At MetLife, supporting innovation while avoiding the ‘danger zone’

Geyer_John_WDefining a clear mission is essential for innovation teams, and John Geyer, Chief Innovation Officer at $71 billion insurer MetLife, can clearly explain what his is.

“We think of ourselves as catalysts who work with the businesses around the world and help them think more creatively and help them deliver unique solutions to both the customers, business partners, and associates within the company,” says Geyer. “Unlike other [companies’] innovation functions that are more like R&D labs, we are not the innovators.”

That has meant coming up with techniques and processes MetLife executives can use to promote innovation in their own divisions, from internal crowdsourcing software to workshops that let employees brainstorm and cultivate new ideas. Often, Geyer’s team will lead an initial session — in November, for instance, the team organized a 40-person workshop in Santiago, Chile, for employees in MetLife’s Latin American region — and simultaneously train that group’s executives in how to run future workshops of their own.

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