Corporate Innovator Profile

Name: Joe Bechely
Title: Marketing Technology and Innovation Manager
Company: Coca-Cola
Experience: AT&T, First Data
Total Corporate Innovation Experience: 10+ years
LinkedIn: Joe Bechely

Joe Bechely from Coca-Cola is the keynote speaker at our next Enterprise Entrepreneurship Series event in Atlanta, on March 7.

With countless technologies and new platforms emerging daily, many corporations struggle to identify and pursue the most impactful innovation initiatives. With more than 10 years of innovation experience under his belt, Joe Bechely, a Coca-Cola Marketing Technology and Innovation Manager, has helped Coke develop a rigorous framework for pursuing consumer-focused technologies.

Joe is a lifelong early adopter of technology, always looking to break down complex problems to their simplest components. With a background in higher education, radio and sign language interpreting, Joe brings a unique perspective to innovation and excels at communicating the value of new technologies within the enterprise. We asked him how he’s navigated the challenges facing corporate innovators in his time at Coca-Cola, AT&T, First Data and more.

EI: As someone who is trying to lead innovation within a corporate culture, what characteristics do you think make an ideal innovation leader within the enterprise?

Joe: I think the most important is people, supported by the idea that people buy the person selling an idea. You have to build relationships with people built upon clear communication of your mission. Having studied sign language interpreting, I can break down complex ideas into component parts and communicate that idea in a way best suited for my audience. While you don’t necessarily need that background, you can build a rapport with people to clearly communicate your ideas.

Second, I think is having an understand of the technology but also an understanding of your audience. I’m often not selling to tech-savvy folks internally within Coke. Early in my tenure, a leader wanted to pursue augmented reality following conversations with customers and asked for a prospectus. After I put together a massive presentation, I learned quickly that he had no actual idea what AR was – just that people were asking for it. Understanding where people – both internal stakeholders and customers – are in their technology journey is immensely helpful.

The third is reading to continually learn and understand what’s going on. I’m constantly fascinated by the thought of what will fascinate me like the iPhone fascinated my grandfather – what will that technology be? I can’t wait for that day, even though I’m constantly staying up to date with what’s coming next.

What is your biggest continued challenge to successful innovation within the enterprise?

This goes back to something I like to think we’ve solved by building a robust, rigorous process within Coke, but it exists. As innovators, we have to fight the perception of chasing shiny objects. If you look at packaging innovation, cooler innovation or flavor innovation within Coke, people actually see a tangible result. Products fit into the fridge easier, or we release a great-tasting new product.

It’s almost cliche, but there’s a perception – particularly in marketing-tech innovation – of chasing fads like shiny technologies. That’s why the idea of building an innovation roadmap that delivers a strong learning agenda or other KPIs is critical. When I present new ideas, it’s easy to spend the first 45 minutes on why we’re choosing a specific technology or a particular path, and it’s effective for convincing brand managers and executives that we’re creating value, not just playing with technology.

Read more: Making It Easy for Executives to Say Yes to Innovation

If you could give two most important tips you’ve learned to anyone new to innovation, what would they be?
Fail fast is one of my favorites because then you can learn from that and move on. The second is, “Don’t stop learning.” Maybe it’s because my mother was a teacher and I started in higher education, but there’s immense value there. If you fail, and you learn nothing from it – what was the value in your project?

Like what Joe had to say? Check out more intrapreneur and innovator profiles, including with Visa, SunTrust Bank, Dell and more!

Know an intrapreneur with a great story to tell? Let us know.



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