It’s easy to talk about lifelong learning in an abstract sense. Nobody would argue that, as a retail leader, you should continue educating yourself as the field evolves – particularly considering the disruptions the pandemic has sparked.
Continuing education has proven to boost confidence and credentials in managing a team. An impressive 63 percent of adults in the U.S. have taken a professional class or training in the past year. Maintaining expertise – especially fast-moving tech prowess — is both a professional responsibility and a personal commitment. With the convenience of online learning platforms, it’s easier than ever to master the essential skills needed to lead a retail business.
There are many icons who are lifelong learning advocates. According to the CEU Group “Bill Gates is a proponent of reading more and committing to lifelong learning. He believes the key to learning, to really learning (and remembering), is to create a broad framework to piece together each of the things you’re learning — a sort of timeline or map — in order to both understand the foundational principles as well as the details.”
Working smarter, not just harder, is critical to resetting our business models and correcting our assumptions about what our customers expect.
On a more philosophical level, UNESCO believes, “Lifelong learning enables the learner to predict difficult and problematic situations and to cope with them when they occur. Learning to know ourselves, especially about our past, is important. Understanding the past is often the stepping stone to the understanding of the future.” And iconic science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said, “Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.”
Re-Engineering the Learning Experience
The world has changed dramatically in the past few months, triggering dramatic retail changes, in turn changing the needs of customers and how retailers respond. In-person conferences, the traditional learning playground for business professionals, is a nonstarter for the near future. Based on our newfound Zoom experiences, people are clearly eager to learn and connect.
People have been distance learning for over a decade; our kids are doing it every day. It is comfortable, natural and based on current conditions, here to stay. A new education program is being launched by The Lead to help retail professionals stay one step ahead of the marketplace, which is moving at warp speed. Evidence-based courses are taught by a faculty made up of executives on the front lines, who deliver case study presentations that facilitate peer-to-peer conversations. The Lead Classroom is part conference, part peer conversation and part formal learning. And for 2020, they are waiving the tuition cost.
Briefly, there are six classes designed for VPs and Directors who will be the next generation of leaders in retail: Marketing, Ecommerce, Stores, Innovation, Merchandising and D2C Leadership.
Top industry executives teach and facilitate the discussion groups. To date, the lineup includes:
- Marketing: Scott Turner, SVP Marketing, Rockets of Awesome; Renee Halvorsen, VP Ecommerce & Marketing, Marine Layer; Heather Kaminetsky, Chief Brand Officer, M. Gemi
- Ecommerce: Scott Lux, VP Ecommerce, Theory; Josh Krepon, VP Ecommerce, Cole Haan; David Cost, VP Digital & Ecommerce, Rainbow Apparel
- Stores: Ron Thurston, VP Stores, Intermix, Robin Kurkhil, VP Retail, Citizen Watch, Cristina Estrada, VP Operations, CosBar
- Innovation: Shana Randhava, VP Innovation & New Business, Estee Lauder; Dan Cherian, VP Global Innovation, VF Corp; Jason Berns, SVP Product & Innovation, Ralph Lauren
- Merchandising: Robert Rizzolo, VP Merchandising, Michael Kors; PC Chandra, Innovation, DVF; Liz Hershfied, SVP Sourcing & Supply Chain, Madewell
On the fashion front, MOTIF, powered by Alvanon, is another innovative learning experience. The fashion industry has been built on centuries of craftsmanship passed from one generation to another in some form of apprenticeship. Today, these age-old techniques are at risk of being lost to new generations. One solution is to combine old-world skills with new technology.
Technical intelligence is a required skill for future fashion design and manufacturing. MOTIF’s catalog of online courses is providing access to training, professional development and mentorship from the industry’s top practitioners.
“We started MOTIF with the aim of connecting apparel professionals around the world with the skills and industry expertise they need to transform their business, lives and careers,” explains Catherine Cole, CEO of MOTIF. “Today, we are taking it a step further: MOTIF is providing apparel and retail corporate training programs globally through our online platform.
Get up to speed on the future with peer-education classes that tackle some of the industry’s most pressing issues that are redefining the future of fashion.
- 3D Transformation: The Why, What & How
- Sustainability in Fashion
- Apparel Costing
- Fundamentals of Plus Sizes
Shaping the Future of Retail
If the collision of the pandemic, economic crisis and social justice movement have taught us anything, it’s that we need to rethink how we have run our businesses and the values we hold. Working smarter, not just harder, is critical to resetting our business models and correcting our assumptions about what our customers expect. Continuing education, whether it be innovative platforms like The Lead , MOTIF or other curated educational experiences help get us out of our comfort zones and challenge us with new thinking. We owe it to ourselves to ramp up, wake up and get smart … or get left behind.