Q&A with Tom North (Atlanta, Coca-Cola)

On my travels, I get to meet some really interesting people. Luckily for me, a lot of them, become good friends.

One of these interesting people, is Tom North.

I was introduced to Tom, within the Coca-Cola system a few years back, and every time I’m in Atlanta, I always try to meet up for a beer – and we often talk about a number of things, one being technology!

Now, Tom works within Coca-Cola, and has led some high profile projects… he’s partnered with many international, national and local Atlanta-based startups and companies, leveraging their expertise and knowledge, to input on certain topics and programmes of work that are in flight.

One thing, I really admire Tom for, is the attention he gives to those willing to learn. An example of this, is the Capstone Event at Georgia Tech, where Tom and the team, submitted some ‘problem statements’ for the students to work on – and boy, did they work on them, and provide some great insights and results!

Always having time for people, I wanted to ask Tom some questions, so we could all learn a little from him…

Q&A with Tom North

  1. Why is it so important to believe in yourself?

Confidence in yourself is critical to one’s peace of mind and well-being.   Without it your purposefulness will be in jeopardy which could lead to progressive degeneration

  1. You’ve been able to build a good network over time, what advice can you give to those just starting on that journey?

A network is a business support system – you never know when you are going to need to depend upon it for help.

For people just starting to build their respective connections and contacts, I recommend implementing a guiding principle of inclusion – do not limit your network to people within your initial functional area.  Your role, most likely, is dynamic and will change over time, and therefore, your interests, needs, and hence your associations will need to be all-encompassing.

  1. Being able to work with students one minute, and then with Vice Presidents the next, what is the key communication skill you believe is critical for this?

I believe that anticipation is critical to being able to successfully communicate with one’s audience.

The proverb, “put yourself in the other person’s shoes” rings extremely true especially in today’s business environment.  Constant distractions, combined with an individual first culture, tends to condition people to focus on themselves.

I recommend people pause, think about the other person’s wants or needs, and be prepared as to what they are going to say.

  1. Having seen some really remarkable tech recently, what one tech item really stands out to you?

It is more of a trend than a technology.  The “Everything on Demand” is an exciting movement that plays off of the instantaneous gratification and general impatience rage that is gripping today’s society.

Thanks to brands like Uber and the resulting madness of startups built on the premise of “Being the Uber of _____”, people are getting used to, and are demanding everything on demand via phone apps.  I believe we will see this phenomenon continue to develop into different and even non-traditional territory.

  1. What should startups and students who are working on new technology or an idea, really focus on?

Solving practical everyday problems should be a focal point of startups or students just getting starting in Innovation.

Everyone has a different definition of Innovation but to me it is simple – it is the creation of something that adds value whether it is to an organization or directly to customers or consumers.

Focus on incremental innovation and the transformational innovation will be a natural byproduct.

  1. I used to work for Kodak. We both have an association with the Coca-Cola system. Do you ever think, Coca-Cola will end up like Kodak?

No I do not think so.  Coca-Cola is Americana personified and embodies family, happiness, and optimism.

I do, however, believe the delivery mechanism will embrace technology and evolve to meet changing consumer needs (see #4 above).  Robotics, personalization, and digitalization will make the brand more relevant, fun, and pervasive without being omnipresent.