No Finish Line for Innovation
One year stands out in the career story of Ms Angela Dong, Nike's Global Vice-President and General Manager of Greater China. That year was 2008, when the Olympic Games were held in Beijing, and Angela was studying on the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA Program. That was an amazing year, she recalls.
Angela was drawn to the Program’s global mindset and scope, and its sharp focus on Asia. Once her studies had begun, the relationships she developed with the other members of the KH10 cohort stood out as particular highlights.
“I got to know my classmates very well during the Program, both through working and socializing with them,” Angela says. The way in which she and her classmates collaborated on projects demonstrated what could be achieved when people with different areas of expertise work together as a team, she adds.
“I’ll also never forget the time I spent with my classmates during our overseas elective,” Angela says. She chose the course at Evanston in Chicago, which she describes as “unforgettable”. The Program was "a sort of melting pot, where people from different cultural, educational and professional backgrounds all got together to achieve common goals", Angela says. "It was inspirational to see how the intersection of these different perspectives generates the most innovative ideas.”
The long-term friendships and partnerships formed on the Program have been maintained over the years. Angela says that although work pressures often restrict opportunities to chat, her classmates try to meet whenever they are in the same city. They always look forward to these opportunities to find out about each others’ progress and thoughts, Angela explains.
“I occasionally attend alumni events, and I find them a very useful way to meet old classmates, and see how we can form new partnerships,” she says. "I have met more and more alumni, and I am always impressed by how large the alumni network is.”
Angela says that the varied and inclusive nature of the Program exposed her to - and enabled her to learn about - topics outside her own area of expertise. Such knowledge has been extremely helpful to her career, she adds. “We were able to cultivate a global mindset by learning together within such a diverse group, and the coursework helped us to pinpoint our learning, so it was locally relevant and applicable in our own areas of expertise,” Angela explains.
Now another of the Program’s Distinguished Alumni, Angela chose "Leading in an Age of Disruption" as the theme of her presentation to the Program’s Management Conference.
“Disruption is the essence of what we do at Nike,” she says. “To us, disruption is not only good, it is also necessary. It’s necessary so we can redefine what’s best. It’s necessary for us to reinvent ourselves, to always stay ahead.”
With the nation inspired by the skill and athleticism of the Beijing Games' competitors, the challenge for Nike and Angela was to then sustain this passion for the culture of sport.
One way the company could help achieve this was through a change in its approach to its customers, she explains. “Instead of treating them as a shopper, we now serve them with a completely innovative approach, with everything centered on the sports they feel passionate about,” Angela says.
The increasing use of digital and mobile technology is another form of disruption embraced by Nike, "as a service company, as a sports company, and as a product company", Angela says. The technology offers an opportunity to create a direct and personal connection with customers on multiple levels, and has speeded up Nike’s entire design-to-shop process. “All these new ideas, and all this openness to disruption enables us to be able to put our Nike ecosystem into the new, broader retail system,” Angela says.
As with her own connections to fellow Kellogg-HKUST alumni, Angela sees no end to this system of innovation and change. “As we say in Nike, there’s no finish line.”