10 Lessons from Coca-Cola’s VP of Innovation

When it comes to innovation and launching, one of the best books I’ve read is by David Butler, the VP of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The Coca-Cola Company.  Perhaps you’ve heard of Coke?  

David’s book Design to Grow: How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale and Agility (and How You Can Too) is filled with incredible lessons and learning that can be applied to any size group, company and even entrepreneurs.

Missed David on the Launch Youniversity Podcast? Listen now.

Here are ten key lessons I learned from David's book and our conversation on the podcast:

Design is about intentionally connecting things to solve problems. Design is only good if it solves a problem. Good design makes something easier to read, easier to understand, easier to use. Good design makes a difficult task less complicated.  

Your goal is to make sure the visible stuff (your products, communications, team, etc.) connects to the invisible stuff (your partnerships, processes, culture) in a way that helps you succeed.    

To achieve scale, everything must be simplified and standardized. There are two rules to design standards: 1. Think Small. (simplify, simplify, simplify) 2. Make it easy to do the right thing. 

Resilience instead of strength.  

Any team or company can launch a new product, campaign or initiative the way startups do. Learning what people need or want, building a prototype, measuring what worked and what didn't, then doing it all over again, are techniques that anyone can embrace.  

Get out of the building.  

Too many traditional marketers plan big campaigns, spend big bucks, only to search at the end for favorable data to justify all that money spent. Next time, determine who your target customers are and the key assumptions you have about them—then brainstorm a few quick, low-cost experiments to test your assumptions. Find out what those customers really think, what they will really buy and how much they will really pay for your product or service. Then iterate - react to what you learned and try it again. Get results - then plan. 

Spend time on finding a real problem. Then, build around that.  

Prototying is critical for startups and new ideas. Prototypes exist to help you learn faster. The key to understand is that you won't get it right the first time -- the only way to maintain the kind of agility you need is to focus on learning by doing.  

Related Reading: The 5 Elements of the Launch Sequence

The key to success is learning by doing. Constant iteration, a willingness to test ideas with real customers and gauge their responses, then pivot if they're not working, is critical. Rather than betting the ranch on a big idea, small tests can help a team determine if an idea has the legs for a bigger rollout. 

Keep learning from the experts. Read about the 10 Lessons Jeff Learned from the CEO of Pixar.