Dive into Atlanta’s Innovation Ecosystem

Want to see how companies like Home Depot, Southern Co., Anthem, Delta Air Lines, and others are building the future in Atlanta’s Tech Square?

Join us for an upcoming Field Study, April 25-27, as we team up with Georgia Tech to explore the Atlanta innovation ecosystem. We’ll drop in on Google and the Porsche Experience Center, visit corporate innovation labs at TechSquare, interact with startups, and catch the GeorgiaTech “Capstone Expo,” where 100+ grad students will be demo’ing the latest cutting-edge technologies.

The Atlanta innovation ecosystem is one of the most dynamic recruiting and development environments in the U.S. Come see how large companies are plugging into it — and how they’re benefitting.

Site Visits

Home Depot: Visit Home Depot’s headquarters and “Store Support Center”, where we’ll have an interactive conversation with two senior Home Depot strategy executives and the CEO of Blinds.com.

Google Atlanta: Tour Google’s Atlanta office, where we’ll hear about their latest product launch, Google Home, and learn more about their AI and machine learning efforts.

porschePorsche North American HQ: We'll take a quick tour of One Porsche Drive; where you’ll learn about their growing culture of innovation and their new Porsche Experience Center. You'll also have the optional opportunity to try out Porsche's Simulator Lab, or test drive a car. *Simulator rides are on a first come first serve basis, and test drives are at an additional cost. Make sure to let us know if you'd like to join us!  

Delta Air Lines Global Innovation Center: "The Hangar": Visit Delta’s collaborative research center, the first of its kind in the airline industry, to learn how Delta’s innovation team is using crowdsourcing and hackathons to identify and develop ideas and programs that improve operations, enhance the customer experience, and increase customer satisfaction.

The Anthem Innovation Studio: Tour Anthem’s innovation center and learn how the $85 million insurer is using a multi-disciplinary team focused on developing and implementing new technologies to deliver a more personalized healthcare experience to its customers.

Southern Company’s Energy Innovation Center: Visit Southern Company’s innovation center, where we’ll explore ways to drive innovation engagement in the organization and learn more about the So Prize, an internal competition for Southern Co. employees that generated close to 1,000 ideas, six of which have been approved for pilot programs.

Interactive Whiteboard Sessions

The Field Study eschews keynotes, PowerPoints, or speakers. Rather, our sessions are small, off-the-record conversations that enable participants to share and compare their approaches. Among the interactive “whiteboard sessions” you’ll actively participate in:
Managing the Innovation Pipeline at Humana
Developing an innovation pipeline is one challenge; actively managing an innovation portfolio is another. This session — led by Roberto Roitz, an innovator at the venture arm of the $54 billion health giant Humana — will explore common practices for reviewing, evaluating and progressing innovations while considering costs, risks and resources. Please come ready to share your particular challenges, lessons and/or recommendations regarding your company’s innovation pipeline, or bring questions you’d like answered about process, policy and practices.
Innovation DNA: Balancing the Creation of Innovations and Innovators at Fidelity
As Innovation Leader members know from our visits to Fidelity Labs in Boston, the 70-year-old Fidelity Investments is an organization focused on innovatively evolving it's businesses. With 50,000 employees, $2 trillion under management and $5 trillion under administration, that’s no simple task. This session, led by Fidelity Labs VP of Innovation & Strategy Tony Parham, will explore the programs and processes that have been developed to create innovative products, services and businesses -- while also cultivating “Innovation DNA” in all Fidelity Associates. Please come prepared to discuss some of the tactics your organization has leveraged to launch innovative projects and to seed innovation throughout the enterprise. Please also bring questions you’d like answered by our facilitator and by the innovation executives who will join you in this timely conversation.
How Wayne Gretzky Kills Innovation; the Predictability Rule
“Skate where the puck is going, not to where it has been.” That maxim, attributed (inaccurately, by the way) to hockey great Wayne Gretzky, has become one of the great innovation PowerPoint clichés. Under many circumstances, it’s also wrong,, according to Ken Durand, Head of Innovation at Ericsson’s Atlanta Idea Factory. This session will explore how the “Gretzky Rule” can destroy the value-added innovation that product organizations are looking to create. Please come prepared to share some of your own company’s challenges, war stories, pitfalls and lessons when it comes to innovation strategy.
Working with Startups at Stanley Black & Decker
Most companies are working with startups in their markets, but many have struggled with optimizing value and ROI from their accelerators, incubators, colocation or venture groups. This session, led by Larry Harper, VP of Stanley Ventures — the investment arm of the $11 billion power tool company Stanley Black & Decker — will explore how they have brought mentorship, scale and resources to early stage companies to accelerate their growth and provide the parent company with new innovative products. Please come prepared to discuss some of the successes and challenges of your own venture group, or bring questions you need answered about corporate venture capital.
Business Models and Brands, Turner Classic Movies
As Turner Classic Movies — the television network that’s part of the Time Warner empire — began shifting to a “fan engagement company,” common questions began to emerge. How do you extend core features of your brand? What are the right business models to employ as you expand your portfolio from core to adjacent to transformational offerings? How do you avoid “inauthenticity”? This session, led by TCM’s Director of Business Development & Strategy Shannon Clute, will explore some of the lessons, challenges, consequences and opportunities associated with innovation via brand extension, and discuss what might be replicable by other brands. Please come ready to discuss some of your own learnings and challenges, or come prepared with issues you might want to explore together.
Innovation Through Creative Partnerships at UPS
As Innovation Leader has covered extensively, companies are taking unique approaches to co-creation, collaboration, and Open Innovation. We’ll see some of that collaboration in action in Atlanta, where many corporate innovation labs are working closely with Georgia Tech and the university ecosystem. But other models exist. At this session, David Lee, VP Innovation & Strategic Enterprise Fund at the $61 billion logistics company UPS, will explore approaches to building relationships with startups, universities, agencies, accelerators, corporations, and other parties to bring new capabilities to your company. Please come prepared to discuss your company’s approach to co-creation and collaboration, or to ask questions and discuss challenges related to ecosystem development and participation.
Working With Business Units at Anthem
According to Innovation Leader’s 2015 Benchmarking Report, more than 50 percent of respondents said that innovation projects get axed because of “no business unit buy-in.” In other words, the “Not-Invented-Here Syndrome,” often referred to as “organ rejection” in large companies, is a major killer of innovation. The innovation lab of the $85 billion healthcare company Anthem, which we will tour during the Field Study, has a unique relationship with its business units, and has created a “handoff” process to their enterprise IT organization that is worthy of review. SVP Healthcare Innovation and Technology David Crean and Corporate Strategy Director John Donahue will walk us through the handoff, and will explore the lessons and pitfalls learned at Anthem. Please come prepared to discuss some of the challenges, successes or lessons you’ve encountered when it comes to working with the business units.
Internal Competitions: Inside Southern Company’s SO Prize
In 2014, Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning announced an internal competition aimed at helping the company “look around the corners of the future.” The challenge, called SO Prize, offered cash awards for ideas that were voted on by the crowd or selected by a review team. The winning idea authors earned an audience with the most senior executives in the company and an opportunity to pitch possible pilots and proof-of-concept programs. This session, led by Southern Company SVP of Marketing, Innovation and Planning, Chuck Darville, and Director of Innovation Support, Julie Pigott, will provide details and lessons from the SO Prize as well as other challenges the company has hosted over the past few years, and will provide an opportunity to compare and share successes and lessons from your own programs. Please come prepared to discuss challenges, successes, or lessons you have encountered regarding your own internal competitions.
Approaches To Rapid Prototyping and Product Development Digital Scientists
Balancing speed and risk is hard when building digital products and pursuing transformation goals. This session — led by the Atlanta-based design and development experts at Digital Scientists — will walk you through approaches and techniques, including prototyping, design sprints, and minimum viable products, and then discuss how they can be applied to your specific issues at your companies. Please come prepared to discuss challenges, successes, or lessons you have encountered when launching new products.
Increasing Employee-Driven Innovation at Imaginatik
To “democratize” innovation or engage employees in innovation, you need a path, a journey, a destination, and business outcomes you’re driving towards. These business outcomes should be aligned with strategic direction so you can actively engage employees in the journey. This session, led by the innovation consultancy Imaginatik, will explore eight programs of engagement, explore best practices, and address your company’s specific challenges. Please come prepared to discuss some of the tactics you’ve employed to increase employee-driven innovation, and be open to discussing some of your challenges, questions, concerns and roadblocks.

Check back for updates!

Tech Square: The Heart of Atlanta's Tech Scene.

Video produced by SandboxATL, the membership club for Tech Square.

Detailed Agenda

Click here to download a PDF / printable agenda
Tuesday, April 25th
4:00 p.m. Meet at the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown
866 West Peachtree St NW
5:00 p.m. Depart for the Capstone Design Expo
Walk to McCamish Pavilion
The Capstone Design Expo is one of the largest student design expos in the U.S. It is a showcase of Georgia Tech’s graduating seniors as they present their innovative projects. See the latest in robotics, drones, and other technologies.
6:30 p.m. Cocktail reception at Community Smith
866 West Peachtree St NW
Wednesday, April 26th
8:00 a.m. Breakfast, introductions and morning activity at Community Smith
866 West Peachtree St NW
9:45 a.m. Depart for TechSquare
Walk to 75 5th St NW
10:00 a.m. Tours:

  • Delta Air Lines “Hangar”: We will take a tour of the Hangar space, see a few quick demos, and chat with the head of the lab, Nicole Jones.
  • Anthem Innovation Studio: We will take a tour and hear from SVP David Crean and Corporate Strategy Director, John Donahue, about "How Anthem Makes the Handoff."
  • Southern Co. Energy Innovation Center: We will take a tour and hear from Michael Britt, VP Energy Innovation Center.
12:00 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. Whiteboard sessions:

  • Managing the Innovation Pipeline, Humana
  • Innovation Through Creative Partnerships, UPS
  • How Wayne Gretzky Killed Product Innovation, Ericsson
  • Working with Business Units, Anthem
3:00 p.m. Break, coffee, networking
3:30 p.m. Whiteboard sessions:

  • Working with Startups to Attain Value, Stanley Black and Decker
  • Employee-Driven Innovation, Imaginatik
  • Business Models and Brands, Turner Classic Movies
  • Internal Competitions— the SO Prize at Southern Company
6:00 p.m. Cocktail reception, networking at Lure
1106 Crescent Ave NE
Thursday, April 27th
7:45 a.m. Depart for Google Atlanta
10 10th St NE #600
8:00 a.m. Breakfast and networking at Google
8:40 a.m. Tour of Google Atlanta

  • Q&A with Site Lead Matthew Pritchard on the space, the Atlanta innovation ecosystem, and more.
  • Discussion on Google Cloud, AI & Machine Learning
  • Demo on Google Home
10:00 a.m. Depart for Home Depot
Bus to 2455 Paces Ferry Rd SE
11:00 a.m. Tour Home Depot Store Support Center

  • Panel discussion with Home Depot execs and CEO of Blinds.com.
12:00 p.m. Lunch
1:00 p.m. Whiteboard sessions:

  • Innovation Training, Creating Innovations vs Innovators, Fidelity
  • Approaches to Rapid Prototyping, Digital Scientists
  • Understanding Users in the Wild, Home Depot
2:00 p.m. Depart for Porsche
Bus to One Porsche Drive
3:00 p.m. Tour Porsche Experience Center

  • Hear from Porsche's VP of Innovation
  • See the race track, museum, and workspace
4:00 p.m. Optional: Simulator Lab Experience

5:00 p.m. Conclude, bus to airport

5:30 p.m. Optional: Demo Laps for Purchase

Field Study Filled!

Our Atlanta Field Study has been completed.

We hope to see you at our Washington, D.C. Field Study in June!

Travel & Hotel Information

We have a room block at the Renaissance Atlanta Midtown.
Address: 866 West Peachtree St NW, Atlanta, GA 30308
Phone: (678) 412-2400

Book your room here to receive Innovation Leader's discounted rate. Your last day to book is April 4.

Field Guides

Many thanks to our Field Guides for their support and expertise in developing this Field Study:

Imaginatik: "World's first" full-service innovation firm, supporting global organizations seeking to grow and deliver results.

Digital Scientists: We are a software innovation lab – an integrated team of designers and developers using the latest frameworks and tools to deliver awesome new software products. We partner with forward-thinking businesses to create mobile apps, websites, ecommerce stores and internet of things (IoT) applications. Established in 2007, we are proud to call metro Atlanta home. We believe in taking a "design thinking" approach to solving complex problems for users.

Georgia Tech: Bringing together businesses and universities to spark innovation and economic development.

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