Fast Company Goes Inside Starbucks’ Leadership Lab

Fast Company’s Sarah Kessler was recently on hand to check out the brand new Starbucks Leadership Lab, housed in a convention center in Houston. She joined 9,600 Starbucks store managers as they were lead through twenty exhibits feature 5,000 live coffee shrubs, a drying patio for hands on raking, an enormous empathy exhibit with a floor of used shoes with customer experiences, lines of laptops to type out what manager’s have learned. Above them loomed with a giant screen display, whose array output was an interactive word cloud in the shape of a coffee bean.

Starbucks spent $35 million dollars on this expo, forking over beaucoup bucks to their team of hotly courted 21st century millenial graduate marketing gurus. Clearly the whole thing sounds pretty darn impressive. It’s like the SCAA Expo meets TED meets OMSI meets that big building they all work at in Gattaca. More from FastCompany:

Starbucks’s Leadership Lab is, as its name implies, part leadership training, with a station that walks store managers through a problem-solving framework. It’s also part trade show, with demonstrations of new products and signs with helpful sales suggestions, such as “tea has the highest profit margins.” The majority of experiences are meant to be educational, including several that give store managers access to top managers of the company’s roasting process, blend development, and customer service.

But what makes the Leadership Lab different than a typical corporate trade show is the production surrounding all of this. The lights, the music, and the dramatic big screens all help Starbucks marinate its store managers in its brand and culture. It’s theater–a concept that Starbucks itself is built on.

“The merchant’s success depends on his or her ability to tell a story,” writes Schultz. “What people see or hear or smell or do when they enter a space guides their feelings, enticing them to celebrate whatever the seller has to offer.”

Starbucks, man.

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