Why CEOs Must be Discoverers-in-Chief

breadIn an interview with the Associated Press, Ron Shaich takes a dig at some of America’s largest food companies, claiming they’ve concentrated too much on their existing products and lost the public’s trust.

“People have been oversold, over-branded, over hyped, over-promised,” Shaich told AP. “And they basically trust a small local operator more than they trust the big corporate entity.”

In April, Panera upgraded is full-year profit forecast after investment in new technology cut queue waiting times at its stores and helped reverse a prolonged sales slowdown.

The company has also been touting its credentials as a healthier alternative to some other fast-food outlets. As Bloomberg reported this month, Panera launched a new kids menu that was free of artificial ingredients and pledged not to encourage children to consume soda and French fries.

“The most powerful role I have is protecting the people [who] are dreaming about where this company can be in two to three to five to 10 years.”

Panera currently has around 2,000 locations and a market capitalization of near $5 billion. This begs the question, how can a company that’s grown so large claim it’s different from the big guys?

Shaich says it’s all about avoiding the tendency to focus too much on the delivery of successful ideas through efficiency drives and cost management. “The discovery muscle is pushed out by the delivery muscle,” he says.

“The most powerful role I have is protecting the people [who] are dreaming about where this company can be in two to three to five to 10 years.”

The forces of technical disruption are a major concern for CEOs across all industries, from auto manufacturing to baking.

One business model expert has even suggested that CEOs delegate all core management responsibilities to chief operating officers to give them more time to start dreaming.

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