How a 168-year old company taught itself to dance

Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) was facing disaster when covid-19 struck, but they used the opportunity to transform themselves into a nimble, digital-first organisation that's set to reimagine the future of their industry.

How they did it was to focus on shifting their culture and embedded ways of thinking as well as adopting new technology tools like machine learning and AI.

'Historically, innovations within LS&Co. would take months and even years to launch. But in today’s fast-paced world, waiting for perfection is a recipe for getting left in the dust. Even before the beginning of the pandemic, we’d been on a long journey to transform our business into a digital-first organization that behaves like a tech company as much as a retail and apparel company. It’s easy to take the phrase “digital first” at face value and to assume that this centers around the commercial technology implementation: upgrading our digital infrastructure, enhancing our mobile app, adding new online capabilities, and so on. And of course, that is part of this journey.
But there is so much more to becoming digital first than enabling transactions and speeding up the supply chain. Technology must extend deep into our ways of working for the organization to realize all the benefits it offers. As an apparel company, we were rooted in a “perfectionist” mindset. Typically, we would take an idea, plan for six months, create the “perfect/best” solution, and then continue to iterate for another six months or more to get it right before bringing it to market. However, a tech-first mindset is anchored around agile ways of working — a “perfect” solution is an evolution. Perfection can be the enemy of quickly connecting with our consumers.'

Often organisations that embark on a digital transformation journey just focus on the technology aspect of the project and neglect to take care of the people side of things.

The Levi's case study is refreshing in that it's a story of changing mindsets first and applying contextually-aware technology to augment that new thinking afterwards.

Building bonds and bringing customers and partners closer is at the heart of transforming a business to be more future-fit. Technology helps and is vital, shifting mindsets sends it home.

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