in retail

Digital Business
Digital Transformation
Retail and Consumer

The retail industry is currently evolving to keep up with Industry 4.0 and John Brahim, CEO & AI Business Architect at Maistering BV believes that digital innovation will be even more at the heart of the fast-changing sector. Brahim shares his knowledge and insights in this article on the path to master leadership in retail. While talking about Master Collections, a brand-new orchestration platform, he shares five practical guidelines on incorporating digital innovation and applied AI. Good reading for those who aim to co-shape the future of retail.

Innovation Transforms Consumers, Enterprises, and Leadership Alike

As the retail industry undergoes a massive transformation with the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a new type of leadership will play a crucial role in leading the charge towards digital transformation of the retail sector. Brahim outlines the steps that retail leaders might take to reinvent themselves and shape Retail 4.0, a lesser-known twin of Industry 4.0.

Retail is shaking on its foundations as applied AI will infuse the current digital innovation wave. Like now, the sector will be driven by consumers that demand digital era shopping and delivery experience allowing them to combine ease, ratio, and emotion fitting to their style and choices. However, the way these preferences will be expressed, perceived and translated across the channels, will become much, much more sophisticated.

Brahim continues, “This forces retail leaders into numerous, never-ending transformation journeys. Maistering’s sole mission is to augment retail leaders and their teams. Master Collections, our platform is an unparalleled set of AI-based collaborative services to orchestrate magical business journeys. Master Collections require limited set-up effort and allow retail leaders to reinvent their play in a natural way, both the big picture and the day-to-day work one step at a time. But I don’t want to emphasize the platform, as innovation is always about leadership: it takes a visionary leader to adopt a visionary approach.

As it is with all emerging technologies and innovation, organizations and businesses must be prepared for change. Legacy thinking often slows down or even impede change, however, Brahim points out there are established ways to facilitate innovation in mature organizations.

Innovation is always a mix of technology, new paradigms, new instruments with behavioral change – mental and emotional. First tip: acknowledge that innovative change is now at the core of your job and lead by example by embracing AI in how you orchestrate and collaborate.

Any new method, process, product or service introduction that comes out from innovation typically results in change – change in people, ways of working and unlearning and learning. Brahim believes that it is essential for leaders to build the right team, inspire them with the right focus on impact and empower them with the ability to intelligently move ahead.

Of course, to ensure a successful innovation process, the onus will be on leaders to be effective in their role to lead both employees and partners towards sustainable business growth.

Since innovation comes from everywhere, leaders should have the ability to tap into the employee base, get ideas, and suggestions, nurture them and develop solutions to implement them – thus ensuring a successful innovation process. As this is a collaborative world, this is equally true for partners. Since most change is people-related, it is imperative to keep a good eye on the emotions, motivate people and ensure that the team is on board and along with you on the journey. Second tip: assure that you use the new generation collaborative tools to help your team and your partners undertake these crucial journeys.

Integrating Digitalization and Partnership To Push Innovation

It is an illusion to think that one can lead to an era of digital innovation without embracing digital behavior and AI augmentation. Leaders need not be technologists themselves but indeed must become hands-on in using AI in everything they do. Key is to act holistic, really focus on transformation journeys from early intention to final touch down and impact. Third tip: leverage AI in all facets of your job: exploring, aspiring, plotting, inspiring, disrupting, mobilizing, executing.

Brahim understands that a leader has many business journeys running in parallel and has to bring insights at their fingertips, frame them from multiple lenses to translate them into actions that will lead towards profitability and customer delight. All of these can be aided by AI-technologies that exist today.

And Maistering understood this as their platform, Master Collections, addresses this topic by providing leaders the ability to run magical business journeys with essence, beauty, and impact.

“Innovation today is now more than ever a collaborative process. It is about undertaking experimental journeys with customers and partners in ways that are joyful, fast, rich, and impactful,” notes Brahim.

“Master Collections has an entire atelier of management techniques to shape transformational journeys. Some leaders are biased towards purpose, most are centered on action, some are too content-based, many have difficulty with the emotional side of change. No wonder so many digital initiatives fail. Fourth tip: teach yourself how to look at magical journeys from different angles, also the ones that do not come to you naturally.”

But how to drive AI-based innovation with a legacy systems landscape? 

Brahim acknowledges that legacy systems often do not really help business leaders “to be on their toes – listen to customers, their buying choices, their experience of the service they get; and to partners and stakeholders to leverage this information in real-time and respond quickly to the changing dynamics of their business.

Still, he doesn’t plead for wall-to-wall implementation of new systems. “Too often, enterprises lose themselves in costly re-engineering of their systems landscape, only to discover that they end up with a new generation of legacy. IT efforts should definitively focus much more on collaborative data harmonization in the sector. Fifth tip: pay more attention to emerging external content services and leverage legacy systems better by combining them with new generation orchestration services.

Dealing With Your Strong and Weak Points When It Comes To The A.I. Revolution

Understanding both their AI and behavioral change is a necessity for businesses to lead in retail 4.0. True, new players often have an advantage in the first part of the equation. So, Brahim believes that established leaders should learn from new leaders to leverage AI-based innovation. He recommends established leaders to:

Relentless drive towards digital experiences and willingness to bet on AI as it will change everything. Then again: established leaders know how to mobilize people. The combination will fuel journeys that combine speed, sophistication, and common-sense feasibility.

Of course, in the retail industry, innovation can come from different areas of technology. The reason Brahim has strong convictions that Artificial Intelligence will take center stage is based on how it will impact the shopping experience.

The real revolution is still to come.AI will completely change the connection between consumers, retailers, producers, and the products & services: with conversational interfaces, cognitive abilities, virtual experiences, and proactive personal suggestions and conditions.

In addition, AI will also lead to new levels of digitalization and automation of production and distribution. For businesses to lead in Retail 4.0, they need to start implementing AI as a core part of their strategy.

Ultimately, Brahim is confident that the retail sector will not suffer, but benefit from AI-driven innovation and that “business leaders adopting AI technologies; new ways of working, will orchestrate magical journeys that allow them to master their true of retail leadership.

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