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Getting the team to that ‘aha moment’

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in Leaders & Managers,Team Building

A creative brainstorm can strike at any time, perhaps while you’re in the shower or taking a walk. Effective leaders prod their team to innovate by recognizing and capitalizing on such creative connections.

Brian Kelley, CEO of Keurig Green Mountain, sought to introduce a new version of the company’s popular coffee brewer. He urged his creative team to come up with a home appliance that would give consumers a choice of brewing single-serve coffee pods or a whole pitcher of coffee.

Kelley figured that expanding the usefulness of the machine would let coffee drinkers brew a wider range of products along with a greater number of servings per pod. But his idea wasn’t an easy project for his product developers.

Keurig’s engineers grappled with the design. Devising an entirely new type of machine that would brew two types of single-serve pods—the original Keurig and the Vue packs geared for a different coffee maker—proved challenging.

When Kelley unveiled the idea to his engineering team, his chief technology officer thought, “Ooh, that’s gonna hurt.”

The designers soon realized that the two types of pods functioned differently: K-cup pods rested vertically in the machine and were opened at top and bottom with a needle while the Vue cups rested at an angle and were punctured in different spots.

Puzzled by how to mesh the two approaches, an engineer’s “aha moment” occurred when he sat with his youngsters at home playing with Legos. Observing the toy blocks, he concluded that he could make the needle swivel just like one of the Legos.

He applied that flash of insight to the new coffee maker’s design. Eventually, he and his colleagues succeeded in creating what’s now called the Keurig 2.0 machine.

— Adapted from “New Coffee Brewer Tests Keurig CEO’s Recipe,” Annie Gasparro, www.wsj.com.

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