E-commerce is an industry that seems to be in a constant state of growth, with emerging technology and the increasingly mobile consumer. You don’t have to be an industry expert to know that Amazon is the major player in the U.S. e-commerce industry, but with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s IPO and growth plans that include the U.S., online retail could face a shake-up.

Scot Wingo is the co-founder and CEO of e-commerce software firm ChannelAdvisor, and he also contributes to the industry through writing, speaking and connecting with e-retailers across the U.S. SmartBrief spoke with Wingo about Alibaba’s entrance into the U.S. e-commerce market and what that could mean for the future of the industry.

Can you talk a little bit about Alibaba’s expansion plans, particularly in the U.S.?

Alibaba has been very active in their recent U.S. investments:

First they acquired two eBay selling tool vendors back in 2010. (read more…)

The importance of failure in innovation is all the buzz right now. Business modeling and lean startups are great ways to mitigate and manage the risk of failure. There is a great deal to be learned from failure if we choose to learn it. That’s part of the reason my mantra is Experiment-Learn-Apply-Iterate.

But, is failure — the freedom to fail — really a luxury? In the developed world, we are expect second, third, fourth chances. Stop and think about the decisions most of us have faced and will face. Seldom are they totally, completely irrevocable and permanently life altering. I’m not talking about emergency situations like SWAT teams, medical emergencies, etc.; I’m talking about choosing to try something we are passionate about, we want to create or make happen where failure is a definite possibility and going for it. We are basically free to fail, even if our culture doesn’t always accept failure. (read more…)

 Flex cover photoThis post is an excerpt from “Flex: The New Playbook for Managing Across Differences,” (March 2014, HarperBusiness), by Jane Hyun and Audrey S. Lee. The book is available at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound.

As individuals we can accomplish only so much. We’re limited in our abilities. … Collectively, we face no such constraint. We possess incredible capacity to think differently. These differences can provide the seeds of innovation, progress, and understanding. — Scott Page, “The Difference”

Two senior-level managers read through the performance evaluations for their team members, preparing for upcoming annual reviews and a rankings meeting. As they comb through the evaluations, they keep in mind a mid-level managerial spot that has recently opened up, scanning for top performers they might tap to fill the position. “What about Ursula?” asks one. “Her numbers are fantastic.”

“Yeah …” The other man pauses. “Maybe. She’s a rock star — don’t get me wrong. (read more…)

Today, most consumer-driven companies are playing catchup in a rapidly changing world. We see mistakes made by their leaders and unexpected changes in companies’ strategic directions. The retail industry has suffered not only from badly thought-out decisions but also from the increasing pressure of online retailers.

While retail companies are trying to catch up and win back customers, I’ve decided to look at the issues from a leadership perspective. What has changed in the capabilities and skills of successful retail leaders? Who can turn things around? Who can be a future game-changer? Mark Cohen, professor at Columbia Business School and former CEO of Sears Canada, helped me with answers to these questions.

Lilia K. Staples: Let’s start with challenges. Today, in your mind, what are the top three issues of retailing leadership of large corporate enterprises?

Mark Cohen: Insuring that the entire organization is properly focused on the strategy of the company and its execution. (read more…)

For those who don’t know the story of Sal Khan and the Khan Academy, a look at the back story and growth rate of the online education portal can be startling. What began as a one-on-one tutoring sessions between Khan and his cousin in 2004 has grown into a platform that touches 200 countries, includes 150,000 educators and welcomes 10 million unique users every month.

Khan’s made a dynamic presentation at CME Group’s annual Global Financial Leadership Conference this week and shared his keen insights on the current and future landscape for education:

On the rising costs of higher education in the U.S.: Khan said an education system where costs grow 5% faster than inflation is not sustainable, adding that the return on investment current students are getting is not good. “The ecosystem is right for alternatives.” Khan says the de-coupling of knowledge and credentials might help solve structural unemployment. (read more…)