Disrupting Data-Driven Business with Tracie Gildehaus
Data-driven business performance has strong St. Louis roots. Industry giant Maritz has been a leader in the space for decades, and today is dialing up its own performance by connecting startups and established companies to innovate together. As Sr. Director Insights and Innovation of The Maritz Institute, Tracie Gildehaus is at the forefront of this wave of collaboration.
What is Maritz’s business?
Maritz has a long history of innovation, dating back to 1894. The company started out as a jewelry manufacturer.
When the stock market crashed in 1929, the demand for jewelry was on the decline and the Maritz family made a pivot and began selling their merchandise to companies as sales awards. It was the birth of modern-day incentive programs.
Today, Maritz is a big and diverse sales and marketing services company, working in the digital and real worlds, helping corporations understand, engage and motivate people.
Who does Maritz help?
We cater to clients who are looking for assistance in things like motivating employee performance, creating memorable travel experiences and providing research insights. We serve a variety of sectors such as hospitality, financial services and pharma.
What kinds of things do you do?
I lead insights and innovation on behalf of The Maritz Institute. Maritz recently made a strategic decision to roll its Innovation & Growth strategy into The Maritz Institute, which was formed to do long-term R&D.
The Institute works to inform Maritz client solutions through an understanding of human behavior informed by the latest in neuroscience and human sciences research. As a part of this central team, I can better access our network across Maritz, tap into the external academic and research networks that the Institute provides access to, and also plug into the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems.
What’s an exciting new area you’re exploring? Why?
Our new partnership with Capital Innovators. We recently activated an internal program that aligns Maritz employees’ skill sets, strength and passion to the 2016 Capital Innovators spring cohort of entrepreneurs.
Companies need new sources of growth, but can struggle to embrace high-risk taking opportunities. Risk-taking is almost synonymous with entrepreneurship.
Many startups excel at using speed, agility and tapping resources to incubate ideas, but lack access to brands and distribution for scale that large organizations offer. Large companies and startups can help each other, and that’s what we’re learning about today.
Tell us about the picture you sent for use with this story—what’s interesting to you about it?
This is me right on Maritz’s headquarter campus. Maritz campus sits on a lush 174 acres with amazing views and pathways optimal for “white space thinking”.
Where do you get inspiration?
I saw a quote I love: “I never lose. I either win or I learn.”
How you would describe your POV on the world?
Be curious, explore and never stop learning.
Beyond education and training, what prepared you for what you’re doing now?
Early on, I had a summer internship with a major airline. My internship was centered around “in-flight operations”, but I found newly hired flight attendants needed to connect to information that was beyond flight operations and scheduling if they were going to succeed and have a long career with our airline.
A newly hired flight attendant was placed into six weeks of training. At the end of that training they had only a few days to relocate to a new city—possibly a place that they had never been to before—and it was extremely stressful at the same time they were starting their careers.
We built an internal marketplace to help them discover, plan and receive answers to empower them and their questions: where do I live? how much does it cost to live there? Is it safe?
I was co-creating with new flight attendants then; today I help corporations take risks by co-creating with startups that need the deep resources only established companies have.
Where can people find you when you’re working?
Since we launched our partnership with Capital Innovators, I’m spending the majority of my time with the cohort companies. I’m either in our new space at CIC, learning from startups, or back at Maritz helping share what we’re learning.
Favorite guilty pleasure?
The Walking Dead.
What current problem would you like to solve?
Demonstrating that corporations and startups can co-create. It’s important in St. Louis but also everywhere. We’re seeing success, but there’s a perception by others that there’s no success yet. We have to help people experiment.
When do you live by routines? What are those routines?
I pray and meditate every morning and every night. For me, faith is the foundation for trusted relationships, empathy, family and my day. AND Hockey! I am a hockey mom, so we are at the rink a lot!
Who else’s work do you admire and why?
Elon Musk. He’s just pretty awesome. His vision and execution is what’s so compelling. He’s changing the world. He’s disrupting space travel, automotive distribution models, energy.
Also Arianna Huffington of HuffPost, who’s really into looking at the science of human mindfulness and applying it to the workplace.