Without a doubt 2020/21 has made us all open to change, particularly in the way we have to go about our daily lives. It will go down in history as a defining few years where the world stood backed cowed by an unseen global 'change maker'.

I guess there are a few lessons that this pandemic has taught us all, however one of the key (refreshing) business trends I am seeing is that 'innovation ideation' is firmly back on the board-room agenda.

The world is full of innovators, most of these have a constant enquiring mindset that pre-pandemic were often seen as odd ball butterflies in the business world.

Rarely did they get an audience in the 20th Century mindset driven board room unless the idea was a sure fire 'proven' hit and the ROI was better in the next 6 months than the ROI from the existing 10+ years operating model "is it better than the old way of doing things" was the leadership response of yesteryear.

What this pandemic has highlighted is that an operating model doesn't always equate to the 'experience' that is valued by the end consumer or client.

As Jeff Bezos steps down from the daily role as CEO of the mighty Amazon what did he really bring to the business innovation agenda that we should all learn from?

"How did that happen? Invention. Invention is the root of our success. We’ve done crazy things together, and then made them normal. We pioneered customer reviews, 1-Click, personalized recommendations, Prime’s insanely-fast shipping, Just Walk Out shopping, the Climate Pledge, Kindle, Alexa, marketplace, infrastructure cloud computing, Career Choice, and much more.

If you get it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. And that yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive". Jeff Bezos 2021

Those customers that prior to Covid resisted the urge to 'shop online' have now found that its a key part of how they get through each weeks supermarket shop, let alone hundreds of other things.

Those that thought that social media was for posting pictures of your breakfast, cat, dog, and holiday are now using it to build their own business. Most likely using the skills you didn't let them use and with the furlough cash provided during this 'stay at home' time - today these are in the millions all around the world.

These are your customers, and most likely tomorrows competitors.

Chances are you are also a customer of someone else's business too!.

So, just like many in the business world who believed that social media was something that the guy with the beard, or the girl with the tattoo in marketing do have now taken to the platforms in their billions in order to help stay connected to family and friends around the world and wave the flag 'Open To Work'.

Businesses that lingered too long with legacy systems, legacy mindsets, and the old order of the 20th Century have had to rapidly unlearn what they thought they knew, they have had to re-think the timeline for change, and better understand what agility and being consumer centric really means in this dystopian - (sometimes apocalyptic for some) world we find ourselves in.

Being in any kind of business is always a tricky thing, and traditional retail is of course encumbered with many upfront fixed cost before a new store is opened and a penny even goes into the tills.

The only key variable cost they can dial up/down is the management and staff needed to run them, so when times get tough like now retailers dial down the one thing that actually creates their key point of difference, the front line people who represent their brand.

This difference is not just based on what you sell, what price you sell it at, and where you sell it, but most important its about 'how you sell it to me' and that last bit is the 'how you make me feel' moment, and this is where really great retailers (on/offline) create a huge competitive edge.

Lets take a look at where 'innovation' and real change is already happening on the other side of your board table - with the consumer.

72% of Gen Zs, 72% of Millennials and 59% of Gen Xers prefer to buy from brands that do good, compared to just 49% of boomers.

Raised in an era where they have inherited environmental, social and community crises, Gen Z, branded the ‘give AF’ generation, have been a key voice in driving societal change. Yet, Gen Z are only the vanguard of a silent majority of Millennials and Gen Xers that share the same values.

As a palpable sense of needing to take action is shooting through the world, causal purpose can no longer live as an advertising promise. Purpose must be proven.

As you plan for 2021, audit your brand purpose across the entire customer journey.

Where do you talk about it? How do you prove it? Does it manifest in every touchpoint of your customer experience?

A truly purpose-led brand creates products or services that reflect its customers’ cultural and social values and uses the entirety of the customer journey to tell, and prove, that story.