Break ranks and conquer

Nordstrom is a name that is hardly known in Britain, but in the United States it is a legend, because of its reputation for amazing service.

There is a possibly apocryphal story of a person who took a set of tyres back to the company and was reimbursed - even though Nordstrom has never sold tyres.

More realistically, there are hundreds of other tales of how customers are served by people who help them to try on things, accompany them from one department to another, look after any alterations that need to be made, wrap things up, and deal with any returns. This clearly runs counter to current management thinking, if only because it involves employing more, not fewer, people. But according to a recently published book by Jean-Marie Dru, called Disruption, the company has increased sales sevenfold in the past 15 years.

Indeed, Nordstrom is cited as an example of how it pays to ignore conventions because that can can create a competitive edge. Maybe it is because we are just emerging from a period in which management appeared to be all about cutting costs, but a lot of the other cases cited by Mr Dru in Disruption (John Wiley & Sons, pounds 19.99) involve service.

There is, for example, Virgin, a brand that Richard Branson is stretching to cover almost anything from music sales and bridal wear to financial services and air travel largely on the basis of improved service. There is also The Gap, which, Mr Dru argues, has "got consumers to buy the idea that unobtrusive clothing actually enhances a person's own unique look".

He might have added that The Gap has broken free of the clothing retailer's traditional reliance on seasonal collections, which has the effect of encouraging shoppers to visit the shops more regularly. This is because customers never know what might be on sale there.

Mr Dru is a seasoned advertising executive - he is chairman of the BDDP Group in Paris and previously worked at Saatchi & Saatchi and Young & Rubicam - and much of the book is devoted to how advertising campaigns often succeed by breaking the mould. That may be true, although it is also fair to say that trends come and go in that world as much as in any other.

But it is quite another thing to implant this type of creative thinking into industries other than those involved in hi-tech areas, where companies such as 3M live or die by innovation.

Nevertheless, at a time when everybody is talking about the need to be able to transform oneself and to live with such dramatic change, many business people will find it useful to have set out for them a few tips on how they can take on a more creative approach.

The section that describes how creativity can be planned (rather than be purely a result of inspiration) is likely to prove especially helpful.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face
books
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' is based on historical events
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
filmSir Ian McKellen will play retired detective in new film
Life and Style
tech
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
'Molecular Man +1+1+1' by Jonathan Borofsky at Yorkshire Sculpture park
tv
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Financial Accountant-IFRS-Gloucester-£300/day

£250 - £295 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountant - IFRS - Glouc...

SharePoint/C# Developer - Aberdeen - Circa £40K + benefits

£30000 - £40000 per annum + excellent benefits: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited:...

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

HR Advisor - 6 months FTC Wimbledon, SW London

£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - 6 Months Fix...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil