Articles & Case Studies by Industry

Technology

How design thinking and lean startup are changing the way Adobe builds new products

Adobe exec Aubrey Cattell says that the lean startup approach – build, measure, learn, accelerate – has changed the way Adobe thinks about innovation.

Why Italian vehicle-maker Piaggio set up a new lab to design robots

Piaggio, headquartered in Pontedera, Italy, is best-known for the scooters and motorcycles it produces, including Vespa and Moto Guzzi. But the new lab in Boston wouldn’t focus on creating vehicles with two or four wheels to travel on roads. “I don’t think the evolution of mobility is still four wheels with an engine,” Colaninno says. “The car is a 1900s idea.”

Northrop Grumman exec on how innovation, R&D, and business units can ‘increase awesome’

On a recent conference call, Kevin Parsons, the Director of Innovation and Transformation at $23 billion defense and aerospace giant Northrop Grumman joined us to explain how his innovation group is influencing the culture and bringing business units into its process — without antagonizing the R&D folks. Includes 30 minutes of audio….

Moonshots, roof shots, and failing forward: Google and XPRIZE execs on enabling big breakthroughs

“We distinguish between ‘roof shots’ and moonshots,” says Google X executive Hans Peter Brøndmo. “You could say, ‘If I wanted to get up on the roof of this building, I could come up with a really innovative solution. I might actually technically, be closer to the moon, but I didn’t do anything to get to the moon.’ More insights from Brøndmo and XPRIZE CEO Marcus Shingles inside, from a session held at the inaugural Harvest Summit…

How Siemens is finding the best startups and sparking collaborations

When the $86 billion German engineering giant launched the Frontier Partner Program two years ago, it hoped to lower the barriers that kept startups from easily working with Siemens. Through Frontier, startups enter a low-commitment relationship in exchange for free Siemens software and mentorship. While the program is still in its infancy, Siemens seems pleased with the preliminary results of these relationships, and other companies are starting to take notice. Here’s how the program operates…

Audio: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak on whether innovators need to ignore the rules

Posting some audio recorded recently at the Innovation by Design Summit in St. Louis. Innovation Leader editor Scott Kirsner sat down for a wide-ranging on-stage interview with Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple and a Silicon Valley legend.

After an acquisition: SAP Ariba CEO on how to sustain innovation (and what can go wrong)

Even when acquirers pay billions of dollars for their prize, too often they spend the years after the deal closes driving away some of the top employees and squashing the culture that made the company so appealing in the first place. Alex Atzberger says that without working hard to avoid that, acquisitions can bleed the acquired company of its innovative spirit. We spoke with him earlier this month about what to do — and what to avoid — following an acquisition, as well as his perspective on why innovation needs to happen within mainline business units, as opposed to solely in a lab or innovation center. ” You have to set the right goals and be willing to make the right investment,” he says.

Google VP Ivy Ross shares advice on meeting overload, getting resources, and confronting the future

Many execs are too complacent when they’re confronting seismic shifts in their industry, says Ross, who is leading Google’s wearable computing project. “Why would you stay at a hotel, versus in an Airbnb room? The answer might be horrifying to you, but better deal with what is horrifying than deal with the alternative, which is that you’re not here in five years.”

‘Go where you’re loved’: Intuit executive shares advice on rolling out lean startup for maximum impact

If you’ve been debating whether and how to roll out the lean startup methodology in your organization, Bennett Blank of Intuit has a question: What are you waiting for? “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked [about lean] with other executives who are like, ‘OK, we’ll spend four or five months benchmarking it, and then we’ll put together a program, and then we’ll spend eight months creating the curriculum, and then we’ll launch it next year.'” Here’s how Blank did it at Intuit…

At Ericsson, using the lean startup approach to validate and prioritize new ideas

“We have way more ideas than we can possibly implement,” says Ken Durand, the head of Ericsson’s Atlanta Idea Factory, “so one of the reasons that we’ve really focused on the lean methodologies was because we need a way to evaluate whether an idea was worth doing.” Durand shares slides, advice, and an example project inside…

Failing fast and taking risks: How Adobe’s legal group met the challenges of supporting innovation

How do you create legal guidelines for employee innovation that are loose enough to let people try new things, but not get a publicly-held company in hot water? Donna Kolnes of Adobe explains how the Silicon Valley software company approached it.

Lessons from Alex Goryachev on running Cisco’s first company-wide idea challenge

On a recent Innovation Leader Live call, Cisco’s Alex Goryachev discussed the company’s recent Innovate Everywhere Challenge, including how he got thousands of employees to participate, how they recruited external judges, and why he changed his mind about letting the teams involved interact directly with customers. Includes 30 minutes of audio…

Head of innovation lab at $11 billion ADP on recruiting, focus, hand-offs

Roberto Masiero, vice president and head of ADP’s New Jersey innovation lab, offers lessons and recommendations for companies looking to start their own labs. Among them: deploy small teams focused on specific projects. “They almost become like a family,” he says. “It drives the project, and it’s been quite successful so far.”

Call re-cap: EMC’s Calvin Smith on ‘incubation readiness levels’ and incentivizing employees

How do you get an innovation program focused on strategic challenges that the businesses care about — without limiting it to incrementalism? That was among the topics we discussed recently with Calvin Smith of EMC Corp., the data storage and cloud giant, on one of our recent Innovation Leader Live calls.

How chipmaker Qualcomm is building an internal startup-venture capital ecosystem

Plenty of corporate innovation programs struggle to produce tangible impact in areas that really matter to senior leadership. The San Diego-based chipmaker Qualcomm put that challenge front-and-center by dubbing its innovation initiative ImpaQt. In its first 18 months, says head of innovation Navrina Singh, it delivered a new surround-sound application for HTC smartphones and launched a robotics program to rival Intel, its biggest competitor. Singh explains how they’ve been doing it…

Intel Labs exec on collaborations driving company’s Internet of Things strategy

Martin Curley, Director of Intel Labs Europe, shares strategy slides on how an “Open Innovation 2.0” approach is helping Intel work with customers to prototype and deploy Internet of Things technologies.

Why Toyota set up new $1 billion research group as a ‘skunkworks’

The new institute has four initial mandates, including helping the carmaker explore possible products opportunities in “indoor mobility” and robotic assistants for the elderly. CEO Gill Pratt explains the structure…

Why tools giant Stanley formed a joint venture to tackle big data and IoT

Two key execs at Stanley Black and Decker and joint venture View Technologies explain a long-term bet on the growth of big data and the Internet of Things, and a concrete business proposition designed to work in the near-term.

Google exec: Foster 10X thinking, or you’re doomed to incrementalism

Leaders need to understand that fostering only incremental changes and improvements will doom a company to fall behind. Every company, says Google sales exec Todd Rowe, needs to set at least a few 10X goals — creating something ten times better than what exists today — and give employees the time and freedom to pursue them. Includes audio…

Dell’s chief innovation officer on innovation portfolios and training

Dell chief innovation officer Jim Stikeleather opened a recent Brightidea “birds of a feather” innovation gathering in Austin with a fantastic talk about the importance of fostering divergent thinking in big organizations — and some of the challenges of making real change happen. Includes slides…

Former Microsoft, PayPal execs on connecting with startups

What’s the right approach for big companies that want to plug into the startup world? Invest? Acquire? Be a customer? Offer to house fledgling companies? Listen to a half-hour of audio and read highlights from a May 2015 session at the “Front End of Innovation” conference.

Sustaining, disruptive, blue sky: How Microsoft invests in research

On our recent Field Study visit to Microsoft Research, Peter Lee showed one of those slides that had everyone in the group suddenly reaching for their phones to snap a picture.

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel on what gives startups an advantage

In this audio excerpt from a recent event promoting his book “Zero to One,” Thiel discusses how internal politics can tilt decision-making in large companies towards conventional ideas and away from what is truly disruptive.

Five lessons from the app-driven economy

As startups deliver services like transportation, home cleaning, and errand-running with the click of an app, here’s how the playing field is changing.

How EMC reignited its innovation program

Troubling question: What happens to all those employee ideas we collect? EMC executive Calvin Smith realized that the innovation team needed to enhance its capability to craft business plans and prototypes — and eventually hand market-tested products and services back to the business units.

Why Adobe gives employees a red box with $1,000 inside

Nearly 1,000 employees of Adobe Systems have participated in the Silicon Valley software company’s Kickbox Innovation Workshop, where they learn how to develop ideas and collect customer feedback. Participants get $1,000 to spend, no questions asked. Adobe exec Mark Randall explains how it works, and shares the program’s scorecard.

Google execs share slides on innovation, culture, and hiring

A click-worthy slide presentation from Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and former SVP of Product Jonathan Rosenberg. Among their insights: “Most companies today are run to minimize risk, not maximize freedom and speed.” That approach “is a vestige of an era when failure was expensive, and deliberation was a virtue.”

Google execs explain how the company spurs innovation, kills projects

From last week’s Innovation Leader Field Study in Boston: Google executives Don Dodge and Leonidas Kontothannasis offer an inside look at how the company hires, why reasonable goals are not good enough, and how internal projects gain or lose momentum. Includes a half-hour of audio…

How Constant Contact blends lean startup & design thinking

Andy Miller, Chief Innovation Architect at the digital marketing company, shares slides and a video that offer a look at Constant Contact’s approach to developing new offerings.

How $2.3B Autodesk “looks to the edge” for emerging trends

Autodesk VP of Corporate Strategy Jon Pittman talks about 3D printing, synthetic biology, programmable matter, and other trends he’s tracking. Pittman also discusses the software giant’s new IdEx program that lets selected employees spend three months developing new ideas that aren’t connected to their regular roles.

Advice, tactics from Dell’s VC group; includes strategy slides

After getting out of the venture capital game a decade ago, Dell recently jumped back in with both feet. Jim Lussier, managing director of Dell Ventures, explains how the tech company’s approach is different, and offers his advice for keeping corporate VC aligned with the business units. (Includes slides.)

Inside Xerox’s ‘Dreaming Sessions’ with customers

The document and services giant felt that R&D needed to be better-connected to customer needs. The result was the “Dreaming Session,” which brings researchers together with Xerox’s customers to think about high-potential applications for new technologies. Includes slides and audio from Sophie Vandebroek, president of the Xerox Innovation Group.

Ex-VMware CINO on why big corps can’t ‘act like startups’

Just act more like a startup! Break the rules! Easier said than done, writes Julia Austin, the former VP of Innovation at VMWare. Getting good things to happen in large organizations requires an understanding of the key genetic differences between startups and mature companies. And she’s got a chart that details them…

Why Dyn celebrates big projects like big-budget movies

A fast-growing New Hampshire tech services company borrows an idea from Amazon to create movie-style posters that mark major product upgrades and new offerings. The result? The employees involved feel like A-listers.

What Matter Labs means for the future of product customization

What if consumers could adapt and personalize products you’d designed, and have them created in lots of one? What if employees could easily create alternate versions of products you already sell, to meet the demands of particular customers? Is that scary, or a massive opportunity? Web-based 3D modeling software from a startup called Matter Labs takes a step toward those possibilities.

Inside iRobot’s “business-driven” innovation strategy

Colin Angle, co-founder and CEO of the robot-maker, says one of his most important jobs is protecting innovative products that have left the safe confines of the R&D lab but haven’t yet grown into significant businesses. At that stage, he says, “it’s just a big, ugly, non-revenue producing, pimply, adolescent, cash-sucking thing that most companies are lethally effective at killing.”

Can a digital badge lead to a more dynamic company?

Online retailers are constantly testing new site designs to learn which ones are most likely to produce a purchase. What if organizations could test new reporting structures, new seating plans, or new incentive programs to see which ones yielded the best results? That’s the big vision behind Sociometric Solutions, a startup that has already been working with companies like Steelcase and Bank of America.

3 big company lessons from smartwatch startup Pebble

Pebble took 275,000 pre-orders for its first product, a $150 smartwatch, and also landed it on the shelves of Best Buy. Here’s what you should know about the Silicon Valley startup that is suddenly on the radar of much bigger players like Apple and Samsung. Includes a video interview with founder Eric Migicovsky.

Monitoring power usage with a countertop display

Ambient Devices’ Energy Joule frees information from the PC or the mobile device, and puts it in a prominent new place. Its goal is to change the way you use electricity — and potentially also your relationship with the utility that provides it.

Inside the Hidden Hunting Lodge at Dyn

A New Hampshire tech company created a private meeting place emblematic of its “quirky” and “enigmatic” culture.

Blockbuster idea: Expanding markets by being multi-lingual

Hollywood studios aren’t always enthusiastic when it comes to embracing a new technology. But a smartphone app from a stealthy startup called myLINGO could help them get more non-native English speakers into theaters, with almost no additional effort. Company co-founder Olenka Polak, who grew up in a household that spoke mostly Polish, has already been pitching the idea to studio executives.

How VMware funds innovation like a venture capitalist

At the cloud and virtualization giant, more than 60 ideas have been presented over the last year-and-a-half, in areas like R&D, customer service, and field sales. A handful have gotten seed funding so far, and one recently moved on to second-stage funding. Employees who participate get a stake in their venture — and also must accept some risk.