The Art of Good Taste.

Steve Jobs once famously said, “The only problem with Microsoft is that they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste, and I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way. They don’t think of original ideas and they don’t bring much culture into their product.”

He furthered this point when he talked about the depth of information resources and process people at big, powerful companies like Microsoft who spend vast sums of money trying to ‘manufacture’ decision-making. In Jobs’ view, the ability to make great decisions is not formulaic, process based nor managed by committee. It is based on judgement. Judgement directly linked to ‘taste’.

And Apple has proven that when a person with great taste has clear oversight, creating competitive advantage appears effortless.

So many companies today are run by process and information overload.

In retail this is death. Retail is about the framework of the big decisions informing the hundreds of little decisions that need to be made every day to trade. We have ended up in a place where we have too many leaders who lack the clarity, command and conviction of their category and enterprise to make timely calls informed by good taste. Far too many Boards think decision-making is driven by process and data.

Lets get something clear. Harvard Summer School is not going to teach you good taste. Good taste is born out of a lifetime of multiple influences shaping the experience, values, drive and talent of an individual in a way that allows them to know the answers instinctively.

Data and process does not make decisions. A great decision maker however can use data and process to lead a team to follow the direction they have the good taste to know is right. Steve Jobs was a visionary leader who used data and process as propaganda tools and influence streams – and that’s all.

In the renaissance of retail this is where competitive advantage will emerge. Entrepreneurial thinking from decision makers and leaders with the good taste to make a constant stream of decisions that shape actions to drive teams to deliver consumer outcomes that consumers are unable to articulate but buy in volumes when it touches them.

You can see it in every category if you look. The best profit performers are the ones who shout good taste in everything that touches the customer. This is the source of competitive advantage and the real reason retail competition is constantly moving and re-shaping.

What we need in retail is better recognition of good taste and a constant search – internally and externally – for a succession plan based on ensuring people of good taste are acquired, nurtured and promoted for the good of the business and its stakeholders.

Retail needs good taste.