Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

CGT Conference: Keynote Innovation with Keurig

This week’s Consumer Goods Business and Technology Conference kicked off with the theme of the connected company. Opening comments came from Kara Romanow, executive editor of Consumer Goods Technology, and Albert Guffanti, group publisher of Consumer Goods Technology and RIS News, Edgell Communications.

A lot of the people here will talk about connections and collaboration, they said. Question: When you hear the term connected company, what do you think? Answer via

“As a media brand, CGT lives and dies on how you connect with a community,” Guffanti said. “Like many brands, they are always looking for ways to connect with their customers. This includes two new events on analytics and the consumer goods marketing forum.  Also launched the Consumer Goods Video Network with the goal of becoming the ‘Ted Talks’ of consumer goods.”

In the opening keynote, Kevin Hartley, chief innovation officer at Keurig Green Mountain, shared the story of how Keurig came to be and how the brand has continued to grow and innovate.

Keynote Speaker: Kevin Hartley: Brewing Innovation

Great Quote: “An idea is potential for power.”

These ideas are infinite. Of course, executed ideas are how organizations monetize the power.  If you think of a Venn diagram as the idea and the execution. That overlap represents those who can innovate. How do you make an idea obvious in foresight (rather than hindsight)?

Step 1: define what you are trying to do? “We want to create the ultimate beverage experience” with a mission of having a brewer on every counter and a beverage for every occasion. Their values include play-to-win.  Most of us love the  idea of “mattering” or doing something greater than ourselves.

Some numbers on Keurig:

  • 10+ billion pods last year
  • 35,000 employees
  • 10 million POS
  • this year, will be at a little over $5 billion. (6 years ago Keurig was at $200M)

No Global 1000 company would have launched Keurig. The purchase intents scores were so horrible that no company would have invested. Their first two “single server” machines were returned from Dunkin Donuts with breakdown issues.

The bounder, Bob, sold a company for about $9 million 30 years ago. He retired to a Vermont ski area where there was a coffee shop that was about to be closed down. Their idea was to bring in green coffee beans and roast them in shop. The idea cost $5,000 and Bob offered to buy the roaster and split the profits.  in 2006, Green Mountain bought Keurig. If they had brought Keurig down to just use Green Mountain coffee, the company would be around $100M rather than $5B.

Keurig started as someone who wanted to solve the coffee pot problem. At a steak house their salad dressing came in a small plastic cup. That gave them the idea for the single serve coffee pods.  They struggled in the beginning with no branded coffee licensees.

Today, they intend to do the same thing in sodas and cold drinks that they do with coffee.  On the day of the announcement, Coke bought 16% of Keurig.  They call it Keurig Cold. To do this, they did a number of “innovative things” including scrapping the stage gate innovative process.

98% of new offerings fail. The biggest cause of failure was the fact that a consumer didn’t think it was all that exciting.  It’s called empathetic imagination for those who listen and make it so.  Keurig Cold came because their ethnographic studies had customers asking for Keurig to do the same thing with cold beverages.  When they started asking for it, the engineers hated the idea.  They figured it would cost $500M to figure out how to do something that might be impossible.

Quote: Do the last experiment first. So in their case they had modeling company make a fake model and then did a test with an assistant under the table pushing up the contents of a can of coke. The users loved it.

The board voted to spend a little money to see if they could crack the two problems:

  1. How to carbonate water without a CO2 canister
  2. How to refrigerate water very fast

Quote: “The biggest barrier was internal.  We aren’t in the cold beverage business; we are in the coffee business”

Math: The cold beverage business is 6X the size of the hot business.

Be careful what you think. Unless you think you will win, you won’t. The brain starts it all. Something is only factually correct because you think it is. This gets back to the quote above about the biggest barrier.

Last question: If that’s so, on an individual level might it also hold for your team?

One last thought: Always brew early and often.

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Implement BYOD – That’s The Way to Innovate

In my spare time, I am an adjunct faculty member for an online university and teach a class each semester.  This week the topic was IT innovation and one of my learners was using as their example, the phenomenon of mobile and ‘Bring Your Own Device’. The learner supported their argument that BYOD was a key IT innovation with a blog post on CIO Insight that stated that BYOD culture inspires employee innovation. My response was that while BYOD may be a key ingredient, but by itself, BYOD will not accelerate innovation. Mobile devices, whether they are personally owned devices used in the workplace or corporate-provided, are not inherently ‘innovative’.  They are business tools, similar to any other business device sitting on your desktop.

Innovation, in this case, is driven by how the mobile device is used.  I am not talking about being able to read and respond to your business email while watching your son at a swim meet (though, what else do you do when your son swims the 500 Free?).  Innovation is the hard work by both business and IT, sitting down and figuring out how to take advantage of the significant technological advances offered by mobile.  Quite often, firms don’t even need to sit down and come up with ideas.  Employees are coming to their managers and IT coworkers with impressive ways on how access to real-time enterprise data can make a significant impact in their lines of business.  Our industry loves statistics and one I thought significant was published by Webalo that stated that “98% of corporate users said productivity would improve if they had mobile enterprise access”. Obviously, there is no concrete ROI behind such a statement but if you think about it, you can come up with a number of positives in terms of sales, client satisfaction, and business decision-making that would come from efficiencies in extending enterprise data to mobile.

As I pointed out to the learner, the only thing our industry loves more than statistics is silver bullets and in this case, the idea that a BYOD initiative will inherently spur innovation within a firm.  Rather, the ability to have access to enterprise data whenever and wherever is the key to innovation.

The Fold

Let’s get something out of the way right at the start: There is no such thing as the fold on the Web!! Anyone who tells you differently is more wrong than Wrongly Wrongham of 14 Wrongingford Road, Wrongleton; winner of last year’s Mr Wrong Contest.

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Responsive Images – The New Hotness

Making images responsive on the Web is actually pretty easy. Don’t specify the width and height of the image, and include one simple CSS declaration, and bingo! Responsive images that scale beautifully as the page resizes and reflows. But what if you want a different crop of your image on a mobile device? Well, that’s where a new HTML5 element and a new HTML5 attribute come in.

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Progressive Enhancement vs Graceful Degradation

The Web marches inexorably forward, and we love to see the innovations that come from that progress. But usually, a proportion of your users won’t see the new hotness. They’re stuck on an old ‘n busted browser that they either can’t update (because IE8 is the highest version of IE available for Windows XP, and corporate IT isn’t upgrading yet, and IT policy dictates IE only on the desktop) or won’t update (through sheer bloody-mindedness? I dunno…). So what do we as designers do?

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Disney Parks Enhance the Customer Experience With Tech Bracelets

My sister and I looking fabulous in the 80's.

My sister and I looking fabulous in the 80’s.

I grew up in what you might call “a Disney family”. What this means is as a child growing up we always looked forward to our annual road trip from chilly Wisconsin to sunny Florida. We enjoyed the palm trees, cheesy shell shops, orange juice stands and “Meeting the Mouse”.  Watching Disney movies and relating the essence of their morals were a part of our lives from an early age. (I also spent most of my early life trying to figure out how I might in fact become a real princess. My husband might tell you I never really stopped trying to find a way…)

It was a magical place in my eyes where anything could happen. Once you entered the park entrance you were no longer just in Orlando… you were in some other worldly realm where things that don’t happen in our every day lives could in fact be possible behind these gold spray-painted gates…

The New York Times recently published an article talking about the advances in technology that Disney was looking to make, involving the collection of customer data. As you can imagine, I was intrigued. Read the rest of this post »

If you’re not doing crazy things, you’re doing the wrong things

Investing in innovation is a gamble that usually ends in flop or fortune. Frequently today it falls to startups to make those wagers as they may have less to lose. Seth Godin argues instead that “with great power comes great irresponsibility” and that existing companies don’t have to always play the safest route and ought to invest in innovation since a single failed attempt doesn’t mean that the company will fail.

Organizations tend to view “responsiblity” as doing the safe, proven and traditional tasks, because to do anything else is too risky. The more successful they become, the less inclined they are to explore the edges.

In fact, organizations with reach and leverage ought to be taking more risks, doing more generous work and creating bolder art. That’s the most responsible thing they can do.

In an interview with Wired, Google co-founder Larry Page echoed a similar sentiment. When asked about Google’s ambitious culture, Page replied, “It’s natural for people to want to work on things that they know aren’t going to fail. But incremental improvement is guaranteed to be obsolete over time. Especially in technology, where you know there’s going to be non-incremental change.”

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Custom maps with MapBox

mapbox-dcA couple of years ago I was working on a small project where the client wanted to visualize data from their field operations on a map. Nothing overly complex – just locations, custom icons, radius of operation for that location, etc. Easy, I thought. We’ll use a system like Google Maps. Except the client wanted the maps branded with their own color schemes, to blend in visually with the rest of their site. I tried for a week to find a solution that used modern, open web technologies. In the end I admitted defeat and the client went with a set of custom-designed maps in Flash.

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Front-end Developers are UX Designers too

A little while back I wrote this nugget of wisdom:

Creating a great user experience extends beyond the research, beyond the wireframes, and even beyond the visual design. All that hard work is ultimately for nothing if your website or web application isn’t fast. Why? Because if your site doesn’t load quickly, your users will go elsewhere very quickly indeed!

I was focusing on the performance of your website in that post, but there’s a more general point to be made: That a great user experience requires great front-end development.
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Rapid, responsive prototyping with HTML frameworks

“To design responsively, one must prototype responsively.”
– Martin Ridgway, 2013

Quoting myself. A good start. But honestly, the statement above is important. After all, how best to communicate principles of responsive design but to do it as early in the engagement as possible?

However, prototyping should be fast and iterative. As of January 2013, standard prototyping tools like Axure and Balsamiq don’t provide easy interfaces for creating responsive designs that work. Which means only one thing: We need to get our hands dirty with some responsive HTML frameworks.
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