Lessons from Louis Vuitton on purpose as a driver of change

Business lessons can sometimes come from the most unexpected sources, and I was reminded of this when Stuart and I went to the Louis Vuitton Volez Voguez Voyagez exhibition in New York last week.

This is a fantastic (free) exhibition illustrating the history of Louis Vuitton luggage and the way that it has evolved over the past 100 years in line with the changing forms of transport over that same period.

What really struck me though was how the company had delivered on a singular purpose for more than a century – helping their customers safely and securely pack and transport the things they needed while traveling. Β They had however recognised the continually changing needs of those customers as the way they traveled, what they needed to take with them, and what was actually able to be accommodated all underwent multiple transformations.

It really got me thinking around how a meaningful, customer driven purpose really can equip a business for success, no matter how much change the external environment delivers.

At Icon Group our purpose is around delivering the best possible cancer care to as many people as possible, as close to where they live as possible. We know that many external factors will change and impact on the way we do this, from the increasing deployment of technology in healthcare, the changing treatment landscape, and the increasing cancer burden that populations in some parts of Asia in particular are facing.

As I walked around the exhibition it really struck me that keeping our purpose front of mind will allow us to navigate the changing external landscape, in the same way that Louis Vuitton’s purpose has allowed them to move alongside their customers over the past century through planes, trains and automobiles.

Now for a quick tour through the exhibition to illustrate some of the changes and adaptations, and the incredibly creative way in which the displays were presented.

At the turn of the century, cruise ships had no shortage of room for luggage and passengers boarded with upright trunks which allowed their dresses to be stored on hangers, just as if they were in a wardrobe.

Trains required a different approach necessitating the development of lower flatter trunks which could be stored under the beds and seats.

Cars provided for shorter journeys, with smaller softer bags which could store your needs for a day out the result. There was still a role for trunks though, with the driver needing somewhere to store his tools, and picnic supplies also needing a sturdy safe storage option!

Planes brought yet another reinvention, with lightweight luggage replacing the very heavy trunks and cases of years past, and cabin baggage size limits creating an opportunity for an entirely new range.

One of my favorite parts of the exhibition was the fully personalized pieces, where a piece of luggage had been custom designed to meet a very specific need.

I loved this trunk made for a conductor to house all of his batons, and this special writing trunk for an author. The bookcase trunk made Stuart even more appreciative that my Kindle now means we’ve been able to move on from having to lug cases filled with my books on all of our trips!

If you find yourself in New York between now and January this is a great exhibition to visit, it’s free but you can reserve tickets for a particular time or take your chances and walk in off the street. We had tickets booked, but it was pretty quiet the day we went so we could easily have just walked in.

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