Ivy Ross: The Feeder

Ivy Ross feeds consumers a constant diet of contemporary cultural zeitgeist. That's why when you walked into Old Navy stores this spring you were hit with the heavily organic vibe of the "pure and natural" clothing line. The products filled Old Navy stores at the exact same time as global warming and $3 gas were filling the headlines. To create this kind of in-the-moment innovation, Ross constantly feeds her employees ideas, influences, and new perspectives. When she was at Mattel, Ross made herself famous in innovation circles by commandeering a large corporate space and taking teams off their jobs for 12 weeks to travel, see, learn, and think. By week 11, the Mattel brass was worried. But the resulting building toy for girls, "Ello," was an instant hit.

At Old Navy, Ross has created an in-house blog, called Culture Feed, and hired ace cool hunter Jody Turner to write it. Turner curates what's available on the Internet for Ross's designers. "You can't get the right outputs without giving people the right inputs," says Ross.

That has to start from Day One. After taking the Old Navy job in 2004, Ross had a problem: how to get the 120 transplants from New York and other places to click instantly with the 600 Old Navy staffers who had worked together in San Francisco. Instead of the usual town hall or dinner, she hired a documentary filmmaker. Then she told staffers they each had three minutes to tape something so personal that normally it would take years of working closely with other people to reveal. The result was a Facebook-style CD that was a hit with the twenty- and early-thirtysomethings who already live in a socially-networked world.

Employees devoured the CD with the passion of high school seniors studying their yearbooks. One designer decorated her workspace in floor-to-ceiling denim, looked straight into the camera and said: "I want to rock the world of denim with you guys." Then she spoke about her lifelong dream: to build a spacesuit for NASA made entirely of jeans.

Passersby were giddy with the frisson of each other's Warholian fame. The instant, digital introductions infused the new group with a close tightness, essential for innovation. "You first have to set the field up for innovation," Ross says.

Ivy Ross

EVP Product Design & Development for Old Navy

6:00 a.m. Wake-up. Call 20-year old daughter (She can usually be found in a foreign country on a mission to save the world)

6:15 - 7:00 a.m. Get ready for work. Ponder shoe and jewelry choices for the day, breakfast

7:30 a.m. Arrive at work

7:30 - 8:00 a.m. Review and respond to emails/voicemails

8:00 - 10:00 a.m. Town Hall Meeting (Design and Product Development Teams)

Presentation by Trend Union

10:30 - 11:00 a.m. Mission Bay Mock Up Review

(Review plans for future location of Old Navy corporate and design offices in San Francisco with architects Jensen Macy and Core Team)

11:00 a.m. - noon Weekly Business Update with Old Navy Leadership Team

12:00 - 1:00 p.m. Old Navy HQ Brown Bag Lunch

Hosted by: Ivy Ross (EVP Product Design & Development, Old Navy) and Susan Wayne (EVP Marketing, Old Navy)

1:00 - 2:30 p.m. Spring 2007 Big Ideas Meeting with Jenny Ming, President of Old Navy and heads of marketing, merchandising and business strategy

2:30 - 3:30 p.m. Core Color Meeting

Meeting with heads of design for men, women, kids and baby

3:30 - 6:00 p.m. Merchandising & Design De-Brief Meeting with Old Navy merchandising and design teams

6:00 - 6:30 p.m. Review and respond to emails/voicemails

6:30 p.m. Leave the office

7:00 - 8:00 p.m. Gyrotonics Class

8:30 p.m. Dinner

9:00 - 9:30 p.m. Review and respond to personal email

9:30 - 10:00 p.m. Review architectural drawings for house renovation

10:00 - 11:00 p.m. Read

11:00 p.m. Go to bed

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.