As one of Wall Street Journal magazine’s Brand Innovators in 2015, Nike’s CEO and President, Mark Parker knows a few things about staying in the lead. Having served as Nike’s CEO since 2006, Parker is responsible for helping to double Nike’s annual revenue from $15 billion to $30.6 billion over the course of 9 years. In addition, according to the NPD group, Nike currently controls around 59 percent of the $34 billion sports-footwear market.
In an interview with Karl Taro Greenfeld of the Wall Street Journal, Parker makes time to share with us how being a sponge, providing reasoning, and focusing on the future helps to keep Nike creative, innovative, and on top.
Here are 3 approaches we would highly recommend adding to your toolkit:
1. He’s a Sponge
Parker attributes his own varied interests and pursuits to both his father’s curiosity and his paternal grandmother’s thirst for knowledge. “She would take me on walks through the woods and point out plants and say what phylum and species. She was a huge influence. At Nike, we have a set of guiding principles, and one of those was directly inspired by her, and that’s ‘Be a sponge,’ soak in everything around you. Look deeply. Observing is really the fuel to innovating, ultimately.”
2. He Makes Sure To Provide Reasoning
Parker and Tinker Hatfield once disagreed on the final design specifications of the Air Max 1. Parker wanted a strap stitched down from the laces on the outside of the sneaker to connect with a lateral strip that ran all the way around the lower part of the upper, arguing that would provide more support and, just as important, inspire confidence in the athlete that the shoe was stable. “I didn’t think we needed it,” Hatfield says.
Parker could have pulled rank—he was then the head of special projects for footwear, R&D and design—but instead, he kept methodically laying out the reasons, both technical and aesthetic, why the additional strap was necessary. “That’s his approach, to be calm, to continue to state the reasons, to keep showing his sketches,” says Hatfield. “He has a mild and subtle way of changing an opinion. It’s effective, because in the end, you’re agreeing with him.”
3. He Stays Focused On The Future
It’s no accident that the Beaverton campus doesn’t have a fancy museum devoted to Nike’s history. There are exhibits in various buildings dedicated to Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and hundreds of other athletes, but the actual history of Nike is confined to just one little room with a model of the VW Bus that Phil Knight drove around selling the company’s first sneakers. Parker says that’s because of something that Steve Jobs once told him when he was visiting Apple and noticed they didn’t have a museum. “What I got back was, ‘Well, we are more focused on the future,’ ” Parker says. “Past is past.”