retail news in context, analysis with attitude


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Hi, Kevin Coupe here and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy, coming to you this week from the Google campus in Mountain View, California.

As I record this, we're in the final stretch of the GMDC "Retail Tomorrow" conference, which has consisted of what I think of as several days of "immersion therapy" in Silicon Valley - looking at innovative store formats and talking to tech entrepreneurs about the kinds of changes we may be seeing in the retail landscape in coming years.

It has been fascinating stuff, one of the best such conferences I've ever been to.

One of the things that has most struck me is the fact that while most of the attendees have been middle-aged white guys (a group in which I include myself, even though my kids always remind me that if I am middle-aged now, it means that I'm going to make it to 124 .... which I plan to), the vast majority of people we heard from were far younger, and many of them were either women and/or immigrants.

They see the world differently, to say the least.

I think that's enormously important. Sometimes the word "diversity" is tossed around as a box to be checked in modern corporate culture-speak, but it ought to be far more than that. It is important for all of us to understand there are inherent limitations to how we see the world, and that it is critical to the survival of our businesses that we embrace those people and their viewpoints.

It has been a couple of years now since I did a piece about the New York Times columnist David Brooks and his contention that "epistemic closure" is a significant problem in the political classes, and I argued that this is a major challenge in business as well.

Essentially, "epistemic closure" is another phrase for being closed-minded. It has at its root the word "epistemology," which is the study of the origin, nature, and limits of human knowledge.

"Epistemic closure," Brooks said, is when you are so hemmed in by your own belief system that you are unable or unwilling to accept anything other than what you believe as being possible or factual ... it is the opposite of "empiricism," which is defined as the practice of relying on observation and experiment.

What I've seen and heard at the GMDC "Retail Tomorrow" conference also is the opposite of epistemic closure. It has opened my mind to what may be down the road and, I think, the minds of my fellow attendees.

Now that it's over, I'm already jonesing for another hit.

That's what's on my mind this morning and, as always, I want to learn what is on your mind.

KC's View: