Gaining New Ideas and Strategies
Most artists check out what other artists are up to. The same is true with writers, designers - most of the creative world. Let’s assume that great produce people fall into the same category (very creative people), then it makes sense that there is a need to touch base with the work of your peers. There are truly very few completely new ideas out there. We share, we borrow and we exchange. Be open to what others are doing and allow others to be aware of what you are doing. This is the best strategy for gaining new ideas that will improve your work. Perhaps the most popular method of learning what other produce geniuses are up to is to visit other produce departments. How often do you visit other stores in your area? When you are away on a trip, do you check out the stores in the area you are visiting? Field trips are important! At least once a week it's vital to take some time and go around and look at what the other stores in your area are doing. There should be three main objectives when visiting another store: 1) look for new ideas 2) do a little price comparison and 3) get a break from your store. Let's explore these goals in more detail.
- Look for New Ideas - Above all else, this is the most important benefit you can achieve from store visits. The attitude that you have in approaching your visits will ultimately determine how many new ideas you come away with. It's very easy to walk into another store and begin comparing it to your own. Often times it is almost instinct to hear that little voice inside your head going "wow, my department looks so much better than this" or "there's nothing here that they do very well". In the end, it may well be true that your department shines more than the one that you are visiting, however, this inner dialogue is actually a distraction for what needs to be accomplished during these visits. The goal in going to other stores is not to compare your work with theirs, but rather, to learn from what they do. In a sentence, you must employ perception rather than judgment. I have never been in a store where there wasn't something new that I couldn't walk away with. The idea may be small and it may even be triggered by something that they have executed very poorly, but the idea would never have entered if there was not first an attitude of openness to observation. So when you enter the stores you are checking out, walk in with a clean, fresh mind - one that is eager to learn and ready to be excited by some new ideas. If you maintain that approach, you will be assured of a great learning experience. If you walk in judging and comparing, you may walk away feeling a little bit better about your department, but most likely not coming away with any new ideas as to how to move it forward. What is significant about visiting other stores is that when we enter a different produce department, we are just like the customers. Nothing is familiar and we must observe everything very carefully. After you leave the store you are visiting, when you get back into your vehicle, jot down a few of the key points that you wanted to remember from your visit. This takes the pressure away from having to keep too much in your head, which may be a distraction as you visit your next store.
- Do a Little Price Comparison - It's always good to be aware of how other stores are pricing their product. You certainly don't want to enter another store with a calculator or notepad and begin writing down prices. Typically what works well is to target your five most popular items and simply check out how those prices compare. Usually you will be able to remember five items without notes and these are also the ones that your own customers will remember as well. It's also a good idea to check out what items are being featured.
- Get a Break from Your Store - Whether it is school or work, a field trip seems to do wonders for the spirit. Just getting away from the "office", even for a short time can feel invigorating! Take advantage of this once a week outing. It's a good idea to take members of your team with you if you can spare the labor.
There are a few understood rules of etiquette when visiting other stores that are a good idea to follow. Keep your visits above board. Ask to see the produce manager or assistant and introduce yourself. Let them know where you are from and that you typically visit other stores as part of your routine. The goal in seeking out new ideas is to borrow from the "collective produce psyche", if you will. Allow yourself to be inspired by what you see and then take it back and incorporate it into what you do using your own unique style and technique. Try to avoid "direct plagiarism" by doing the exact same thing that the store three blocks away is doing. Neither store will benefit from that strategy. Take what you see and employ your own originality as you incorporate it into your department.