Green Mountain Coffee’s Kevin Hartley on the keys to leveraging strategic partnerships


CoDev2013 is just about here!  Below is the third and final installment of some of the insights and expertise of our conference faculty.

We catch up with keynote presenter, Kevin Hartley, VP Corporate Strategy, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, to get a better understanding of how Green Mountain Coffee Roasters meld innovation strategy and open innovation and to learn about how their producer innovation model differs from traditional innovation practices.

CoDev2013:  How does your open innovation strategy intersect with your innovation process?

Hartley: My department’s innovation work focuses on developing programs and platforms outside of our area of expertise (North American Coffee). Therefore, we rely significantly on partners who specialize in these new opportunity areas. We try to combine their innovation resources and knowledge of the new area with our core competencies to develop new innovations. For example, we just launched the Rivo Espresso brewer with Lavazza.

Lavazza brought their expertise in high-pressure brewing and milk frothing together with our expertise in North American single-serve coffee manufacturing and distribution to create a successful joint innovation. This co-innovation work results in a breakthrough value proposition for North American customers – the first real espresso, real fresh milk, real frothing, dishwasherable, real espresso machine.

CoDev2013:  How does the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters “producer model” differ from traditional innovation processes?

Hartley: Most innovation groups hand off the innovation after they’ve developed the business model and proven the concept. In our Producer model, the innovation group serves as Producers who follow the innovation from inception to exploration to development through launch to maintain the vision and strategy of the initial innovation. We feel that this Producer model allows the innovation to stand out and be different, rather than suffer from compromises as it moves through the development path.

Another key construct in which this differs – Producers of movies/bands regularly pull in the best experts around the world in key areas. We try to do the same – we use as resources, both internal employees and experts from around the world, depending on what expertise is needed. Our Producer model also requires us to push on the two key aspects of a successful innovation – 1) having a truly interesting idea and 2) the company having the courage to execute it.

We source from inside and outside of our company the best ideas and we market the business idea internally within our organization by showing quantifiable support for the innovation including: real consumer data, real test markets, and real financial analysis. If we skip any of these, the organization won’t execute the innovation.

CoDev2013: What one piece of advice would you give to someone that is trying to champion disruptive innovation through their corporate immune system?

HartleyI would recommend that they treat their shepherding of the innovation as they would as an entrepreneur. Just as an entrepreneur needs to convince investors of the viability of a business idea, Intrapreneurs have to raise money and desire within an organization.

Therefore, it is important to communicate to all decision makers and influencers in an organization the business case using quantifiable data and the vision for why that will support the organization’s goals as well as the interests of these decision makers.

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