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Free-Form Idea Generation

Patti Streeper, VP of Corporate Innovations, Hallmark
Thomas Wade-West
March 10th, 2014
Patti Streeper is the Vice President of Corporate Innovations and Global Synergies at Hallmark. Since beginning her work at Hallmark, Patti has been a leader of an array of different projects and aspects of the company. Hallmark creates products sold in 39,000 retail stores across the U.S. and in 100 countries worldwide.

Five questions with Patti Streeper:

How does your team generate new ideas?

We have a lot of ways of generating new ideas, but it's mainly structured or free form. Making these ideas and synthesizing them has allowed us to be immersed in a particular need space and potential. We understand those consumer needs, industry dynamics, our own competencies and other choices in terms of what the competition is doing -- and much more broadly -- what options we have to connect. We take those insights and bring them together and consider them simultaneously to consider new ideas. We feed this process and synthesize with a road map. On the unstructured end, it's the individual and the ideas they bring; learning how to sort them and make choices are things we are in the process of developing further. We start a pilot on advocates that help an individual to prepare an idea. We've tried a lot of ideas and submission programs.

How do you identify trends? What resources does your team use to spot trends and consumer insights?

We have several different ways of identifying trends, and more recently we've named a new iteration in a trends group within our creative division. We have trends and innovation work in our disruptive trends. People work in our creative division, to research and understand disruptive trends. Right now our trends and creative group are going through changes to allow these to be directly applied to product innovation.

What is the biggest challenge you face when innovating?

Balancing the tension of core business with new businesses, how do you find the right tension, what metrics do you utilize and how do they function as a central part to our core business. Decision criteria is important and we generally slide back to the familiar and use those ideas when moving forward. We're in the process of developing metrics to better tackle some of these challenges.

What makes an innovative culture? How do you create a culture of innovation?

You create it through living it with your company; successes and failures change what people value and look for. We have a strong corporation culture which comes from our brand and we tease aspects of that which we want to maintain. One of the hardest things is the amount of innovation and trial and error to get into something new. Allowing our organization to take a breath and sit back and learn dialogue is important for us. We're also swimming around and hearing from customer needs. For example, our recordable story books are a recent innovation; an adult can record their voice and the child can listen to that when reading by themselves -- it's all about knowing you can be there when you can't. We realized this emotional connection is important to our customers, so it's knowing you can be there when you cant. It's really easy to get sucked into the bells and whistles -- but it's an emotional need we're trying to trigger and solve; we can only do that through listening to our customers very closely.

Looking to the future, how is Hallmark going to be a leader in innovation?

We have a really strong brand, so we're confident that we can maintain our position in the future. We have to take what's behind our brand and translate it into becoming even more successful. The recordable story book is just an example of how we stay true to an insight and needs of the consumer. We are actively trying to create things that resonate with our consumer. I feel really good with what we have.
References: hallmark