retail news in context, analysis with attitude

This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy, coming to you this week from California's Silicon Valley.

Pretty much as you read this - or watch the video version - Tom Furphy and I will be doing a live version of "The Innovation Conversation" at the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Tech Knowledge conference. We're always excited about doing the "Conversation" live, mostly because there is simply so much to talk about, but also because it gives us the opportunity to engage in conversation with an audience consisting of both retailers and suppliers that have their own concerns and dreams about how to best innovate within their own businesses. Kudos to PMA for realizing that the technology advances being seen at pretty much every level of the food industry require a dedicated conference that focuses on them.

The PMA Tech Knowledge conference is taking place in Santa Clara, but I decided to take advantage of the location to drive over to Sunnyvale - because I wanted to see a specific building. That building is behind me, and it is a structure that the local media has reported to be the location of a future grocery pickup facility to be operated by Amazon. It strikes me as a pretty good location for such a facility - there are lots of businesses and residences nearby, and the location is shared with an Orchard Supply Hardware store, and also is close to number of major thoroughfares. And it would be yet another test case for Amazon to play with some version of physical retail - in this case, a click-and-collect model similar to the kind being used by a number of traditional retailers as they look to get into the online space.

It was interesting to me that as I drove from Santa Clara to Sunnyvale, one of the things I noticed - as one would while driving through Silicon Valley - was the large and modern buildings that I saw along the way, featuring names and logos for companies like Electronic Arts, Cisco, Oracle, Intel, and, of course, Apple. You can just feel the brain power as you drive past these buildings, because these are structures where people are working to change the world and our relationship with it. (Tom Furphy and I went out for a burger last night, and when I looked around the restaurant where we found ourselves, I figured that I may have been the oldest person there, and probably the one with the lowest IQ.)

As I made the drive, I also saw names and logos I did not recognize - smaller companies, I assume, that also want to change the world, though it would be fair to suggest, I think that some will be successful and some will not. It won't be for lack of brainpower or ambition, but not everybody can be winners.

And then, just a few blocks from here, I saw a building with the Nokia logo ... and all I could think about that this is a company that once was dominant in the mobile phone business, but then lost its way, largely because it was disrupted so effectively by companies like Google and Apple. And I thought to myself that this is instructive, that onetime dominance does not lead to permanent dominance, and that every business model is subject to the kind of disruption that can make it irrelevant.

That is important, I think. Companies have to continue to innovate, continue to disrupt from within, resisting complacency at all costs. Companies have to constantly try to look around the corner and make both educated and instinctive bets about what will be the next big thing; some bets will pay off, some won't, but hopefully there will be learnings even from the ones that don't work out.

Here's the thing. Companies have a choice. They can try to rock the world. Or they can wait for the world to rock them ... which I don't think ever is a good idea.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: