Last week author and speaker Chris Laping came by our office in San Francisco to meet our team.

Chris is most recently known for having been SVP of Business Transformation and CIO at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. A successful retail IT executive, terrific speaker and thought leader Chris is preparing, in collaboration with his wife Kristine, the imminent launch of his book “People Before Things”. He is also busy getting his company by the same name started.

I could not pass the opportunity to pick Chris’ brain. I asked him to sit down with me for a interview and he kindly accepted.

Some key points and insights are worth highlighting.

  • The fast is eating the slow. Chris is very passionate about enabling organizations to perform at a high level by creating the conditions in which people give their best. He is convinced that “brands need to be extremely agile” and that, in his experience, “companies are fast when cross-functional teams are working really well together.” Chris observes that when it comes to effective collaboration leading to speed of execution “some of it has to do with the culture of the company and how those teams are really being conditioned to work together and some … with the tools themselves.”
  • Digital, Data and Defenses. These are the top priorities of retail CIOs today, according to Chris. First are “compelling digital experiences [that] can be created by brands for their customers” before, during and after they visit a store. The second priority of CIOs is “making sense of this big data stuff”, i.e. use insights derived from data to understand “what emotions and experiences [consumers] feel” while interacting with the brand and, eventually, to understand their “future patterns of behavior.” The third priority is, unsurprisingly, consumer and cardholder data security.
  • When adopting technology, why matters a lot. One key question Chris likes to ask organizations as they adopt new technology is: “Is everybody working together for the same common purpose and goal, the same underlying why?” He is convinced that too often today “we are talking about what we want to do, but we don’t talk about why we want to do that” and that “when people have a common view of why they should do something, it accelerates their ability to be fast.”

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