This week, we interview Maria Potoroczyn, Innovation Consultant at Fahrenheit 212.
What do you do at Fahrenheit 212?
I am an Innovation Consultant on the Idea Development team, which means I solve the challenges that clients bring to us with the consumer perspective in mind. I’m responsible for research and insights – as drivers for strategy; and I drive the creation of portfolios of ideas all the way through the Solutions phase, ensuring what we’re designing is compelling for consumers, our clients, and that it makes commercial sense.
Where do you feel most creative?
I love working at the Soho Apple Store! There is a really nice buzz, but it is not as disruptive as in coffee shops.
Beyond spaces, I’m most creative in a specific frame of mind. I like getting in a certain flow. I get there by doing something tactile or experiential — learning something by doing, experiencing stuff first-hand, or just immersing myself in a topic by reading about it in-depth. To me, it is not about a physical space, but more of a mental process of getting into a creative headspace.
Where do you call home?
I’ve been living a very nomadic lifestyle the past 10 years. I’ve moved 14 times, lived in 4 countries, and travelled to and around 49 countries. Home is really where my heart is, and I try to keep my feet wherever my heart is at that moment.
What do you never leave home without?
When did you first get into the field of innovation?
Unknowingly, I got into innovation in my undergrad, when I studied social anthropology. It is a field that teaches you to always start with understanding people and their culture — how one creates the other, and vice versa. It became foundational to everything I do today and how I think. I also happen to have a Masters in Innovation Management, which naturally gives me a lot of cred, but also wasn’t as critical as it sounds. It was an opportunity for me to formalize and evolve a lot of the skills and talents I already had – lateral thinking, collaborative teamwork, finding structure in ambiguous contexts, and learning to take calculated risks or build process around experimentation.
What innovation are you most proud of?
A consumer appliances project I did a while ago was particularly cool, because we evolved the original brief by rephrasing the challenge. We were tasked with creating a fridge with a big screen targeting chronic care patients. However, we understood that a fridge wouldn’t have a meaningful impact on a patient’s life. So instead, we reframed the solution to allow ourselves to create a holistic ecosystem that lives across multiple appliances and multiple touch-points in a patient’s life, and helps build resilience that is essential to managing any chronic condition. While we were designing for patients with diabetes, this was directly applicable to millions of Americans who are trying to lose weight, or simply to live a healthier lifestyle. We designed a really robust digital platform which had to take into account different aspects of reaching health goals. A lot of our work made it into the client’s CES presentations this year. It was really gratifying to see our influence in the product they were unveiling.
What is your go-to reading source?
Right now, I am totally addicted to the Quartz app. I love that they get to the heart of the story in literally three text messages. The whole interaction is as if you were texting with a friend. It is so snippety — I love it.
What is your favorite innovation from the last decade?
Headspace app for meditation.
Operator app – you can ask the operator for anything. For example, find me “blue suede shoes” — they’ll give you a bunch of recommendations, comparing reviews and materials and prices for you. It’s a huge time saver.
Infatuation by far the best food recommendations out there – the only source I trust.
HotelTonight saved my life on multiple occasions!
Another hack I am trying to implement right now – is starting my day really early, and giving myself a lot of time to do things that are meaningful to me. For me, that would be meditation, running, and reading something. It is about creating that extra space for yourself in a day, adding new avenues for inspiration. Sometimes that also means meeting up with somebody really early in the morning for breakfast and a conversation. I haven’t been doing this consistently, but it is something I’m trying to implement more in my life. Perhaps this isn’t as much a life hack, as it’s a lifestyle.
What are your go-to podcasts?
Reply All, Invisibilia, This American Life, Start Up, and Hidden Brain.
What is your must-read book?
It has to be One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It is the most epic book in the world, because it managed to codify in the most beautiful and poetic way the human condition, in all its complexity.
What are your favorite coffeeshops in NYC?
Gasoline Alley for my morning fix, Stumptown on W 8th St. for chocolate milk coffee from a milk carton, Whynot in L.E.S. for weekend work, and Toby’s Estate in Willimsburg for weekend book reading.
There is a very cool Japanese place on Astor Place that I don’t even know the name of — it’s a Japanese street food eatery, not a fancy restaurant. It’s a little off the beaten path. They have this crazy thing (not on the menu, need to ask for it) – deep fried, extra crispy chicken skin… which is very indulgent but heavenly! Also best burgers in the world are at Spotted Pig and fluffiest pancakes at Tom’s Diner in Crown Heights.
Do you have any side projects, hobbies, or a previous life you would like to share?
WIN aka Women in Innovation is my big side project right now and I’m very excited about where it is going. I think there is incredible power in women and there is even more power in bringing women together, and I have really been enjoying doing that with WIN. No matter how slammed with work I am, I’ve been finding time to do this, and it has been extremely rewarding.