While July may be the season of “out-of-office” messages, corporate innovators are still grinding through the summer months — leading to a number of innovative advancements across industries.  

Early in July, Kohl’s expanded its partnership with Amazon. Now, customers can return their unwanted amazon packages at any Kohl’s location across the US. Up in Canada, Tim Hortons opened its first innovation café in Toronto, testing higher-end menu items and technological initiatives. And, Charles Schwab closed out the month by announcing the acquisition of $90 billion in client assets from USAA’s Investment Management Company. 

What else should you think about to stay ahead? Check out five pieces of advice from our July coverage of corporate innovation. 

1. Switch from a Hiring to a Recruiting Mentality 

“I try never to use the word ‘hire.’ Because it suggests that you’re picking people who are dying to work for your company. But if you’re good at it…it’s recruiting,” distinguishes Bob MetcaIfe, founder of 3Com and inventor of Ethernet, in a recent bonus episode of Innovation Answered. “That is, these are people with many other options that are somewhere else, and it’s your job to go get them. So if you have the hiring mentality, don’t. … [S]witch to the recruiting mentality. [That’s where] you bring the innovations into your company.”

He also suggests that listeners remember the Silicon Valley motto: “B people hire, C people. But A people recruit A+ people.”

2. Spend the First Year Proving Your Initiative’s Capability

“The initial…months [and] even the first year [of Aflac Ventures Fund]…were all about trying to prove out the model,” says Bharat Rajaram, Managing Director at Aflac Ventures. “If you’re doing this for the first time…you want to take your time and prove that you can do something well. You can do quality transactions, and you can execute them…”

Aflac Ventures Fund officially began its operations in 2017. In 2018, the insurance company announced that it would expand its venture capital fund from $100 million to $250 million over the next four years. Read the full story

3. Design Play into Your Work to Foster Creative Thinking 

“What I really think is important…is your method of designing play…into your environment. You’ve got to be curious about the people that are around you. [Ask them,] ‘What could you teach me?’” Says Suzi Hamill formerly of Fidelity Investments, during a recent video. “The last thing that’s really important is purpose. People will play with you at work initially. But if they don’t see the purpose mapping back to the work that they’re doing, they’re not gonna value it.” 

Hamill shares an exercise on play in the video below. Find out what your team can accomplish with 30 minutes and a box of Legos.

4. Create a Strategy for Auto-Replenishment

When connected devices automatically order products once they run out, consumers may end up re-purchasing the same dish soap or laundry detergent indefinitely.  Tom Furphy, formerly of Amazon, discussed how brands in both retail and the connected device space should adapt during a retail pop-up in Boston.

“There’s going to be a land grab in the auto-replenishment world,” Furphy says. “[T]he brands that are the most forward thinking…are going to get an early lead. … [I]t’s going to behoove brands to have a strategy in auto-replenishment, and then retailers to have a strategy to how they’re going to support [auto-replenishment] for their customers…”

5. Ask the Right Questions when Tapping the Crowd 

“Never post a challenge or a statement out there with a site that says, ‘Give us all your best ideas,’ because you’re not equipped to go implement any of them,”  says Steve Rader of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, during a recent live call. “[A good challenge] is very narrow; you set expectations for what’s going to happen; [and] you make sure [that] the owner of that challenge is somebody who can actually implement whatever comes out of it…”