Coca-Cola North America is giving employees the chance to serve up the next breakthrough innovation – from new beverage brands, to groundbreaking sustainability programs, to creative eCommerce solutions – through a crowdsourcing forum called the Grand Challenge.

Launched in 2017, the Grand Challenge invites Coca-Cola North America associates – regardless of department or job title – to surface ideas that meet unmet needs or solve a known business challenge. In the first two years, the program has generated more than 300 submissions and helped create a more entrepreneurial and empowered workforce by encouraging teams to take smart risks, innovate quickly and embrace an agile, test-and-learn mindset.

Grand Challenge

How it Works

When the submission window opens, employees craft short descriptions of their ideas. All participants then vote on the top ideas to advance to the next round. From there, finalists have roughly a month to assemble a cross-functional team and craft a five-minute pitch to a panel of senior Coca-Cola leaders in front of a live – and livestreamed – employee audience. Winning ideas are then given a chance to be trialed on a limited basis in the market and must pass certain viability tests in order to continue.

“As part of the growth culture we’re creating at Coke, we want to source business ideas from entrepreneurial minds throughout the company and then given our internal entrepreneurs a chance to quickly test their idea in the marketplace for business viability,” said Chaly Jo Moyen, SVP of Strategy, Coca-Cola North America and the program’s executive sponsor. “If they work, that’s great and we keep growing and learning as we develop the product or idea. If it doesn’t work, then we still learn, but also benefit from a fast failure. The point is that we’re constantly learning and empowering our people to break down boundaries and think differently.”

Grand Challenge
Chaly Jo Moyen, SVP of Strategy, Coca-Cola North America, speaks at the 2018 Grand Challenge finale.

Past winners of the Grand Challenge include a pet beverage concept called Pawgua that is being tested on a very limited scale to determine viability, and a watershed cleanup system called MAKO that intercepts floating debris from waterways. MAKO will soon be piloted in the Atlanta area to support the company’s “World Without Waste” vision.

This innovation follows another recent employee-led project aimed at reducing waste: a package-less water dispenser called Dasani Purefill. This concept gives people the ability to fill their own bottles with free, ultra-filtered water, and add zero-calorie flavors – Berry, Lime, Black Cherry and Blood Orange – and/or carbonation for a small fee.

Grand Challenge
The MAKO team celebrates their 2018 Grand Challenge win. 

“The Grand Challenge is a great opportunity for our associates to flex their creativity muscles and help drive growth and innovation in our business,” added Moyen. “It has been inspiring to see how our employees have really embraced the growth culture we’re trying to cultivate. Certainly, last year’s winners, Pawgua and MAKO, are perfect examples of the nonconventional ideas that can surface when all employees are invited to bring their unique perspectives to the table. While there are no guarantees that these ideas will become programs or products marketed across the country, they are great ways for our  associates to experience firsthand how ideas can quickly go from ideation to execution in a fast-moving marketplace.”