Did Nike blow this one?

It all depends on whom you ask. 

There are people on both sides of the aisle who passionately argue for or against Nike’s decision to pull their Betsy Ross Flag Shoe from the market.

Should they have done it or should they not have?

Or could it have been avoided altogether?

I contend for the latter and here is why.

The decision to pull the shoe came after it was designed, went into production, and brought to the market.

They had spent lots of money, time and effort in the marketing aspect of the shoe and seemingly wanted the release to coincide with July 4th celebration.

Having the flag on the shoe was a ninja marketing decision because of the patriotic aspect and people are in the celebratory mood.

I would give them a check mark there. [check]

I would also give them a check mark on the timing of the release of the shoe … the week of July 4th. [check]

Here is where my contention begins.

Why did it take an “outsider,” meaning someone outside of Nike to point out the possible offensive nature of the flag’s design?

Why wasn’t this pointed out PRIOR to bringing this shoe to market?

Let’s even go back one step further; why didn’t the team that discussed, designed, and manufactured the shoe, not think about this?

This may sound like “Monday morning quarterbacking” where those of us who were not in the game on “Sunday,” have lots to say about the plays after the fact.

But it’s not.

These are considerations that Emotelligent teams think about while they are in the preliminary stages of discussions.

Oh, by the way, just in case you are wondering about the word Emotelligent, it is the concept found in my latest leadership book: The Emotelligent Leader – Succeed Where Others Failed.

I would argue that Nike’s leadership team that oversaw this product, failed.

Here’s the core of my contention:

Just as one person, in this case, Colin Kaepernick, who spearheaded the movement to recall the shoe, was able to immediately see what he deemed offensive, why couldn’t someone on the team think about this?

Could it be that Nike’s team(s) lack a diversified representation of the market they are going after?

I was asked by a student who was doing her doctoral research, about the need for diversity within leadership teams and my answer then speaks to this issue now.

Here is one section of the questions she was given to ask of leaders who are considered experts on the topic of leadership and emotional intelligence.

Question: What is the leader’s (my) point of view on diversity in teams today? What happens if there is no diversity in the team? Can it still be effective?

My answer:

  • Diversity should be seen not as a quota issue, but as putting a group of people who see life through different lenses together, to share their perspective on things. This lends itself to getting a more comprehensive outcome.
  • When there is no diversity, the chance of oversights and insensitivity issues, are more likely to take place. 
  • A team lacking diversity could be effective but not as effective as when there is diversity. They will have limited effectiveness especially if they are trying to serve a broader segment of the population.

Notice the second bullet-point answer: “When there is no diversity, the chance of oversights and insensitivity issues, are more likely to take place.”

Could this be the case with the team that gave oversight to the design, manufacture, and release of the Betsy Ross Flag Shoe?

I don’t know if it was. But if it wasn’t, Nike needs to take a second look at their teams’ makeup and/or the structuring of how they brainstorm products being brought to the market. This should especially be for products that are outside of their standard designs.

To hear more of what I had to say on this topic, listen to this episode of The Kingsley Grant Show.

To access your FREE COPY of the book mentioned in the show, click on this link: https://www.kingsleygrant.com/freeleadershipbook

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(Previously published on LinkedIn)