Jennifer Garbos is on the show today. She is the Design Engineering Manager at Hallmark. We dig into the intersection of work and entrepreneurship and how that inspires change and growth. We also get into how Hallmark is emerging as an innovation company: the process, what technology they’re looking at next, and what human-centered design means to their organization.
Jennifer charms us with her insatiable curiosity, her contagious laugh, and her brilliance on how to move a company, like Hallmark, forward in the innovation arena.
CONNECT WITH JENNIFER
Jennifer’s background at Hallmark & entrepreneurial ventures: City Bitty Farms & Four Season Tools – 01:00
What are the strengths you can capitalize on? – 05:11
Using human-centered design to develop products – 07:08
The innovation exercises Jennifer uses at Hallmark – 11:40
How is Hallmark reaching new consumers? – 15:19
How Hallmark figures out what products will work – 22:09
Innovation Hotseat with Jennifer – 24:31
Jennifer’s take on “What is Innovation?” – 39:18
How Hallmark defines innovation – 40:55
Erin Srebinski [00:00]: Today we have Jennifer Garbos, a leader of future strategy at Hallmark cards. She’s taking 100 plus years of awesome at Hallmark and aligning it with the technology and behavioral trends of the future to ensure consistent growth. Hallmark is not Jennifer’s only role. She’s an entrepreneur with her husband, a mom to two imaginative kids, a mascot and an inventor with nine patents to her name. She joins us today to talk a little bit about her journey and the future of Hallmark.
Josh Barker [00:24]: Good so you’re going to unveil all of Hallmark’s secrets is what I’m hearing you say.
Jennifer Garbos [00:42]: I do have something and it’s public that I can talk about that I’m pretty excited about. I’d be happy to share that.
JB [00:50]: Cool. Cool. Well, Jennifer, I’d love to, kicking it off. I’d love to learn a little bit more about your background. And a little bit more about you if you wouldn’t mind just sharing with that with us.
I’d be happy to. My background, my job at Hallmark is I am the Design Engineering Manager for greeting cards as well as gift wrap, as well as an innovation leader for our company. My background is really interesting. I’ve always been in consumer products. Consumer products are my passion. I have worked as a product engineer at Ford before moving to Hallmark. And then my husband and I own three companies in the agriculture space that we’ve started from the ground up. Two of those are over 10 years old now. And so we live both the innovator and entrepreneur lifestyle.
JB [01:39]: That’s awesome. That really probably helps you both ways, right? I mean, seeing both sides of it, where you’re working at a large company like Hallmark and then being an entrepreneur as well?
JG [01:49]: It definitely does and the experiences I have on either side of that fence both influenced the other in a very positive way, the successes and the failures.
JB [01:58]: You’ve got to give a plug for your entrepreneurial businesses, what are they called?
JG [02:03]: Yes, the oldest company is called Four Season Tools. And with that we build custom greenhouse solutions for smaller-scale sustainable farms, especially specializing in movable greenhouses. So a greenhouse you can move from plot of land a plot of land, extend your season, or rotate your crops growing in different soil. And then, in order to do that well, we had to launch a farm because we are both engineers by degree and working in the agriculture space needed more experience in farming as well as it needed an R&D lab to test out the solutions we were developing for farmers across the country. So we launched City Bitty Farm, and it’s in Kansas City. It’s one of the largest urban farms in Kansas City and we grow microgreens year-round on a couple of acres in the urban area.
JB [02:53]: Looking at the website right now, City Bitty Farm, that’s awesome.
JG [02:55]: We’ve learned a lot through the years in launching those companies. One with a company that actually builds structures and, you know, physical objects and another that has a living, breathing thing that we have to nurture and take care of throughout all the holidays.
JB [03:12]: Very cool. Awesome. It looks like a lot of fun. And how does that help you with things at Hallmark?
JG [03:22]: Yeah. So when you start your own business as I’m sure some of your listeners have done themselves or have done multiple times. Serial entrepreneurs as we are. You have to do things with what you have. You have to work from your integral foundation, what do you have? Or what do you know that you can do better than anyone else? Or how can you spin it in a way or apply it in a way that gives you an advantage over other companies that may already be in that space?
As an entrepreneur, if you can’t do that you can’t thrive. Three years making it three years is the success of a homegrown business or any sort of entrepreneurial endeavor. And you can’t really get there if you can’t do something better or have your claim to fame. How do you offer value and uniqueness beyond what your competitors have, and being really, really great at assessing, honestly, what those strengths are that you have? That’s what we had to do as entrepreneurs to start Four Season Tools and City Biddy Farms way to apply the knowledge and the resources we had differently than anyone else who might be in that industry.
Bringing that forward to Hallmark, that’s definitely what we do as a part of the innovation process there. What’s great about is it makes us super lean, fast and strong. It lowers the risk of the ideas that we come forward with because we’ve already assessed the strengths that we have, and we’re applying those in a way that no one else can match in that even initial launch phase.
JB [04:50]: Yeah, that’s good. Yeah, it makes you almost think as an entrepreneur. You know, if you’ve seen the matrix where he says there is no spoon, right? It’s just kind of, there is no box outside your comfort zone, like expand the boundaries. So that’s I imagine that’s probably a lot of overlap there with helping you on Hallmark with innovation.
JG [05:11]: Definitely, definitely, I love doing puzzles. I love solving problems and connecting dots. When you can assess, here’s what all of my strengths are. And you lay them all out and even, you know, get as tactical as drawing them on post-its or writing it down on a piece of paper or typing it on your screen, you can start to see the connections between those and that’s where so much of the value lies. Look at what you can do really, really well. And then from that, what could you build from there? Like if you think about every single one of those strengths as a carbon atom, what are the bonds that you can create between those strengths? And do you end up with graphite? Do you end up with a diamond? What do you want in the end anyway? Would you rather have graphite?
JB [05:54]: Yes, exactly. Now you’ve got, it looks like the whole gamut. I mean, you’ve from an innovation director standpoint, so almost like working directly with from a consumer end standpoint to now, on the design side with probably some Human Centered Design focus. Sounds like it really affords you a really wide breadth of knowledge across, hey, starting with the customer, what do they see? What do they need? Or what Don’t they know they need yet? To all the way to engineering. Is that is that what I’m seeing too?
JG [06:31]: Yes, that’s exactly right. So you can see there that I started out as an engineer, a product engineer, and realized very quickly that a lot of times my client’s internal or external clients would be asking for a solution that wasn’t exactly what the customer or their consumer was looking for. And it led to a passion and a breadth of experience in the human center design or design for experience. So instead of developing the technology that was requested. It’s really about developing the experience with the correct Applied Technology.
JB [07:03]: Sure. Can you give some examples of some of the things you guys have worked or you’ve worked on at Hallmark?
JG [07:08]: Sure. One of my favorite examples and this is a few years ago, what I really love about it, it was launched before Siri was on your iPhone, probably even before iPhones were out. We were working on stuffed animals. I actually started at Hallmark making singing and dancing snowman, I was hired in to do the animatronics of the technical electromechanical modules inside those. And we were working on stuffed animals and stuffed toys for kids and realized that the maturity of voice recognition technology was really improving. It was becoming a lot more accessible and accessible in lower-cost devices.
And so we invented a toy that would respond to your voice. A stuffed animal. Specifically would respond to your voice as you read a book aloud. So Hallmark is very much interested in helping people make connections and build relationships with those people important to them in their lives. And making plush products or stuffed animals was a part of that it was helping provide either a representation for you when you’re not there or just giving a little, you know, a bit of love in a kid’s life. And we realized that stuffed animals are so important in a developing child’s life. They’re more than just a toy, they can be a companion, they can offer comfort. They, the role-play their part of the imaginative play world.
So what we did was we applied voice recognition technology to that, so that as parents were sitting down and reading to their kids, not only could they read to their kids, but the stuffed animals would listen along also, and the stuffed animals would interject in the way a four-year-old might do when you’re reading a storybook aloud at night with add-ons to the story or cute little moments. The first one we launched was called Jingle. He was a husky pup at Christmas time. You would say something in Jingle would just burst out into a howling song version of a Christmas tune. And so kids just they loved that. Not only did it make reading time more fun for kids who maybe didn’t want to sit still so much, but they had a friend who was listening along with them.
So we ran through those for a few years. And that really sparked my passion and development around the human-centered design process because we didn’t start with voice recognition technology and say, what can we do with this? What we started with, when that actually developed was the understanding that stuffed animals played a key role in the lives of kids and their families. And that reading time was a time that was important for that bonding between kids and either parents or caregivers or grandparents. That’s the moment we really wanted to help build-out. How can that be an even more emotional or fun moment?
JB [09:58]: That’s awesome. Yeah, that I think that’s so key with starting with the end consumer versus a technology and trying to shoehorn it into certain situations of how can we use this? I think that’s key. That’s key. I think you’re right on there. And how did you guys go about doing your research? I’m assuming there was a research phase before you just went ahead and built this plush animal of trying to figure out the need and trying to address and need that wasn’t being addressed.
JG [10:32]: Yeah, that’s a great question. We have a great fortune at Hallmark of working with some amazing creative talent. Hallmark’s one of the largest employers of creative professionals in the world. And that group, that incredibly creative group is constantly on the cusp of emerging technologies. So we really lean on everyone in the company to bring forward things that they’re noticing in the marketplace.
Technologies that are becoming more accessible news articles, things, they’re starting to make it into consumer’s homes, things that we find people are just feeling more comfortable with than they were in the past. And that timing is super, super important, especially when you do have a large creative group thinking of off the wall brilliant ideas, figuring out when they really start to intersect most people’s homes is a critical point. Yeah.
JB [11:22]: And I see that everyone’s kind of responsible for that. It looks like as an innovation director, you were leading innovation exercises and team activities to help fill your pipeline. How did you go about doing that? And what does that look like when we say innovation exercises?
JG [11:40]: Yeah, that’s a great question. And I’m sure that everyone has a different answer to it. There are so many different tools available. Personally, I have a strong belief in being insatiably curious, and therefore I might not ever lean on the same tool. I think that the job that we’re doing is going to dictate the tool that we need or that’s required. One of my more recent favorite examples of determining what kind of technology or what innovation to proceed with, really starts with an interview process or a gathering of carbon atoms.
So understanding not only what are the needs, that your consumers or that your customers have, but also in the strength that you have as a company, but also, who else is working on something even in the same company that has a passion project they want to move forward? That is just as important a factor in launching innovation at Hallmark as either of the other two.
The consumer needs to demand that the technology has to be right, but we also need people in the building who are willing to work on it or champion it or intersects the work that they’re already trying to do or the initiatives that they have in place. So my favorite exercise is to gather all of those pieces and parts together, and then look at who the person is we’re trying to solve for. So we knew a number of different needs.
Now let’s apply it to a human-centered persona. And maybe that’s not an actual person, but a person who embodies characteristics of the market that we’re trying to solve for at any given moment. And now understand this person, what are these things that would interest them? What would help them? What would work for them? and using that to map out a longer-term strategy? Because we want every single person to be satisfied with the results that we’re offering or the products or solutions?
JB [13:35]: So how do you guys take, you know, something that was a person in a persona so this, you know, this fake profile of a, it simulates a person right? It simulates a target market. How do you validate that with the true target market? How do you guys do that at Hallmark?
JG [13:50]: What we love about our industry is that everyone loves to get a card. Our founder has said, “No one ever sends a card in anger.” And so it’s really, really fun to work on a product that we know people are going to love to give. And so many different types of people are going to love to give those. So when we do than come up with a solution and we want to validate our target market. Depending on the type of product we’re talking about, we’ll use any number of different consumer testing techniques that our insights and analytics partners will recommend. Everything from focus groups, to quantitative consumer research surveys to ethnographic surveys, depending on what we really need to learn from that.
As I mentioned, I’m insatiably curious. What we really need to learn is going to drive the methodology that we choose. It’s not always about learning is the solution, the exact thing that this consumer is looking for? A lot of times it’s learning about the insight behind it or the implementation of it, or, as you mentioned, even earlier, the technology that’s used in it. Because it’s not about the technology, it’s about the need that it’s solving.
JB [15:03]: Right, Very cool. Now, let’s switch gears for just a second. I want to know a little bit about some of the cool things that are going on at Hallmark. What are some of the cool things going on that you can talk about? The stuff you can’t, we won’t we won’t talk about that stuff, but this stuff you can.
JG [15:19]: Sure, I love it that you ask what are the cool things going on at Hallmark as we talk on an innovation podcast because you can define cool or innovation in so many different ways. I think there are approaches that Hallmark is taking to reaching out to new consumers, as approaches to new products, to being in new places where you can access our product. One of the things that’s cool just from a ‘when do you think about Hallmark’ lens is we have a line of cards, today, called Just Because and those cards are really focused on realizing that people want to connect with other people and build their relationships in a positive way outside of it’s my birthday or it’s Valentine’s Day I have to get a card for my spouse or partner.
People have needs beyond that to be a good friend or be a good partner or be a good daughter or son. And so this line of Just Because cards really recognizes that. One of my favorite ones is just the ‘You’re a Great Parent’ card and it says, “Parenting is tough but you’re tougher.” On the inside, it says, “Even if dishes go undone or laundry piles up, you will all survive because the essential ingredient is there, love. Don’t worry, you’re doing great.” I know quite a few moms and dads in my circle I could give that to on any day and I think they’d start crying.
JB [16:43]: Right. I definitely see that as more of a trend because I see these cards, and I definitely resonate with being more specific and being outside of these, these events like Valentine’s Day, for example of giving cards. And seeing those cards that are pertinent to a lot more situations that are occurring more daily. So that makes perfect sense.
JG [17:04]: Right, and it’s really interesting. My husband and I because we talk about innovation at the dinner table, he calls Hallmark and emotional transfer company. I’m like, oh, gosh, that’s so so mechanical. Then other people you talk to will view Hallmark is a communication company that we’re about a communication method if you think analogous to letters. And then the question that naturally comes up is well with digital communication, you know, what’s the role? Why are there greeting cards?
What we found is that greeting cards carry a completely different value than digital communication does. They play a different role in your life. And as I said, no one sends a greeting card in anger. That’s not to be said for a lot of other digital communication. So we, we really are focused on helping people build up those relationships. And that makes for a completely different area of innovation that needs to bridge from digital to tangible. So you asked, what are some other things you know, that we have going on right now that are really interesting? And I think how we’re addressing that digital space is really, really cool.
We just launched a week ago, an app that’s available in the iPhone app store right now called Hallmark Digital Postage. And what’s so cool about that is that in that app, you are able to activate postage pre-printed postage on a Hallmark envelope if you decide you want to mail that card. So you never have to get stamps anymore. You don’t need to go to the post office, you can just activate through your app, the postage, it’s already printed on your envelope, and then toss it in the mail.
JB [18:47]: That makes it a lot more streamlined. That’s, that’s great. I’m looking at it right now. I might have to download this.
JG [18:53]: Yeah. And it’s, it’s super, super fun. And if you have a stamp, and you, you would rather just use you know, the special stamp that you walked to the post office and got, you can just stick that right over that code and you’re not losing any money, because you haven’t paid for it yet. So it’s a really great thing that we’re using to help people get those awesome tangible, beautiful cards in the mail to people they care about, but not require that they go through so many extra steps.
JB [19:20]: Yeah, that’s great. Decreasing the amount, the barrier to entry because I feel like cards add so much more weight when you receive one, right? Like when I physically take the time and write something out to someone that’s unusual, right? Because in our society today, it’s very digital. Sending an email, that’s a lot easier. Well, it takes effort for me to actually go select a card, get a card, handwrite it, get the postage, put it on there, put it in the mail. And so I think it carries a lot more weight when you receive a card.
JG [19:53]: Yeah, and we want to focus on those steps that are the important pieces of that process, the signing it or writing your message or, you know, whatever it is you do if you put stickers on your envelope or on your card. Putting stamps on the card is not the thing people always look forward to the most about sending their loved one a greeting card.
JB [20:40]: Right. Right, removing the barriers to entry. I love it. That’s good. I’ve seen a piece of software that was online that allowed me to type in digital cards. Like I’ve used it before to actually hand write like I type the message, and then they’ll have a system where its hand writes it and then put it in the mail for me and send it to the recipient. Do you guys have anything like that at Hallmark?
JG [20:37]: We have tested in some product offerings on Amazon.com that you can have your card signed and handwritten for you. So you never actually have to physically touch the card, but it will have a handwritten message that’s custom to the sentiment you want to deliver or what you want to say to the recipient. We’ve also done that on Hallmark.com, and either I think it’s for a low cost, someone will handwrite a message for you, and then we’ll send it along with the postage and you know, we’ll pay the postage to send it to the recipient directly. It’s something we’re definitely exploring. Hallmark also has a patent issued on handwriting digitization. And so it’s definitely a technology that is important to our business because of the importance it has to our consumers, that personal touch.
JB [21:29]: That’s cool that I mean, I like you that you use the word experiments. So you guys are probably always rapidly running these experiments and trying to figure out what your end market, your end consumers really need.
JG [22:09]: Yes, yes, we’re always running experiments, figuring out what works, what doesn’t work. I think that when you’re talking about an innovation program that’s built on your corporate strengths, yet you know where you want to go, let’s say you’ve done that persona development work, you understand the perfect solution that would engage that consumer down the road, but you’re not there yet.
You’re still over here at corporate strengths. You have to figure out how can I get to point B, and it’s usually not instantaneous. Usually what your consumers are looking for is so far beyond where you are today, just because of the exponential rate of change of technology that you have to figure out how can you build your way there? How can you connect those atoms? How can you build the bonds between the solutions that you can offer today? And we have to run experiments to build up those additional capabilities.
So in the digital postage example that I shared with you, there is so much to get to a place where people are never going to have to put stamps on envelopes to send a greeting card anymore. And this experiment that we’re launching is really helping us figure out, what is our consumer looking for? Doing experiments in a tangible realm is completely different, though, then doing them in digital space. Building a beta test app, and launching it and that app having to work with a physical tangible thing is just, it’s a really exciting space to play.
That physical-digital interaction and the interface between those things. We have to learn and experiment as we go because that side of innovation is not mature at all. Digital Innovation is really starting, you know, there are agile methodologies, and there are processes in place for how to do that. But when we’re talking about how digital influences the tangible product, or in reverse, how does tangible product interaction influence your digital development or experience? There’s that’s a pretty nascent field right now.
JB [23:39]: Yeah it’s what a lot of people call almost a sleepy field. It’s cool to hear all the innovation that is occurring at Hallmark. In a market that’s seeming, I don’t want to say dormant, but it’s definitely more sleepy. Yet, there’s still an incredible amount of merit in a physical greeting card and when what can be done to reduce barriers to entry and how to how to make it easier and simpler to send cards and, and to have more options of cards it sounds like.
JG [24:07]: Yeah, that’s definitely true. I think that as the technology and trend of smart homes grows, that that need for that digital tangible interaction, and how do you enable a positive consumer experience with physical things that are in your home is going to grow. It’s not quite there yet, but we definitely are on the forefront of exploring that space with experiments like the ones I’ve mentioned.
JB [24:31]: Awesome. Well, Jennifer, there’s a segment that we normally would do. I’m going to switch gears here unless you had something else you wanted to, to say about anything we’ve said so far before I switch gears.
JG [24:40]: Now let’s go. Let’s go, love it.
JB [24:42]: So this is something called the Innovator Hot Seat. So I’m going to ask you a series of questions that are unrelated to what we’ve been talking about. They’re very random. I’ll give you a sample of them. So like, they’re going to be things like, what podcasts do you subscribe to, one person you’d invite to dinner. I’m going to go through these and then we’ll unveil your answers. So this is the Innovators Hot Seat here. So first question, what podcasts do you subscribe to?
JG [25:12]: Oh boy, the Ask an Innovator podcast. I subscribe to that one. Number one right there. I listen to a lot of TED Talks as well. I have to admit that I prefer going to a lot of things in person over listening to podcasts. So when we have TEDx KC events here locally, I really enjoy that face to face interaction. It might be the human component to my job and understanding human interaction. I just love to get in front of people.
JB [25:42]: Good. Okay, one person you would invite to dinner? huh
JG [25:45]: Hm, my husband. Serial innovators don’t get a whole lot of time together.
JB [25:52]: Is his number one podcast Ask an Innovator, too? That was for him.
JG [25:58]: Yeah, no. Oh, gosh, I think if I had to invite someone to dinner outside of my own family, it would probably be Jeff Bezos. I’m just curious because what I’m really fascinated by is the way that he built up Amazon from a company that sold books online. And I know that There’s plenty of research out there that does that tell that story and describe that story.
But I would just love to get in his head and have a conversation about that vision and how much of that was predetermined and how much of that was accidental. And what he did with those happy accidents and the failures that when it came along the way. I think 15 years ago, 20 years ago, no one would have predicted it. And it’s just a fascinating journey. So I’d love to get behind into the process behind that.
JB [26:45]: Sure. Well, the good news is Jeff Bezos’s favorite podcast is Ask an Innovator so he’s listening. I’m sure he’ll, he’ll reach out so cool. Number three, one thing you’d bring with you on a desert island and it can’t be a person, so no husband.
JG [27:01]: All right. All right. One thing I’d bring with me on a desert island? Oh, I’m pretty resourceful, I’d use a lot of things off the desert island I already have. That’s a great question. I think I’d bring a pen. I think that would come in handy or just keep me sane. It would be a hard thing to recreate. And very frustrating. I’d like to think I could already make fire that’s, boy that’s kind of an ambitious goal.
JB [27:34]: Now would you want paper to go with it? Or would you? Where would you write?
JG [28:28]: That’s a funny thing. I think you can write on a lot of things. But the writing, maybe a Sharpie, a nice Sharpie marker. That might be more practical.
Yeah, I think you can solve so many problems, but I’m a really visual person in case you haven’t guessed that already. And it might be really frustrating and difficult to do without being able to make thoughts visual.
JB [28:04]: Good point. Very good point. What about the last book you read?
JG [28:08]: The last book I completed was Life of Pi. I’m in the middle of reading Loonshots now and that is a really fascinating innovation business book. The subtitle is how to nurture the crazy ideas that win wars, cure diseases, and transform industries. For people with a science background like mine, it’s especially fascinating because it connects physics principles to innovation process. I’ve had a few innovation colleagues actually recommend it to me because they feel like it’s been, it illuminates some of the practices behind their successful innovation programs as well.
JB [28:45]: Loonshots, I’m going to look that up. I have not read that book.
JG [28:49]: Yeah, it’s by Safi Bacall.
JB [28:51]: Okay, I wrote it down. In fact I’ve got it up on my Amazon right now. So I’m gonna check it out.
JG [28:58]: Yeah, it’s a well-written book too, fun to read. I like those.
JB [29:06]: It looks like it. What do James Bond and Lipitor have in common? Huh? So That’s the subtitle. Interesting. I’m going to take a look at that. Interesting. Okay, your favorite place you’ve traveled and why?
JG [29:15]: My favorite place I’ve traveled. I lived in Istanbul for seven months. And there is a city in Turkey called Cappadocia. And it has I off the top of my head. That is my favorite place I’ve traveled. And the reason is that it is just an ancient city that’s built into the stones and carved into the stone mountains.
And not only are you able to visit and look at that, but they actually will tour you down through the stones into the depths of the ground it go, we went down at least seven stories into the ground into these apartments and cities that were all built into this softer rock and I think that the opportunity just to dig into [literally] another culture, an ancient culture like that and see a different way of living and imagine what it was like to be in that environment and to walk the paths that those people walked was just just a fabulous, fascinating experience.
JB [30:18]: I think that fits probably in line with your, your innovation background where you’re almost like acting like an anthropologist, right? How do they live and how do they interact? And so that’s good.
JG [30:30]: Yeah, my new favorite topic to study for technology trends for our team is all around neuroscience. There’s so much happening and understanding how the brain works. I just love to understand what we’re learning about how healthy relationships are developed, or how people feel good, and how that connects to the activities and the chemicals and the structure of the brain.
There’s so much there that I think is going to drive future developments for products down the road when you think about the future and as the design engineering manager at Hallmark and an innovation leader, we have to think years ahead, three, four or five years ahead. And as those technologies begin to converge and neuroscience develops understandings of the science, at the same time, nanotechnology is developing new ways to release or create products and or even have different interfaces to products, along with robotics converging in with that, so that you can have different responses to the interaction with products.
I think that there’s so much that’s happening in that technology space and as it all comes to light together, what that makes possible is just really fascinating. It’s giving us a playbook that the pages aren’t even available yet. Much less are you able to write in it? And just seeing, how can you foretell? How can you see what that future looks like? What are the clues that are going to make it evident to what will we need to develop down the road? And as I mentioned earlier, where do we start building strength? What is the strength I’m going to need three years from now if we understand that the brain functions differently and a different type of interaction between people is needed?
JB [32:19]: Yeah, when is Hallmark going to develop a neurotransmitter that automatically knows when I need to send a card and write it all for me and send it in? Just by thought, right?
JG [32:29]: Yeah, we have no interest in being on the creepy side of things.
JB [32:36]: Yeah that would be a little bit creepy, I would admit that.
JG [32:38]: Yeah, yeah, we do have a patent on helping you determine though your own appearance through augmented reality. It’s kind of a cool one to look into as Halloween approaches. If you were able to pre-program, what you looked like to anyone viewing you through a smart device, what would that be? And how could that change our interactions with other human beings?
JB [33:03]: To elaborate on that? That’s interesting. Give me a little bit more details behind that.
JG [33:06]: Well, gosh, I’m not really sure.
JB [33:11]: Is it like software? That’s what I’m trying to envision in my mind. With AR VR like, what does this look like?
JG [34:21]: Yeah. So last year, we launched some VR cards. Speaking to developing capabilities, we have some people in our building who watch the virtual reality and augmented reality landscape very, very carefully. And we saw that the interest in virtual reality was peaking and it was becoming more accessible to consumers. And we launched a greeting card with really wonderful full pop-up paper mechanism built in the card that you could just tear out of the inside. Binding there, the card, pop up, slide your phone and then give someone a virtual reality experience.
We didn’t take anyone to Cappadocia, I’m kind of sad about that. But we did take people surfing or scuba diving or skiing or there was another one we did with a hot air balloon ride. And you could just pop your phone in your this virtual reality viewer that came in your card in an envelope in the mail and experience one of those really great destinations.
So thinking about that, we thought, well, what are what is the future of augmented reality or virtual reality? And what would it look like to play in that space in a strong way? And understanding that the interactions between people is so important, that’s where our team did apply for this patent and get granted this augmented reality patent around modifying your personal appearance to others. So the long answer to what you asked is we don’t really know yet. We’re building our way there.
JB [34:50]: Sure. Alright, next question. First thing you do in the morning?
JG [34:56]: First thing I do in the morning, gosh, I wake up and open my eyes and I check my phone. I’m a total dork, a very lame dork.
JB [35:02]: Hey, if you didn’t say that you checked your phone. I think at this point I’ve asked that question of four or five different people and they’ve said the same thing. Check my phone. So it almost becomes unusual if, “Oh, you don’t check your phone. Oh my goodness. Wow.” It’s impressive.
[JG 36:28]: Yeah. And it differs. You know, depending on my mood, what I’m checking. Sometimes I’m honestly just checking into a little Candy Crush. Maybe I’ll try and open my eyes if I can be incentivized with a little dopamine release through some game win.
JB [35:35]: Oh, nice. And what about what do you do to unwind?
JG [35:37]: Gosh, you know what I do to unwind? I get out of my building. I actually go hang out with my kids. My kids are five and seven, Tess and Orion and I would love to go to their school. I love to see what they’re doing. I love to hang out with them and their classmates. And we love to do a lot of science fair projects, I guess just exploring technology at a really, really early age and sharing that with other kids. I love to play. If you asked me like, what is my personal life passion, it’s around play. I’ll play games when I wake up in the morning. And if I’m unwinding, I can play games with my kids. I think that just any form of play brings me such joy and I use it so broadly,
JB [36:19]: That’s good. Too many people overwork and don’t have that balance. It sounds like that’s a that’s not a problem with you. That’s a very good skill to have.
JG [36:27]: Well, you might have heard that it’s also all research at the same time? human interactions are really, your insight into human interaction is pretty poor if you don’t spend time with humans.
JB [36:40]: That’s right. Very accurate. Alright, what about what area of innovation interests you the most? And outside of work?
JG [38:05]: Outside of work what area of innovation interests me the most? I would say the intersection of emerging behaviors and emerging technologies. And where those two paths cross. When technology is accessible, how it impacts someone’s life? How it’s used by people? The unintentional behaviors and uses. I think that everything in my life could be answered with an action verb. And so understanding the actions of people based on their surroundings and their environment.
So the area of technology is really about emerging behaviors, emerging technologies, how they influence each other when technologies are ready, when people are ready. And then those unanticipated things. I just love it when we don’t know how someone’s going to respond to something or what they’ll do or demand that we had no idea was going to be important. Had an example yesterday, I’m trying to think of it. I was just talking with someone about I think we’re talking about shopping. And how yes, it makes sense that when you’re shopping in an aisle now you price check. Or maybe you order it online because it’s cheaper there and you don’t need it for a few days. But you saw in the store, what I’m really excited about with that space is what’s that going to look like in the future?
Well, what we understand now about omnichannel and mobile shopping. Is that is so it’s so base-level functional. Price, save money, get it in time. And of course, showcasing you know, showcasing an object there in the brick and mortar stores is so understood, so well understood. I think we’ve barely scratched the surface of what that’s going to look like in the future. And I think there’s a lot of theories out there and a lot of hypotheses I’ve read and listen to. But I don’t think anyone really fully knows how technology is going to change that yet.
JB [38:48]: Very good point. Yeah, that is a fascinating area. Talking about Jeff Bezos is definitely, they’re definitely disrupting a lot of different industries. So it’s very interesting to see some of those changes that you’re talking about and how the disruptors in the industry are shaking things up and what the future might hold.
JG [39:03]: Yeah, definitely. And being in consumer goods in the consumer goods industry, of course, that’s very, very important.
JB [39:10]: Well, that was it that was the Ask an Innovator Hot Seat. So any other topics that you that we didn’t hit on, Jennifer? That were on your list? That you thought might be interesting?
JG [39:18]: Oh, there is one thing. We touched on it a bit about when you asked you know, what kind of cool things do we have coming down the pipeline or what’s new and different? And I think that’s something I’ve heard mentioned briefly on some of the other Ask an Innovator podcasts and that I would reiterate is, it is really important to understand what you mean by innovation. Especially if you’re the person in your organization that’s charged with delivering innovation, or even if you’re the Chief Innovation Officer.
Understanding from your leadership, what they actually mean by that, and you all ask it very, very well, when you get innovators on this podcast. But defining that internally to your company. I think a lot of times we just operate under the with the understanding that we need to deliver innovation. And we don’t even check back in to make sure that the innovation definition is correct. And that’s just something that I’ve seen in our experience at Hallmark. It changes and as it changes over time, we can be more or less successful with it.
JB [41:50]: Well, how do you define innovation then?
JG [40:27]: Of course you’d asked that right on the heels of that monologue! I would define innovation as either reaching new people, new consumers, or as a new product or having something in a new place or at a new time. I think it’s really easy if you do think kind of scientifically, it’s about space, time, people, or product. Iwould say that is space, time, people or things. One of those at least needs to be new.
JB [40:51]: That makes perfect sense. And do you feel like that Hallmark has a different definition?
JG [40:55]: I think that Hallmark defines innovation differently by the person who’s asking for it. And then you know, by the team responsible for delivering it. As I mentioned, with such a large creative workforce, so many people are delivering innovation at Hallmark, and that definition is definitely different for each team. Completely different.
We have innovation, just side by side on the card rack today you’ll see a greeting card that folds out into an elaborate paper structure that could be, it could be a cactus garden or Noah’s Ark. Next to, you know, four feet away will have a greeting card that when you open it pops up into the shape of a toilet with flushing and fart sounds. And those, those two things are so very, very different with such different enabling technologies and different skills that were needed to create them that they’re both innovation. And they’re both necessary. There isn’t a right answer. The only answer that wouldn’t be right is something that your company or your consumers not looking for it all
JB [42:04]: Right. You don’t want to build something that no one uses or wants.
JG [42:07]: Yeah, if you build it, they don’t necessarily come, do they?
JB [42:10]: Exactly. That is not innovation. Yep. Awesome. Jennifer, I really appreciate you coming on and chatting about innovation. It’s been a great chat and conversation.
JG [42:22]: Thank you. It’s been wonderful talking with you and I appreciate the opportunity.