News & Events

28 Mar 2024

Arts & Sports

Starbucks founder Howard Schultz: Innovation is not just another flavor


In a riveting exchange at Fudan’s School of Management on March 23, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz delved into the essence of embracing innovation and the core principles of corporate growth. Joined by Dean of School of Management LU Xiong-Wen, Schultz’s visit, reminiscent of his earlier engagement 18 years prior, offered fresh insights into the evolving landscape of Shanghai and China’s dynamic progress. 

“We are not a perfect company, but we are committed to the long term,” said Schultz, who shared the remarkable journey of Starbucks in China—from dreaming of a distinctive company to establishing over 7,000 stores, driven by a culture and set of values that transcend geographical boundaries.

Reflecting on Starbucks’ success in the complex Chinese market, Schultz recounted a story of perseverance and long-term vision, emphasizing the importance of building a company from the inside out, rooted in culture and brand values. 

“Innovation is not just another flavor, another size, or an extension of an existing product. I think you got to start with the fact how do we disrupt the marketplace and how do we do it. That is complementary and accretive to the equity of the brand.” Schultz stated, highlighting the launch of Oleato, inspired by a Sicilian custom of adding olive oil to coffee, as an example of disruptive innovation.

Amidst fierce competition in China’s coffee market, the coffee chain upholds the principle of being the “third place”, a warm and welcoming environment beyond home and work where customers can gather and connect. Schultz emphasized Starbucks’ commitment to quality and community, stating that innovation and understanding the local market are key to future breakthroughs. He also spoke candidly about the challenges and opportunities presented by AI and the importance of maintaining a balance between experience and efficiency of its use in Starbucks.

As the focus of the conversation moved into a global context, Schultz emphasized the role of businesses in bridging different cultures and fostering mutual understanding for a better world.

Schultz also reflected on his 12-year leadership journey, marked by fear of failure and the relentless pursuit of passion. Despite not having any business training, he describes what it takes to be successful, “fear of failure is a great motivator.” He also underscores the importance of humility, learning from mistakes, and the strength of a shared vision and values among millions of individuals.



Presented by Fudan University Media Center

Writer: George Li

Editor: WANG Meng-Qi, LI Yi-Jie