Expert Advice : Angela Ahrendts, CEO, Burberry: Let Ideas Resonate on Their Merits

Angela AhrendtsTo be an effective leader in any organization today, you must put innovation to the top of your agenda. But you must also evolve your organizational structure to keep it at the top of everyone else’s. Only when it permeates every level can you create a culture of truly continuous innovation.

For example, at Burberry the clear majority of our headquarters team is under the age of 30. Hundreds of millennials, instinctively understanding the opportunities of the digital age. Our role as leaders? To give voice to their ideas. So we created a Strategic Innovation Council, a monthly forum for our next generation of great thinkers, chaired by our chief creative officer. And the remit of the council is simple: to dream.

From the dreams of this council come free-flowing ideas about tomorrow’s possibilities, which take our senior team’s strategies to places they wouldn’t naturally go. The result is a powerful partnership of fresh thinking and seasoned expertise. Take our Burberry World Live flagship on London’s Regent Street. It took young minds to imagine every aspect of the Burberry website brought to life in a 200-year-old building; and many years of combined experience to know how to make it happen.

We call this a creative thinking culture–empowered to dream big, trusted to take risks, valuing feeling as much as knowing. And it goes beyond the ideas of one group to the whole organization. For as our structure evolves our processes are keeping pace, too.

Using the principles of social media, we’re taking a digital platform typically used to manage customers and using it dynamically to connect all constituencies around the brand: from employees to external partners. Called Burberry Chat, it is creating an ever larger, more closely-knit community around the brand, ensuring everyone has a voice and every voice is heard. It’s making us faster, smarter and more collaborative. And by allowing ideas to resonate on their merits across the company, it’s letting innovation thrive.

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