Best work experience, best team ever.

Best work experience, best team ever.

Yesterday, Target CMO released a LinkedIn Influencer post titled “The Truth About Target”.


The Truth Hurts (via EVP/Chief Marketing Officer of Target, Jeff Jones)

I was fortunate to work very closely with Target on some new innovations, and it prompted me to want to share my own personal experience with them.

At the beginning of the relationship, a colleague in the industry described the culture at Target headquarters to me this way:

“It’s like the movie Gattica, everyone is really smart, really attractive and a little bit afraid.”

Walking through the very stylish hallways, admiring the beautiful artwork and seeing so many seemingly very young and attractive professionals in stylish, formal business attire – especially in those early days – I had no reason to believe that he was wrong.  I had visited many other retailer headquarters, and Target is definitely a different experience.

But the truth is that all cultures have people who are just trying to survive and the people who are trying to climb – they are usually the politically savvy and or just below the radar screen – and because they are sensitive to either not standing out, or not standing out in the wrong way  – yes, they are a little bit afraid and they want the people around them to be as well. Ever heard of “not rocking the boat”? Know anyone like that at your own company?

So, yes, Target has that cultural dynamic – because all companies do – especially big ones with strong, opinionated leaders…and even more so, usually, when companies have had a long run of success and factors other than intelligence and guts become career-boosters. But my personal experience with Target was that there were an above average number of innovators, and trail blazers  – especially some exceptionally smart and committed young people – willing to take a stand, make a claim, take a risk – because they believed in themselves, because their superiors at Target believed in them and because Target was giving them a chance to create something new and different and exciting.

Our mutual mission, when working together, became figuring out this …

“What can we create together that Target cannot do alone and that Catalina cannot do with any other retailer?”

We reminded ourselves regularly that if we, together, can’t figure that out – we’ve individually, personally missed a huge opportunity to advance the field we all loved and had all chosen for our career.  It’s been my experience that not everyone rises to that kind of challenge or finds it stimulating or exciting, in fact – it’s rare – because the “what’s in it for me” isn’t clear or guaranteed. There was a high risk (very high) for my Target contacts that what “we” wanted to do would not be well-received. And yet the folks that I worked with at Target did rise to the occasion and many of them are still rising, in their careers both inside of Target and elsewhere. Most importantly, we had a blast.  I am so proud and grateful to have known and worked with them.

So, don’t lose heart Target. You’re right Jeff Jones – you do have a lot of enviable strategic assets –  and you’ve got a lot of really talented people to realize that value. And of course, learn from your mistakes, but please don’t harden too much against being vulnerable, creatively and culturally, because that’s where your uniqueness and creativity (your strongest assets) will grow stronger. And for what it’s worth, I still love Target.

Susan O’Neal Gear has over 20 years of experience at the intersection of consumers, marketing and technology. Passionate about all aspects of a consumer’s relationship with brands and retailers, we’re spending the next year looking for new, groundbreaking thought leadership  – if not disruptive solutions – with the potential to redefine the parameters of consumer loyalty. If you also want to see some game changing happen -then follow Upstream Insight, contribute your voice, share this post…do something!