THE JOURNEY YO REMARKABLE RETAIL

Steve helps organizations understand and respond to retail disruption by creating customer-centric, memorable and profitable growth strategies.

Extremists

Over the last few years I’ve gotten a fair amount of mileage out of my catch-phrase “Physical retail isn’t dead. Boring retail is.” And, accordingly, I’m often asked: “okay, so what’s the opposite of boring?” My tendency has been to say “remarkable”–if only because I wrote a whole book about this.

In light of current events–and some of the reading and listening I’ve been doing–perhaps an alternative answer that more accurately points to the action that is required is “radical”–which, as luck would have it, is #8 in my 8 Essentials of Remarkable Retail framework. It strikes me that in a world where so many relentlessly defend the status quo, either in the desire to protect their power and privilege or merely to stay emotionally comfortable, being radical can be the kryptonite to complacency, the potential antidote to a slow slide into irrelevance.

Yet I’m coming to believe that an even better answer is “extreme.” And, more and more, as leaders perhaps we must consider becoming “extremists”.

I’m aware, of course, that being labeled an extremist is not always seen as a good thing. But when we consider the leaders that have driven profound cultural change weren’t most of them led by radicals advocating extreme views and approaches? When we reflect on the artists that redefined genres–from Coltrane to Christo, from Miles to Monet, and so many more, didn’t they push far beyond the edges of convention? When we think about disruptive business models or technologies that reshape how we work and play, aren’t they the product of entrepreneurs who aggressively challenged the status quo?

This week I reread Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” (You can also listen to it being read by an all-star cast on the latest episode of the Akimbo podcast) There are so many powerful lines in the letter, but perhaps my favorite is this:

“So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime–the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment.”

It’s always been a good idea to choose remarkable. But right now is an especially bad time to be boring. It is also a terrible time to be complacent. Increasingly, to be complacent is to be complicit.

Whether we are pursuing the more prosaic, like reinventing our brands and organizations to stay relevant in an era of intense disruption, or the far more profound, like working to dismantle systemic racism, it is not enough to have a strongly held opinion, to merely sit in the stands as passionate bystanders.

It’s certainly not easy to go out on a limb, to push ourselves to the edges, to do work that people might harshly criticize or even tell us they hate. We can’t all put ourselves out there as profoundly as the Buddha or Gandhi–or even Marina Abramović or Philip Glass. But we can all be extremists in our own domains. We can remember, as Seth shows us, that “remarkability lies in the edges.”

It’s for each of us to decide what kind of extremists we will be. But we must choose.

Choose wisely.

And act decisively.

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"The Store Operations Council enjoyed every minute of Steve Dennis's presentation on retail's future. He always keeps it real and speaks the language of retail experts."

Cathy Hotka

Principal

Cathy Hotka & Associates

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"The Store Operations Council enjoyed every minute of Steve Dennis's presentation on retail's future. He always keeps it real and speaks the language of retail experts."

Cathy Hotka

Principal

Cathy Hotka & Associates

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