RetailNOW Keynote Havens Shares Simple Steps to Innovation

By: Aina Afzal, RSPA Events Coordinator Intern

Engaging. Insightful. Seriously funny. Three things that describe Jeff Havens’ keynote presentation on the final day RetailNOW 2019. In his talk, Havens shared his view of innovation, pointing out that the steps to creating new products or methods are simply things “we have been doing since the beginning of time.”

Havens left teaching to pursue comedy. His new career allowed him to have a wide range of experiences from performing stand-up on the East Coast to dressing up as a chicken to play drums in the street. He also had the occasional opportunity to hear keynote speakers at business events. While they had skill and expertise, keynote presenters typically lacked one thing — humor. Havens thought about how to combine the entertainment of comedy with the information of a keynote. And that’s where his innovation began.

Havens explains that innovation is a simple three-step process:

  1. Ask how to solve any existing problem or exploit a solution. It’s not necessary to totally break new ground to be an innovator. Robert Plath, for example, asked if there could be a way to design wheeled luggage that would be comfortable to use — which led to the industry-changing retractable handle.
  2. Allow yourself to think of an answer. Havens says finding a solution isn’t the difficult part. It’s setting aside time to let ourselves think. “The problem is that creative thought doesn’t look productive. We don’t give ourselves time to think because thinking seems like a waste of time,” he says. He also points out that multitasking isn’t the answer. “We can’t innovate when we’re doing something else.”
  3. Do it. Questions and opportunities will present themselves throughout life. It’s up to us to decide how to act on them.

How VARs and ISVs Can Apply the Innovation Process
Havens says reality steps in when you attempt business innovation — four realities, actually:

  • Old Reality: Convenience. “The desire for convenience has been driving innovation since the beginning of time, from sailboats to steamboats, taxis to Ubers, and cameras to iPhones,” Havens says.
  • New Reality: The World Grew Too Big. “Our fully wired, interconnected world is too much for our brains to handle,” Havens comments. Make experiences and the world smaller for your customers.
  • Crappy Reality: Marketing is a Priority. “One of the unexpected consequences of the internet is the splintering of where we get our information,” Havens says. With social media, forums, and millions of pictures and videos, anyone can report anything, whether it’s true or false. VARs and ISVs must be proactive as marketers.
  • Happy Reality: People Are Desperate for Meaning. “It’s something that we all share. All of us are looking for meaning in everything we do, in our jobs, our relationships, and in the things we buy,” says Havens. You have control over the meaning associated with your products, so you can make it resonate with your customers.

Havens stressed that innovation starts slowly and turns great ideas into realities over time: “Your next big thing will start as a very little thing.”

About RetailNOW
RetailNOW 2019 was held July 28-31 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, TX. Known as “Where the Industry Meets,” RetailNOW annually brings together retail IT professionals, channel leaders, and innovators from around the globe. RetailNOW 2020 will be held at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas August 2-5. For more information, contact