Anne Bibb 0:12
Welcome back to Unexpected Journey. This week we have Amy Jones Vaterlaus who is a Global Innovation Executive, a product developer, visionary and board member. Throughout her career, she has been a trusted adviser to boards of directors, and chief marketing officers on strategy, franchise management, growth planning, digital innovation, human capital management and global risk for multibillion dollar sporting goods and lifestyle organizations, and was most recently with Adidas. Welcome to the show, Amy.
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 0:52
Thanks, Anne. Excited to be here.
Anne Bibb 0:55
I’m excited for you to be here. So Amy, and I have had quite a few conversations, we’ve bonded over our love of human experience, and how to how to make things better for all kinds of things. And it isn’t just about customer experience, or employee experience, it’s about experience. Yes, one of the things that I found very interesting. And one of the reasons that I asked Amy to come on the show was that when people hear about customer experience, and when people hear about product, they don’t generally put those two together, you know, hear about a product. I just like think about this thing in my hand. And when I was talking to you, you actually talked about your thought process, about customer experience and how you think about each individual thing. When you when you’re talking about products. How what, what is your background there? And how did you get there?
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 2:06
How I got there? Well, to start, I think I really enjoyed our conversation because I hadn’t maybe use the language that you use in your day to day in my world. So it was a nice like, Aha moment like I have a new word maybe for what, what I’m doing or how I’m considering. But I my career has been in product and product and experience creation, and certainly within the sporting area. But I do believe that all products you’re creating for an experience, how is somebody actually going to use it? How do they engage in it, it’s not just a thing. But somebody’s paying to participate and have a feeling around that. But I think also what’s interesting are where we started talking about more of that overall experience, the customer experience is what how someone’s going to discover the product? How are they going to engage in it? Where are they going to find it? What are they actually looking for in the need? And so I oftentimes think of like, what is the attraction point for someone? How are they going to engage in it in that product and experience? What are those interest points? And then how does that extend over time or potentially in community. And I believe if you’re making just a product, and you’re not paying attention to all of those other points, you risk your product not being found, not creating a true meaning. And so there’s a there’s a lot of points or obstacles that someone could could reasons for them not to engage with you. And so if I think about if I’m, if I’m creating a sports bar, for example, and I can have lots of data, athlete data, performance data, great, make a great, amazing product. But if someone’s not able to see you, or see them part of your brand, maybe the language, the imagery, you don’t feel comfortable in the store, or maybe sport in general, or movement in general is new for you. They’re not going to find your product. And so the important part is understanding their entire journey. And then what are they looking for? And then yes, you are creating the product, but you’re creating a pathway for them as well. And not just from a product or I think of maybe maybe upstream, but you’re also bringing others in your company a brand along. How do you all align on a story? I call it story led innovation, but how are you all aligning from that creation point all the way out? To your customer or athlete in our case?
Anne Bibb 4:27
Story led innovation. I love that term. It just kind of sticks with you. So thinking about product, you know, you and I were saying you just said you know, we were talking? We were saying two different words, two different terms. But throughout our conversation, we came to realize we were kind of talking about the same thing. Yeah. And that was that was interesting. So do you really think it? Do you differentiate or do you think that there’s a difference between the product experience and customer experience.
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 5:05
I thought a lot about this from our conversation, you got really got me thinking, I do think there’s differentiators within that we’re still, as you started saying earlier, we’re creating a human experience. And there’s all these different touch points for someone to engage, I think that the input that goes into creating a product experience, part of that is that customer experience. And in order to get a strong product, you have to understand the customer experience. Because there’s a lot of points where, again, someone’s not going to discover, assess, or even want to be part of part of what you’re creating. And we know I talked a little bit of even the language does retail, welcome you eat calm, you know, there’s all of these points where you might not feel part of that product or needs experience, maybe you don’t want to, to be part of yourself. And so the success of a product very much relies on the success of the system that you’re putting in place as it relates to a customer. So even for, for example, just internally, if you don’t have the operating system set up for a new product, maybe it requires, I don’t know, different skews, maybe it’s a different manufacturing, it could be different e commerce experience, based on the product that you’re creating, then those are potential barriers or obstacles for someone to never discover it for the product never to come to life. Because there’s there’s points even within your company that doesn’t allow for the product to come out. And then of course, a good customer experience. And so I think about this full end to end, there’s this internal pipeline within your company, when you’re creating a product that has all the different touchpoints that a customer has, and then there’s actually executing those as well. So I think they they play very much hand in hand, they can’t be separate, you just figure out how are they actually working together? And then where are those touch points that you actually that you are pushing your you’re executing on?
Anne Bibb 7:05
So you’ve got that you just said something that I think is incredibly important that we haven’t really touched on. And that’s the execution. And how important that is, because you can plan all day long. Yeah, but if you don’t execute properly, it’s all over.
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 7:26
Yeah, it’s all over, you’re never going to have a customer experience, because you can’t get it out the door potentially. And so the importance of when you’re creating that product, it’s not just again, about the product, or just the product, or experience at hand. But who do you need to bring along in the company and your brand to actually realize it. And then you are along the way building those points where a customer will engage with you, but you’re making it easier, you’re making it possible. So they can’t be separate. I’ve seen many projects not make it because we didn’t have the system set up. And it’s it’s unfortunate, they might have been amazing products. They were designed for very good reasons. But there were there are barriers within to even build that customer experience that product experience that you desired. So how do you go about
Anne Bibb 8:16
breaking down those silos in order to make that journey from IDEA, the innovation that you were talking about, right? The story led innovation, to you know, the actual product creation, all the way through to having the team be able to execute, break down those silos.
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 8:41
I mean, a lot of it is just socializing and sharing and bringing people on board. Like I’ve done a big project called bodymind variability. So understanding the variability of of men’s traitors or started as a women’s product and expanded into more around menstruation. Welcome to the show, guys. Welcome to the show. We’re gonna talk periods. Go right there. And so there’s barriers to understand what athletes how they’re participating or not participating. So you’re understanding what somebody’s actually experiencing their day to day, I can answer that through product. There’s a product we can create that can help with that for sure. But that’s not useful if we don’t change a taboo topic into a topic that we can talk about, that you can celebrate that coaches are okay talking or families or depending on where you’re living, that this is a reality, and it’s not just creating a single product, but how do you start really changing the narrative around men, Streeters, bodies, humans bodies? And so if I look at product, what does that actually mean with what are we going to say around communications? What other partners are we going to bring in? That’s not my my role potential as an innovative, but I know something. And that knowledge is like, hey, let’s bring everyone together all across this entire touchpoint from early To like that last communication with with your audience, and what do we all need to get to rally behind this? What do we need to change? What do we need to implement, so that you’re actually setting a runway or a platform for a new product to come through, there’s things you can do now before the product even comes out. So you’re you’re building that, again, that’s that story that we’re all connecting to, and what is our role there, and it doesn’t work. If you surprise someone within your company, hey, I’ve got this new thing. Everyone has calendars, everyone has their own kind of business and expectations or what they need to deliver. So it’s really creating a team around something new, so that you’re all participating in answering that. And it’s not trying to force something, something new. So it’s very much it’s ownership across across the board, not just in product.
Unknown Speaker 10:52
So one of the things that truly impressed me about your thought process was your inclusionary views on pretty much everything. And that included your innovation, thought process around product. And I’d love to hear about that today. Because one of the things you said to me was, I don’t like thinking about just one person being able to use a product, I want to make sure that all different kinds of people are able to use what we innovate and create.
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 11:38
Yeah. So when I think of even the word inclusive, I think there’s always good intention behind it. It’s used, it’s a word that’s used a lot. We used to not use it at all. So it’s a huge step that we’re even having these conversations, I think about inclusion as how can we be anti exclusionary? And it takes that not it’s not just an intention, but it’s actionable, like what are all of the points that somebody’s being excluded? And then how do we actually solve for inclusion, so that the output is yes, inclusion, but you have to understand those exclusionary points. And, you know, I’ve, we all know what it feels like to be excluded, and in different ways. And certainly, I mean, it could be how you’re, you’re growing up, it could be money, it could be education, it could be at work, there’s all those points. So there’s a lot of heart in it. So you want to remove that for people to, to participate to add value in someone’s life to answer a need, certainly. But I think it also gets exciting when you think about, you know, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of points where we’re excluding people that we’re just not considering. There’s lines that exist in society, in business. You know, it could be in school and education, you name it, that are there, but it takes a lot of honest reflection of how are we actually doing that as a company, or maybe as an individual or as a as a team. And to do that, you oftentimes need to bring in other points of view, and to really challenge yourself, see things that you are not seeing, that maybe others can shed light on. And so a lot of it is to just really challenge what you’re doing and expand it. And, you know, from a business or an insight standpoint, to have new, new insight, new information from people that’s exciting, is a business if you keep if you keep building for the exact same people the exact same data, the exact same information, you are going to incrementally change your business. But when you start opening it up to other people, and when you think from a design research standpoint, you can create for the extreme cases that feed into the masses, you can you know, when you think about oftentimes we talk about inclusivity and bringing new new members in new athletes, and they it’s not a niche conversation. When you think about everybody’s circle of influence and who they’re interacting with, you can really make an impact on who you are reaching in your business. And so I think there’s some really just from a I mean, not just from the heart but like the business standpoint, to have some new information to challenge what you’re doing. This is about strategic growth. It’s not about oftentimes it’s like well if you add someone it’s taking away from somewhere No, it’s not it’s really looking at how do you bring more people into your business new people, how are you adding value impacting their lives that maybe maybe hasn’t existed before and from it goes for your team as well. So it’s not just who you’re creating for but creating with and ensuring that you have some new voices on your team, you new partners, new communities, so you really expanding holistically what what you’re doing, but I’m very I’m very passionate about this topic.
Anne Bibb 16:01
Okay, so we want to play a little game of this or that to help everybody get to know you a little bit better at this point in time. So are you familiar with this or that?
A little bit? A little bit. Not participate regularly in this game.
Anne Bibb 16:21
That’s okay. But your game for game? How about that? So this or that, I give you two words or phrases and you tell me which one do you prefer? And why? So the first one bad haircut or bad dye job?
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 16:39
I would go with bad haircut. Yeah, I could cover I could cut it again. Jobs. Yeah, that wouldn’t be a harder one to correct. I’ve had too many of those.
Anne Bibb 16:54
Very, very terrified of a bad dye job, which is probably why I haven’t had a dye job in like 25 years because I just You see so many things about what people do and like the frying of the hair and having to regrow it and just shave their heads and start over. Alright, what about vacation or staycation?
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 17:17
vacation. I love to travel. I love to experience new things. I mean, I do love love my house, but in preferably with my family. I would like to the whole family. Yeah, though, I admit, I just went on a solo vacation. So I say that. But I did just do a solo went to Chile. Yeah, I want to see the world. But I’d like my kids to see the world. Awesome.
Anne Bibb 17:41
Nice. What about private office, or reserved parking spot?
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 17:48
Private Office, I just I like to be by myself.
Anne Bibb 17:54
The whole family to go with you. I’m thinking
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 17:57
all over the place. I’m, I’m fine with walking, parking circling the parking lot. But I do like my alone time. And if I can just shut the door sometime. It can be the smallest little spot and don’t even care. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But I would
Anne Bibb 18:12
take that you’re just full of conflicts, Amy?
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 18:15
All over the place.
Anne Bibb 18:19
Yeah, have to keep us on our toes. It’s all good. It’s all good. So you were with adidas for 17 years. You don’t hear this very often anymore. I found that fascinating. Because a lot of times today we hear about people staying at a job for you know, three, four years and then moving on to another job. But what when we talked you actually you started out as an engineer? Yes. And then you move to several different roles. And then you ended up as the SVP of strategy and an innovation. How did that’s like a very interesting, curvy road to get How did that happen?
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 19:08
Yeah, well, I think you’re right, it’s maybe not as usual, I’m driven by change. I’m constantly looking at change. I don’t want to change everything, only things that need to be changed. And what I found within innovation at Adi Das is that I was allowed to navigate my own change by seeing opportunities around so I did have many different roles. I think the only one that existed was the one that I joined as a mechanical director of mechanical engineering, I think was my title at the time. I joined during the deepest one the first intelligent shoe and I had many different roles, but I was allowed to create them. It’s I know it’s not maybe typical or where it’s been, but I saw lots of different opportunities within digital so I was in digital sport for many years on product and experience. I see Did you know I had a very technical background, but then I saw a lot of opportunity around human or consumer aspects. And so I was able to expand not only individually as myself and development, but it was something that was needed for the team, and had a chance to start a women’s innovation program, then overall consumer and then technology LED technology and apparel and of course, the Global Head of innovation at Adi last. But I think that it was it was looking for the opportunities within innovation, speaking up creating kind of doing my homework, like, there’s something really exciting here. I don’t know it, but I can figure this out. But it was also the environment that I was in, I had a manager that encouraged that, that listened. And you know, I think a lot about that, as a leader, making sure I’m listening to everyone on the team, whether you’re, you know, an intern, you know, all the way up to peers or above. But it’s important to pay attention to what people are seeing and the opportunities they’re seeing, because you’re not going to see everything but but I had someone that allowed that and maybe saw the potential in me before I did, or in a different way. And so I think, again, another thing, it’s like really knowing your team, what are some of their strengths. And you know, it all was leading to the success of the team. But the success of the team is the success of the individuals. And it’s like this very dynamic puzzle. And I felt like I had an opportunity to be dynamic, but within innovation. And so I had many experiences. And I know that’s not, that’s not always typical. But that’s why I stayed. I stayed and I had a wonderful time there.
What I find interesting, though, is that it’s not a tiny, tiny organization, no large organization. And for someone like yourself and many others, to stay there for so long. You had to drive a positive employee experience. So how, as a leader, did you do that at such a large organization?
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 22:12
Yeah, I think part of it as a large organization, you can still feel like a team within that, within this really big company. And I think it’s establishing what is the team’s vision and mission? And how does that line up with your brand and company, like you’re really giving the team a purpose. They know what they’re contributing to. There’s excitement behind that. And so it’s having a solid framework of who you are as a team, and of course, the culture. That’s part of that. But I think on an individual team member, it’s also when I touched on it, everyone has a voice, but making sure people know they have that voice. You’re you’re asking, regardless of where somebody is sitting. You’re drawing those voices out. So people know that their their thoughts, their ideas matter. So there’s this kind of this individual aspect. And it requires you to get to know the team having those conversations that could be development all the way to what did they do this last weekend. So it’s getting to know the team, they feel like they are part of a team, they want to be part of that team. So there’s very much that culture, but I think as a leader, I show my vulnerability, it’s not to show like to give anyone doubt, like even
Anne Bibb 23:30
though, I have to ask you show your vulnerability, vulnerability, is it perceived as a weakness or a strength that you’re doing? So
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 23:39
I think it might the feedback I get is very human leader like that’s what was appreciated, because we went we’ve all gone through very hard times, especially with with COVID, even pre post. There’s some days I’m just having a hard time, having a hard day. It allows other people to also have a hard day, it’s not that I don’t mind admitting, I don’t know something, I’m going to figure it out. And in innovation, I should not know everything. And so there’s this element of you know, we’re in this together. It’s not to show it’s to show more of the human side. We are all human and also allows others to be human and then I’m going to see them for who they are not not maybe how they think they they should be.
Anne Bibb 24:25
Do you feel like that vulnerability allows your team to have that safety to open up and trust you?
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 24:34
Yeah, I trust is extremely important. And yeah, the conversations and certainly the feedback. I think also for safe I will apologize, I will admit fault. I will take responsibility. I was told once that you know women apologize too much that we shouldn’t apologize, but I apologize as a human. You know, when there’s something and that also provides safety, we’re not perfect. And I will again take response stability and admit fault. And innovation, we should be taking risks. If we are not failing, sometimes we are not succeeding in some. So I think there’s also the safety, this ability to push and be free of quarks within boundaries here. But it allows for a different dynamic in the team. And I think an important one, especially within innovation.
Anne Bibb 25:28
Very, very good. Your team stayed with you for a very long time you had you had a pretty good retention rate. Do you attribute that to you being what you just called a human leader?
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 25:48
I think so. And, you know, I also had, we had a wonderful leader before me, who had built this team and culture and, you know, it was just part of inherently of who we were. I’m not the same leader, as my manager, my previous manager, certainly like he, he was very amazing and wonderful and created this strong team. But I think it it set the foundation for this human this people element, we all do it differently. That’s, I think, the uniqueness and the beauty of us as individuals. But it was a strong foundation, this people Foundation, and that’s, that’s why people will stay.
Anne Bibb 26:34
So you had so many pivots during your time. What is your advice to to somebody that wants to change, right? They’re thinking about that career pivot, whether it be internally within the organization that they’re in now. Or they’re like, you know, I want to get out of this industry and go to another one, or I just want to throw it all out. And I want to start over, like, I’m done. I want to go and like, create and sell stuff on Etsy, you know, what more power to you what, what is your advice to somebody who just wants to pivot right now?
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 27:15
Yeah, I mean, at first, if you see something, there’s an opportunity there, raise your hand, you don’t have to know what it is. But you can try something out. It doesn’t have to be forever. I think at times, we’ll have these long time associated with things. But there’s a lot to do to try out. I think a big thing is just have different conversations. Maybe you don’t know exactly what you want to do your feeling. There’s a sense of change, have conversations, reach out to people coffee, LinkedIn, whatever that might be. But just start socializing. Like you’re trying to figure this out, get some information from many different different people. I think when I, when I consider what’s next, I tried to consider what’s next. Next, that might be too much of a stretch. But keep that in mind, as you have these conversations, as you start to explore is that next thing going to help you get to that next next, if you know it, it will potentially open up what this next step might be, you can maybe we’ll think a little bigger about it. But I do keep that in mind. Oftentimes, this and I’m not I think about the future constantly. That’s where my world sits. I am not the best future planner for myself. I chase opportunities that are in front of me, but I do try to think like a little bit further there. And I had someone recently to inform another chief member, Bridget Smith, we I was talking to her and she recommended just planting a seed every day. It could be write an email reached out to someone read an article, but essentially what I loved about that is that you’re you’re carving time for yourself to to figure this out, you’re putting importance to this, like you’re gonna you’re gonna even if it’s 10 minutes, like that’s still your 10 minutes to do this. And it should be exciting. It sometimes can be overwhelming, but it also the you know this one step every day breaks it down into manageable modes. And it allows that excitement to come through versus I don’t know what to do. This is completely overwhelming. I think everyone you got it in you. You can just like break it down a little bit. And people are generous with their time. I’m always shocked how much people will if I reach out to someone, they’ll have a conversation. It’s led me to tears at time like I overwhelmed with how generous people people can be. So reach out but also spend that time if others reach out to you. I think it’s really important there.
Anne Bibb 29:54
Absolutely. That’s how this friendship began. That’s right.
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 29:58
We didn’t even know we Add customer. It’s the human experience connection.
Anne Bibb 30:03
Right. Right. And it’s it’s just the beginning of a long lasting one. That’s so Well, Amy, I am so grateful that you said yes to being on the Unexpected Journey podcast, and I want to give you the opportunity here. Why would people reach out to you? And if they are going to reach out to you? How do they reach you?
Amy Jones Vaterlaus 30:28
The best place is LinkedIn. That’s my I think that’s the easiest to get a hold of me. Reach out if you have questions on anything that I talked about today. You know, even the topic of human experience or what you’re doing with your business, or maybe what’s next with you, I’ve I’ve made some pivots in my careers as well as some recent changes. So I would love to talk about that as well.
Anne Bibb 30:55
Absolutely. And we’ll have links to Amy’s LinkedIn below. And thank you again, Amy for joining. And we will see everybody next week on unexpected journey. Thanks, Anne.