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MasterClass – Rosalind Brewer Teaches Business Innovation


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About this Class

After years of helming the ship at some of the country’s most iconic companies, including Walmart, Starbucks, and Walgreens, Rosalind Brewer has forged ahead in her quest to innovate while maintaining deep integrity. Now she’s sharing CEO-level strategies for team leaders of all types. Learn to promote innovation, gain buy-in on projects you believe in, and stand out as the leader you know yourself to be.

Browse Lesson Plan

1. Meet Your Instructor

– The first question you might ask yourself is, where do you innovate within your company? Are we keeping our businesses out in front of the changes that are happening in the marketplace? How are we going to be the company of the future and really see the consistent performance that the company is really capable of, if we’re not thinking about what’s next after what’s next? I’m Rosalind Brewer, and most people, when they talk about me, I hear them mention words like.

– Extraordinary.

– World class.

– A dynamic businesswoman.

– One of the most accomplished business leaders.

– One of the most powerful women in the world.

– I’ve heard many descriptions of myself, but what I’m most proud of is my ability to lead big decisions and make change happen. I really pride myself on actually being pretty fearless. I also really admire the opportunity that I am actually running a Dow 30 company. I am the CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, and there are not a lot of women in this space. But I will tell you, that if I had it my way, it’ll change.

Women persevere. I do a lot of mentoring. I spend time with a lot of young people to help them understand what this road could look like ahead for them, and to encourage them to stay engaged. Hopefully, I’m an example. Hopefully, I showed them the possibilities.

I’ve had great opportunities in my career. I started off as a research scientist in a company called Kimberly-Clark, which is Huggies Diapers, Kleenex Tissues. There, I knew I could be a transformative leader when I revitalized an underperforming unit and grew sales by more than 30%. I left there to join retail with Walmart stores, and eventually became a business leader.

I became one of their leaders for half of the stores across the United States for Walmart stores. And then I was elected the CEO of Sam’s Club. I left there and joined Starbucks as, actually, a member of their board of directors. And after about four months, I was asked to come in and be chief operating officer for Starbucks Coffee Company.

And I stayed there for four years until the pandemic hit and an opportunity was presented to me to join Walgreens Boots Alliance, an integrated health care pharmacy and retail leader serving millions of customers and patients each day. And that organization was in the middle of administering vaccines and getting shots in arms all across the world. And I really wanted to be a part of something so much bigger than myself.

When I think about what gives me strength, energy, confidence every day, it’s a combination of being born and raised in a family of blue collar workers. I’m the youngest of five children. I grew up in Detroit near the auto industry. My parents worked in the auto industry. And all I ever saw was hard work.

I feel like I was given such a good groun…

2. How to Build an Innovation Strategy

The only constant is change. Roz provides a look into her decision-making process when she transformed Walgreens from a retail store into a healthcare company. She highlights the ongoing impact for the company’s employees and community.

3. Spark Innovation by Listening

In this lesson, Roz breaks down one of her most valuable skills—active listening. She explains how active listening can foster an environment of innovation. Then she hears pitches from three interns from Walgreens’ summer internship program.

4. Embrace Critical Thinking & Data

Roz talks through a time in which she was at a crossroads as CEO of Sam’s Club. She shows you how she leveraged critical data to build insights and make decisions that would help expand the overall customer base of the business.

5. Execute Operational Planning With Confidence

For every problem there is a solution—if you know where to look. Roz explains how she made difficult decisions at Kimberly-Clark, where she had to choose which facilities to close. She explains how staying agile can help you make tough calls.

6. Digital Transformation

Disruption leads to growth, which is why Roz continues to highlight the importance of technology for innovation. She discusses how the inception of the Starbucks app significantly impacted the success of the business during her tenure.

7. Drive Change With Agile Teams

In this lesson, Roz talks about what she looks for when putting together teams and how she challenges those teams to do their best work. She explains how she encourages her teams to come up with the most innovative, out-of-the-box solutions.

8. Enact a Learning Mindset for Innovation

Instilling a learning culture within your organization is vital for innovation. Roz encourages you to stay curious and shares examples from her time as a STEAM student at Spelman College. She discusses how transformative decisions at Walmart helped shape her growth mindset.

9. Improve Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

As one of only two Black women to ever run a Fortune 500 company, Roz knows what it takes to transcend adversity. Now she shares how she has navigated predominantly White, male-dominated industries by building a culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion.

10. Crisis Management: How to Innovate in a Crisis

A crisis can transform a learner into a leader. In this lesson, Roz shines a light on how some of her most challenging moments were also some of her greatest learning experiences. She reminds leaders—present and future—of the steps they can take during any hard time.

11. Bring Your Authentic Self Into the Workplace

To lead a team through innovation, you must first gain the trust and buy-in of your employees. Roz discusses the importance of integrating your values into your leadership style to ensure you are prioritizing what’s important to you.

12. Q&A With Roz

Without mentorship, Roz would not be where she is today. In this lesson, she pays it forward with three bright, young Spelman College students. Then she offers advice on the best ways to mentor your own team.

13. Create a Career Road Map

Roz summarizes all that she’s covered in her class and shares her final thoughts on leadership, innovation, and growth.

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