Remote work to blame for Nike's innovation slowdown, says CEO

'It's really hard to do bold, disruptive innovation, to develop a boldly disruptive shoe on Zoom,' says John Donahoe in report

Remote work to blame for Nike's innovation slowdown, says CEO

Nike CEO John Donahoe is pinning the company's innovation slowdown to remote work, in response to criticism of the company's products as of late.

Donahoe said the reason for the slowdown is "fairly straightforward."

"In hindsight, it turns out, it's really hard to do bold, disruptive innovation, to develop a boldly disruptive shoe on Zoom," Donaho told CNBC's Sara Eisen in an interview.

Nike's employees worked from home for 2.5 years during the pandemic, which also forced the company's footwear factories in Vietnam to shutter, according to Donahoe.

But the CEO said Nike's teams have been back in person for the past 18 months, and their innovation pipeline is as "strong as ever."

"We realigned our company, and over the last year, we have been ruthlessly focused on rebuilding our disruptive innovation pipeline along with our iterative innovation pipeline," he said.

He made the remarks as analysts and investors criticised the footwear firm for falling behind on innovation, according to CNBC.

His comments on remote work add to the growing debate about whether the work arrangement is beneficial for productivity and innovation.

In 2022, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff observed that pandemic hires are "facing much lower productivity," with the executive wondering if it had something to do with the company's office policy.

But a survey among C-level executives worldwide last year revealed that 74% find employees to be more productive under remote and hybrid work arrangements than before the pandemic.

"Despite fears that remote working would be a drag on productivity, the evidence does not support it," the report read.

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