Adopting Fresh Approaches in a New Age of Natural Selection

In retail, the world around us continues to evolve on a daily basis, and we must evolve with it.

We live in a time of great change. We work in an industry where our ability to adjust to the needs of the customer and the dynamics of a global market sculpt the landscape of retail. We serve in a profession that demands that our retail technologies adapt and adjust to business strategies, our retail partners, and the many elements that can impact company profitability. This isn’t exactly breaking news. We know this. We preach this. We embrace these principles as a critical aspect of what we do. Why then, are so many of us resistant to certain types of change?

Why do some applaud advancements in technology, but fail to take advantage of the retail technologies that are available right at their fingertips? Why do some advocate the value of training and education, but fail to support an industry certification program? Why do some lecture their teams on the power of information, and then not take steps to stay informed? How is it that we can see the train coming and stand on the tracks rather than jumping on board?

This all began as part of a conversation with a friend as we traded stories about old cell phones and new technology, but it applies to each of us in many ways. Imagine not having access to your cell phone on an everyday basis. Imagine your work week without the convenience of a computer. Just look around your home or your office and consider all of the devices that we now depend on that didn’t exist just a generation ago. And what we often fail to remember is that most of these products evolved…with our input.

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As consumers, we took control of what we had, provided feedback regarding what we liked, what we didn’t, and what we wanted, and actively participated in the growth and development of these products. Whether it’s a program, a device, a practice, or an application, this is the new wave of natural selection, and we are all part of it.

What Are Some of the Hurdles Holding Us Back?

  • Unless the end result of using this tool is so compelling that it’s worth the hassle, the status quo is easier. That may be true, but easier doesn’t necessarily equate with better.
  • We don’t want to invest precious time learning something if what we’re doing now is good enough. I guess that depends on how we define “good enough.” But are we sacrificing long-term benefits for short-term gains?
  • When it comes to retail technologies, we know that the minute we get comfortable, it will just be replaced by something else. Is this just another way of saying “why bother,” or are we delaying the inevitable until some of the bugs have been worked out? Recognizing the difference is an important distinction. There will always be a “next.”
  • We don’t realize there is a need for change. When we fail to recognize or understand that the change can be valuable to us, we can easily fall behind and end up playing catch-up later. The benefits of staying current can be extremely valuable.
  • We fear the unknown and are concerned that we will not have the necessary skills to do new things–or that previous skills will be deemed obsolete. Going into a dark room is difficult even for the bravest of souls, and we have a natural tendency to want to stay in control. However, most would argue that staying current provides the best opportunity to remain in control.
  • The change is perceived as a threat to job security, power, or influence. Resisting or opposing change for political or self-serving reasons is often poorly veiled and quickly revealed. This practice can just as easily threaten security, power, or influence.
  • We are creatures of habit. We long for stability in our lives, which represents a comfort zone we want to live in. This is perhaps the most common reason that we resist change. But often these changes only require minor adjustments that simply modify our way of doing things and become new habits over time.

This phenomenon applies to the industry in general and our fundamental retail technologies in many ways. It’s posted in our news stories. It’s a topic of discussions. It surfaces in our practices, and ultimately in our results. There are strong organizations and intelligent people that are reluctant to embrace change. We face them every day. And occasionally, that face is the one staring back at us in the mirror. This isn’t to imply that we should randomly embrace every gadget or technology that comes along, but there are clearly times when each of us should challenge our own convictions.

Sometimes we alone are responsible for holding ourselves back just by failing to open a door. Five-year-olds are using technology on a daily basis that some of us still shy away from. I know my grandsons do circles around me, and I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one. How about you?

There will never be a substitute for patience, good judgment, interpersonal connections, or basic principles. But change is inevitable, and technology is an important part of that. It is a fact of life, and a law of business. As such it is our responsibility to amend, aspire, progress, and evolve our strategies. This is a new age of natural selection, and in order to survive, we must continue to adapt.

This article was first published in 2014 and updated August, 2020.

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