Exclusive Features

Just How Innovative Are You?

By Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine


Amazon buys Whole Foods with the idea of using its “Amazon Go” technology in every store.

Apple is reportedly about to launch the iPhone 8 this fall with a new design and wireless charging.

Nike is “going local” and will focus on keeping its products more relevant for it's customers.

And what innovations do you have planned?  Dirk Beveridge, founder of UnleashWD, has created a new online assessment and MasterClass webinar to get you the answers you want and need, and help you build for the future.

tED magazine:  Everyone thinks they are innovative in some way. What is today's risk (as opposed to a couple of years ago) of not taking innovation to the highest level possible?

I disagree with the premise.  I don't believe that everyone thinks they are innovative.  In fact the essence of needing to be innovative, has not been top of mind for the average distributor until recently.  As one distribution CEO told me, “Only 10% of distributors are prepared or are preparing for the future.”  Our qualitative research supports this finding that 72% of distributors believe the pace of change is too slow in their business.”

And thus the need for an Innovative Mindset Assessment.  We must continually raise the awareness for the need for enhancing our mindsets around innovation.  At the same time we want to help those who have made their careers in distribution by showing the specific steps they can, should, and must take to advance change, transformation, and innovation throughout their entire organization.

The reason it's more important now than even just a couple years ago is the convergence of multiple trends that are accelerating the pace of change.  We've talked about the VUCA environment we find ourselves – The velocity, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that distributors are faced with are putting significant pressure on leaders.  You recently wrote about the Amazon decision to acquire Whole Foods … this singular decision has caused massive ripple effects throughout boardrooms across the country. 

As Graybar CEO Kathy Mazzarella told me on an Innovate For The Future episode, Creating the Vision To Disrupt Yourself – “The forces and challenges that are facing us today, we've never seen before.”  In other words, the rules of business are being changed in real time.  Consider:

  1. Digital transformation – data and analytics, the industrial internet and the internet of things, digital at the center of the new customer experience, augmented reality, building information modeling, and more.
  2. Demographic trends and their disruptive forces regarding human capital and workforce planning.  Our ability to attract and retain employees with the digital skills the digital world will require not to mention the workplace skills gap in the trades and it's roll-up affect to our businesses.
  3. Enhanced and non-traditional competition.  The continuing mergers and acquisitions that change the competitive landscape and non-traditional competitors like Amazon
  4. Alternative channels – your research showed that 69% of manufacturers believe that within fire years there will be a significant increase in their using e-commerce to sell directly to the end user.
  5. Commoditization – The products we represent and the services we provide are all being commoditized.  Distributors are finding that their relevance any longer cannot be primarily defined as getting the right product, to the right customer, at the right place and time.  These capabilities have become table stakes rather than differentiators and as one distributor told me that if it comes down to that, “there are already companies that can do that better over the Internet.

And in this disruptive environment, our research shows 85% of distributors believe they need to reinvent their business before someone else does.

Deloitte agrees.  They open their recent white paper Wholesale Distribution Disrupted, “After years of evolutionary change, we believe that the wholesale distribution industry now faces major disruption and a true inflection point.”  The report continues, “We are convinced that the next three to five years will see a marked bifurcation in the industry between those visionary distributors who chart a new course for their businesses (distributors of the future) and those who are constrained by orthodoxies and whose business face inexorable decline.”

When looking at the financial performance of distributors, Deloitte found a “persistent, negative trend among 28 wholesale distribution companies over the last 10 years.”  They report “Year-over-year growth has slipped from the 16% achieved in 2006 to an uninspiring 3 percent in more recent years.” and an 8.3% point decline in return on operating capital from its peak.

tED magazine:  There's a “mindset” that our distributors can't be as innovative as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, etc? But why not?

I believe those that think that way are mistaken.  Or at least they need to reset their mindset.  I think a key reason why individuals conclude that they can't be as innovative as the Amazon's, Apple's and Microsoft's of the world is because “innovation” is misunderstood.

When you believe that to be innovative, you need to create the next iPhone, Xbox, or Amazon Web Services, that thinking will stop you dead in your tracks. Innovators lead their customers to a better future.  That's it!  Sometimes it involves a technology breakthrough.  Other times it is a business model innovation, or even a new value proposition.  And still other innovation – leading our customers to a better future – will involve process and systems change or transformation.

The point is, we all can do this.  If we have the right mindset.

I look at what I believe is the amazing potential and importance of wholesale distribution. Today there are plenty of reasons to be excited when it comes to wholesale distribution. There are somewhere between 250,000 to 300,000 businesses throughout the distribution industry. These businesses range anywhere from pure entrepreneurial businesses to Fortune 500 businesses. Distribution is a massive 5 to 8 trillion- dollar industry employing roughly 5.9 million people.

Think about those numbers! The auto industry – which is currently inventing driverless cars – is “only” a $900 billion industry, and here we are at 5 to 8 trillion dollars. In fact, wholesale distribution represents 6% of the overall U.S. economy. It's absolutely integral to manufacturing, retail, health care and other sectors of the supply chain.

We can innovate!  I mean if an industry that is one fifth our size can invent driverless cars – why can't we bring new and valued solutions to the market?  The answer is – We can!  And to do so we need to insure the right mindset throughout our organization.

tED magazine:  How does the “Innovative Distributor Mindset” finally give our distributors a strong indication of their innovation efforts?

Everything begins with mindset.  Our research has shown that the pace of change is tool slow in distribution.  What hasn't been addressed until now is “Why?”  What's holding back businesses from the needed change, transformation, and innovation?

In my book INNOVATE! we identify the fifth component part of The Innovative Distributor™ as “Transformative Leadership.”  That in the end, companies don't change, transform, and innovate.  People do.  Leaders do.  Leaders with an innovative mindset.

In working with distributors over the last 30 years – and more specifically, as the UnleashWD platform has organized a network of distribution innovators – I have paid special attention to those distribution companies and the leaders with them who are and who are not accepting the call to innovation and greatness.  I have carefully watched to see who is accelerating innovation to ensure relevance, sustainability, and profitability – not just for tomorrow or even next year, but for the next generation, and the generation after that.  And I have also observed those who are not doing so.

More recently, the foundation has been forged through the amazing in-depth interviews that I have had with brilliant leaders from within distribution and beyond on my weekly podcast “Innovate for the Future.”  Of course, the hundreds of UnleashWD attendees over the years – leaders from throughout many different distribution lines of trade – have provided a unique perspective, as have the 60—plus brilliant leaders, disrupters and innovators from outside of distribution that I have put on the UnleashWD stage since 2012.

And of course my in-depth research for the NAW Institute for Distribution Excellence and NAED, all of which have provided a deep foundation to quantify and qualify those who accept the calling of innovation and those who do not.  Those who are innovative distributors and innovative manufacturers and those who are not.

What we found is compelling, instructional, and empowering. 
While The Innovative Distributor™ model introduced in our book INNOVATE! has become a transformative force throughout distribution, The Innovative Distributor Mindset – and the resulting scorecard and assessment focuses on the mindset of those distribution and manufacturing professionals (at all levels – and throughout all functions of an organization) who embrace and innovate around the model – what they think, how they lead, and the direction in which they are taking their companies. It also identifies the characteristics of those who don't innovate around the model, with the ultimate goal of helping you identify where you fall on the spectrum and what you specifically need to do to improve your position. 

The Innovative Distributor Mindset assessment is the tool you can use to track your journey.

The Innovative Distributor Mindset Scorecard is a framework and tool that you can use individually, with your leadership team, and even across your company to define your propensity for leading the needed change, transformation and innovation within your company. You can use it to determine whether or not you personally, and other individuals within your business, are prepared to lead your organization into the future with an innovative mindset.

I have identified the eight core mindsets of innovators throughout distribution. The assessment guides you through a self-exploration of each of these mindsets allowing you to plot your current and ideal state for each of these eight innovative mindsets:
1.  Energized and Optimistic
2.  Intellectual
3.  Think Big
4.  Challenger
5.  Experimenter
6.  Do-er
7.  Value Creator
8.  Own The Future.

To quantify and qualify your innovation readiness for each of these eight categories, they are defined and presented against a numeric one through 12 scale segmented into four parts from least to most ready:
A.  1-3 = Flailing. This indicates that there is a considerable need to focus on the future and the mindset that is going to be required to get there.
B.  4-6 = Fulfilled. This indicates a dangerous comfort level with today's success.
C.  7-9 = Focused. This indicates a considerable awareness of the need for change, transformation and innovation.
D.  10-12 = Future Fixated. This indicates a considerable readiness and bias for action in creating your sustainable, relevant and profitable future.

No matter where you find yourself at this point, you must understand that the power to seize the opportunities ahead comes from within, not outside your organization.

And those organizations with leaders throughout the business that possess the eight innovative mindsets I've discovered, will be proven to be the ones who seize the future.

tED magazine:  What happens after a distributor takes the “Innovative Distributor Mindset” assessment?

Your transformation begins in real time as you progress through the online assessment.  The assessment has been designed as an immersive experience where you will immediately begin thinking of people, processes, systems, strategies, challenges, and opportunities within your business. 

The assessment not only provides you the opportunity to take a confidential and honest look at your each of the eight mindsets by identifying your current and ideal state – you'll identify the gaps you will want to close and capture your thoughts on what you can immediately begin to do. You immediately begin to shift your thinking, your perspective, and your mindset towards the future and your ability to seize every opportunity and overcome every challenge.

And I want to help you further your innovative mindset growth.  So upon completion of the assessment you'll immediately see on line your current and ideal scores and be provided actionable definition of your innovative mindset.  From there we will email the details of your assessment results along with a 20 page Innovative Mindset Action Guide, which provides insights and actions you can immediately take.  The Action Guide has been divided into two parts for you.

Part One – provides new content as to why your mindset is critical to you and your company's success.  You'll want everyone in your organization to read this.

Part Two – Outlines an enlightening six step process you will immediately use to process what you have learned by completing the Innovative Mindset online assessment.

The Innovative Mindset scorecard is a self-assessment tool aimed at helping you propel your business forward. As you will experience, it begins with serious introspection and self-examination.  By taking part in the assessment and the process, you will be taking a significant step down a path of perpetual learning and constant innovation.

tED magazine:  Who should take the assessment, and who should be involved in the “Innovative Distributor Mindset”? Would you give this to your delivery guys? Warehouse workers? How far down the chain should this go?

The assessment is designed for all functions of the business and all levels – from the C-suite and VP level, to the functional managers and individual performers.  This could be the inside sales person or VP of Sales.  The Distribution Center manager or the picker in the warehouse.

Here's why:  The ability to innovate, to lead our customers to a better future, is not constrained to one level, function. or job description.  The Innovative Mindset assessment is a powerful resource to identify the innovators within your business.  Those with the mindset to be part of the solution, rather than part of that gravitational pull to the status quo.

What we know is that the answers to your innovation challenges will be found through teamwork, collaboration, and a culture that says there is genius between the silos.  The answers most often are discovered not by the individual in the corner office, but by the individuals and teams who are closest to the problem, closest to the customers we are looking to solve problems for.

Who should take the assessment?  Here are three potential applications:

  1. A C-Suite leader who is looking to set the direction throughout the organization for the type of thinking that will be required to create the future in these disruptive times.
  2. A VP or Functional Manager wanting to identify the mindsets of cross-functional employees to collaborate on game changing projects and initiatives
  3. An Individual Performer who is interesting in learning how the leaders and innovators within the organization think … so they can continue to plot a course for advancement and making a difference

tED magazine:  What are you going to learn by participating in the MasterClass webinar on July 27?

While the online assessment and Action Guide are created to help you significantly understand your current and ideal innovative mindset, the webinar is designed for an even deeper dive.  It is designed as a MasterClass only for those who complete the online assessment.  The webinar's MasterClass is a live immersive experience with the assessment's creator, who will personally coach you on how to apply the assessment and your unique scores to your business.  In addition the MasterClass will provide the participants a team based framework that you will immediately put into practice to identify who should serve on your next innovation initiative.

You'll leave the MasterClass embracing the energy and passion of game changing innovators and ready to lead yourself and your team to a bold and innovative future.

The Innovative Mindset assessment can be found at: 

The MasterClass Webinar details and registration can be found at: 



Tagged with , , ,

Comment on the story

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *