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Nike says it can't innovate disruptive footwear over Zoom

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Nike Flyknit Credits: Nike

Nike prefers to have its creative teams back in the office. At least according to CEO John Donahoe, who in an interview with CNBC said the company's lag in innovation is partly due to the challenges of remote work. Mr Donahoe said that it's difficult to foster disruptive ideas when employees are not physically together.

Speaking in an interview with CNBC's Sara Eisen from Paris, Donahoe acknowledged investor concerns about the lack of fresh products in Nike's lineup. He cited the closure of footwear factories in Vietnam during the Covid-19 pandemic and emphasised the impact of employees working remotely for an extended period.

Donahoe highlighted the difficulty of developing bold innovations over Zoom meetings and noted that Nike's teams returned to in-person work 18 months ago to address this issue. He outlined efforts to rebuild both the disruptive and iterative innovation pipelines over the past year. Despite recent criticisms and challenges, Donahoe asserted that Nike's innovation pipeline remains strong, promising new product releases and engaging storytelling.

Amid concerns about losing market share to competitors like On Running and Hoka, Nike implemented a restructuring plan to reduce costs and invest in growth areas such as running, women's products, and the Jordan brand. Donahoe emphasised Nike's continued leadership in running and reiterated the company's commitment to innovation rather than imitation.

Nike said the company will spur its release schedule every season, having just unveiled its Olympic Kits last week. Nike also announced the release of its new road running shoe, the Alphafly 3, and a new Pegasus sneaker.