Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Innovation Interview: Q&A with Keurig Senior Innovation Director

In our Innovation Interview series, each month we talk to thought leaders, inspirers, and innovators in the industry to pick their brains about the state of innovation, trends, and what’s in store for the future. This week we caught up FEI: Front End of Innovation speaker Rachael Schwartz who is the General Manager of Keurig Connect and Senior Director of Innovation at Keurig Green Mountain.

Day-to-day, Schwartz has one mission: drive strategy and flawless execution of Keurig Connect through better understanding consumers wants and needs to provide them with improved, smarter, and more personalized beverage experiences. When it comes to strategy-driven innovation, she is in her element. For nearly two decades, she has artfully navigated innovation for companies in the consumer products, food and beverage, and financial services industries. Today, Schwartz is leading the development of Keurig Connect, Keurig’s IoT platform at Keurig Green Mountain, the $4.5 billion personal beverage system company responsible for changing the way North Americans drink coffee with its Keurig single-serve brewing system and a portfolio of 80+ powerhouse specialty beverage brands.

Here's what Schwartz had to say:

What is the key to transforming ideas into market winning strategies? 

Schwartz: I believe it’s critical to obtain a solid understanding of the unmet consumer needs in the category and ensure your strategy will help make life better for the consumer.

How does design thinking improve innovation?

Schwartz: Design thinking is a good process to make sure the consumer need is matched with the technology capability and the business strategy as all three need to be aligned to have a successful product. Design thinking incorporates many different methods of really understanding the consumer and their needs to map to the technology and business strategy.

How can innovators learn how to work alongside the technologies that will shape their product/service/experience innovations of the future?

Schwartz: Innovators can study the projected trajectories that a technology may take and identify how that could affect the consumer experience with their product.

How does leadership, teams, and the environment help empower and accelerate innovation?

Schwartz: Innovation can easily get stuck in large company processes or killed by large company metrics and never can come to life.  Therefore, it is important for leadership to provide the resources to fund innovation and clear the path, from a process standpoint, to allow innovation to be developed. 

Why is business model innovation a powerful way to breakthrough?

Schwartz: How can companies stop conventional business models from impeding innovation? In today’s digital world where there are much fewer barriers to entry in many industries, every company needs to think broadly about what industry they are in, what problems are they solving for consumers, and who their competitors are.  For example, oil companies are pivoting to become energy companies, car companies are mobility companies, and pharmacies are becoming wellness centers. 

Schwartz: When you rethink the problem, you are solving, you recognize that companies with more diverse business models may be more successful at solving those problems.  That’s why it’s critical to innovate without the constraint of your current model. This, however, is hard to do when you are disrupting your current company.  Therefore, many companies will choose to place bets through investments in companies with the disruptive business model or create arms-length subsidiaries to place those bets.

How can open innovation leaders de-risk external collaborations and usher in more efficient pathways into their organization?

Schwartz: They can enter external collaborations with a clear understanding of what learnings they wish to gain from the collaboration, what are the metrics for success, and what is the path for introducing learnings from the collaboration into the greater organization.

Join Rachael at her FEI session “Journey into Connected Appliances and the IoT” on Wednesday, May 10th at 12:00 PM EST.  Learn more:

FEI takes you through the entire innovation process- from ideation through to execution. Get the tips you need for creating fast, agile & opportunistic innovation teams to turn a great idea into a market winning product. Use exclusive LinkedIn discount code FEI17LI for $100 off a pass to FEI in Boston next month. Buy your ticket here:

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