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You may think everything in IKEA is easy to piece together, but what you see in-store and online has taken years, even decades, of iteration to create. Unlike their mattress frames, IKEA’s technology takes more than just an Allen wrench to build. And leading it all is Susan Standiford.
Susan grew up with an innate interest in technology. Her father was a historian and journalist and her mother was a physicist, scientist, and mathematician. Because Susan basically grew up in a computer lab, her interest in technology quickly took hold leading her into many important tech roles later in life. From VP of Technology at Disney Interactive to leading the tech team at Travelocity to her current role as Chief Technology Officer of Ingka Group, the strategic partner in the IKEA franchise system- Susan is one of today’s top technology leaders. In her day to day as CTO, Susan plans the company’s product and digital strategies and is working on moving the company into a new digital revolution.
“For us, the digital transformation is not about turning IKEA into a technology company. We’re not changing our core values. We’re still trying to generate our mission which is to create a better everyday life for many people by bringing product to people wherever they are in their life. But how do you use digital capabilities and modern ways of thinking about tech to empower all those good things that are IKEA?”
On this episode, Ian and Susan discuss how Susan first became interested in technology, what her work looks like as CTO of Ingka Group, and how the role of AR and VR is changing the way people shop.
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Quotes from Susan:
“A simple tech solution or even a hard tech solution has to be done with social psychology and through empowering inspiring people.”
“It’s not about the tech most of the time — it’s about the people. Find people who will speak truth to power and talk to you straight. That’s far more valuable than anything else. Unless you’re a one- or two-person company, you are not the center of the universe. You need to scale and encourage others.”
“One of the most common ideas and functional areas that I see is people trying to figure out how to take the AR, VR, and mixed reality world and turn that from a solution looking for a problem into a practical reality. You’re seeing a lot of really interesting stuff starting to come up right now. And there’s a complexity not just in 3D objects, but real 3D objects in space and making them interact with other 3D objects. That is going to get better and better with technology and with better compute power.”