Nike CEO Mark Parker Talks Innovation and Execution

As mentioned in its preface, this chat took place at the tail end of this year’s World Cup, one in which Parker’s brand played tug-of-war with its rival adidas for the attention of football fans and players around the globe. Since then, the battle has continued with Nike releasing a steady flow of new innovations and adidas enlisting tastemakers and designers alike from all walks of life to rejuvenate the German brand’s style appeal. Below we have featured an excerpt from BoF’s interview, but for more on Nike’s operating model read the full article here.

It’s not all that common to have someone with a design background running a massive global corporation. How has this informed the way you manage Nike as a business?

One of Nike’s co-founders, Bill Bowerman, had a great influence on me. He was a sort of mad scientist: an obsessive, compulsive, eccentric inventor. He would cobble up shoes using whatever he had at his disposal. When I came to Nike, I started as a designer. I was a runner and I would modify my shoes to try to make them better, so the fit with Nike was very natural. I’ve carried that through all the many different roles that I’ve had. I’ve probably spent more time on the creative side here, but I’ve always been one of those creative people who is very comfortable in dealing with the other side: the business side, the operational side. And I saw the power of Nike; the potential of Nike was, ‘How do you get those two worlds to connect?’

Deep in the creative world there’s almost this built-in “us and them” mentality. But I could also see the need to have some discipline around what we’re doing to operate a business, particularly at scale, and to edit and make choices and to exercise discipline. I’m always reminded of the Frank Gehry quote, “The greatest source of creativity is a timeline and a budget.” I think there’s some truth to that.

Read more: Hypebeast

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