Webcast replay: The innovation agenda for 2017

Innovation Leader editor Scott Kirsner discusses what we’re seeing corporate innovation teams focusing on for 2017, including governance; more focused approaches to working with startups; adjusting the focus of innovation labs; some of the factors that lead to the sudden death of innovation initiatives; and the benefits of building networks of champions or catalysts. Kirsner also discusses metrics.

Innovation Teams & Business Units: Allies or Adversaries?

Our exclusive report on building productive relationships between innovation groups and the business units includes insights and advice from AIG, Ralph Lauren, W.L. Gore, Reliant Energy, BASF, Northrop Grumman, CVS and others.

How business units get involved with J&J’s network of innovation centers

When J&J makes a new investment in a startup, “50 percent of the deal funding from J&J Innovation, and the business unit provides the other 50 percent,” explains Darren Snellgrove, Chief Financial Officer for J&J Innovation. “We have found that both sides having skin in the game, and a say in the decision making is an important component of success.” More insights inside…

How Aon Health invites business leaders to help set the innovation agenda

Jim Winkler, Global Chief Innovation Officer at Aon Health, explains the meetings and process that his team uses to set the innovation agenda, and determine priorities, in collaboration with line of business executives.

Advice from American Greetings VP: How creatives and the business side can get along

Many people think of American Greetings as a purveyor of greeting cards and party goods, but as Carol Miller describes it, the privately-held company is in the “meaningful connections” business, helping people make connections with family and friends. On a recent IL Live conference call, she shared her advice about building great teams that include both creatives and business-side employees.

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….

These are the things that kill innovation initiatives

To arm you with information, we compiled this list, with input from current and former innovation executives, as well as consultants who have watched programs coalesce and (occasionally) disband. Everyone with whom we spoke agreed that the first two reasons are the most commonly-seen “causes of death” for innovation programs.

How ExxonMobil IT started a grassroots innovation program that’s changing company culture

Christopher Bailey, #innovation catalyst and IT leader at ExxonMobil, discusses the challenges of operationally-focused innovation and details how ExxonMobil has promoted innovation from the ground up through the #innovation initiative and their Grassroots Innovation Forum. Includes 30 minutes of audio.

How P&G has evolved its Clay Street innovation studio to have broader impact

Over the past decade, many of the ideas that had seemed novel when Procter & Gamble’s Clay Street innovation studio first opened — like its giant Marimekko bean bags, circle conversations, and cell phone bans — have become mainstream and “really commonplace in the rest of P & G,” explains Karen Hershenson. “We want to make sure … that people don’t feel they have to be at Clay Street to be innovative, that they can be innovative anywhere. So that’s been our goal as we evolve.” Photos and diagram inside…

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.”

Former Gap exec Michael Perman: Is innovation really everyone’s job?

“Two common axioms are ridiculous. Stay away from them,” writes Michael Perman, who has held innovation roles at Gap Inc. and Levi Strauss & Co. “Innovation is everyone’s job. NOT. That’s no more true than distribution being everyone’s job. Yes, everyone needs to have EMPATHY, but in reality, innovation requires talent, passion, and tenacity.” The other ridiculous axiom? Keep reading…

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.

Achieving innovation balance: Advice from Cambia Health’s chief innovation officer

Five years after starting the innovation team at Cambia Health Solutions, a family of healthcare businesses in the Pacific Northwest, Chief Innovation Officer Mohan Nair shares what he has learned about different types of innovators — including some you may want to avoid — as well as delivering near-term and long-term impact.

How PwC turns “corporate antibodies” into allies: Five tactics to try

Every company has antibodies — they’re the gatekeepers who are actually healthy and necessary guardians of the enterprise. “Companies need these gatekeepers to minimize risk,” says Best, “but we’ve learned the same gatekeepers can actually accelerate innovation if included in the process, or slow innovation if they’re not.” She outlines five tactics that she’s used to engage these corporate antibodies in a productive way.

How the Catalyst Fund for new ideas works at Thomson Reuters

Thomson Reuters has come to the realization that building proof-of-concepts and prototypes can require significant funding. The $13 billion media and information company created an internal seed fund called the Catalyst Fund in January 2014, overseen by CEO Jim Smith and Katherine Manuel, the Senior Vice President for Innovation. It provides up to $350,000 in funding to build and test prototypes. Here’s how it works…

Marla Capozzi on discipline, metrics, and the perils of innovation committees

Among the topics we covered on a recent Innovation Leader Live call with Marla Capozzi of McKinsey & Co.’s Global Strategy & Innovation Practice:  Why an organization’s commitment to innovation shouldn’t wax and wane; the risk of innovation committees running off the rails; and why it’s vital to create new metrics for the pilot tests and experiments you run. Transcript and downloadable audio inside…

Vijay Govindarajan on his new book, “The Three Box Solution: A Strategy for Leading Innovation”

How can large organizations create the future when almost all their time and energy is spent competing for the present? That challenge is at the center of “The Three Box Solution,” the new book from Vijay Govindarajan, professor at Dartmouth College and visiting fellow at Harvard Business School, who has also served as chief innovation consultant to General Electric. Our interview with Govindarajan includes 30 minutes of downloadable audio…

Early data: Innovation budgets, CEO support, metrics, and risk tolerance

In February, we posted a survey designed to serve as a quick assessment of the maturity of corporate innovation programs — and how well they are being accepted by the culture. We’re sharing some early results from it — on topics like training, CEO support, co-creation, and business unit relationships.

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.

Peer advice: How to start and sustain a network of innovation champions

Participants in a recent Innovation Leader conference call addressed six key questions about creating internal networks of innovation “champions” or “catalysts,” like what is the champion’s role; how will you recruit or find champions; what are the benefits to them, and what sorts of impact should you try to measure?

What no one says about politics and culture — and how they impact innovation

“I’ve learned that culture and politics both will have big impacts on the course your innovation program follows. But most people don’t talk about them,” writes Sreten Gajic, a former new ventures executive at Assurant and Coca-Cola. Here’s his advice on how you can build structures that can get innovation to happen in any company.

Failure shouldn’t come as a surprise

The odds are, with every project that pushes the limits of what your company has done before, or the boundaries of what is possible, you will encounter failure. The best organizations in the world expect it. They have a culture that tolerates it. And they are ready to learn from it and adapt. Here’s Julia Austin’s advice on how you do that…

Achieving impact in a large organization: Advice from your peers

We recently brought together a group of twenty senior innovation, product, and strategy executives in Manhattan, in collaboration with our partner Mindjet. The goal: to discuss how to create sustainable innovation programs that deliver big results. Here are twenty pieces of advice from the group…

Ten lessons from ExxonMobil on spurring operationally-focused innovation

The innovation team at ExxonMobil provides a first-ever look at their Grassroots Innovation Forum, focused on sourcing and testing operational innovations, including missteps they encountered and lessons your company might want to consider. Includes internal screenshots and presentation.

Three keys to longevity for corporate venture capital groups

“One the biggest knocks against corporate venture capital initiatives is that they are often a by-product of a booming economy and a pet project of the CEO. They’re here today, gone tomorrow. This reputation, unfortunately, is grounded in some truth, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” writes corporate VC Kyle Fugere.

So you’re trying to innovate in a heavily-regulated industry…

There are even more barriers to innovation in industries that are heavily regulated — like pharma, healthcare, insurance, and banking. Legal and regulatory requirements can loom large, and have the potential to stifle innovation — if you don’t address them head-on. Here’s how…

Corporate innovation assessment

Developed by Innovation Leader’s Editorial team, with input from corporate innovation executives, this assessment will help you evaluate the current maturity of your organization’s innovation strategy.

Swisher: Incrementalism is not a way station on the road to disruptive innovation

Ten observations about the politics and realities of innovating in an established organization, from Phil Swisher, the former VP of innovation at the biggest private bank in the U.S. “It’s important to realize that there may be many people in the organization who are waiting you out,” Swisher says.

How Thales Group is chasing growth with new xPlor initiative

Pete Roney, VP of Innovation at Thales USA, the American arm of the $17 billion French aerospace and defense giant Thales Group, says that the rationale for launching a new innovation effort was pretty clear: The company just wasn’t thinking creatively enough to keep up with its peer group.

How a $56 billion healthcare delivery system is putting the consumer first

Tad Funahashi, Chief Innovation and Transformation Officer at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, talks about how the 177,000 employee healthcare delivery system is working to become less MD-centric, and more consumer-centric. Includes audio and slides…

Alex Osterwalder: ‘Business models expire like yogurt in the fridge’

We talk with Alex Osterwalder, one of the developers of the Business Model Canvas, about how he sees large companies using the tool; its relationship to the lean startup methodology; and the challenges companies face in building growth engines that are as powerful as their execution engines. Includes downloadable audio…

Steve Blank on how to put lean startup in action inside big companies

On our latest Innovation Leader Live call, lean startup guru Steve Blank talked about the challenges of bringing the lean startup approach into a large company; and the decisions that should be made before setting up an “innovation outpost.” Article includes 30 minutes of audio. (Not a subscriber? Here’s an excerpt.)

Six innovation agenda items for 2016

How are you going to make change and deliver results in 2016? Whether you work in an innovation group, new product development, strategy, or R&D, we believe that these issues deserve a place on your agenda for the year ahead.

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

MetLife’s Chief Innovation Officer shares his approach to supporting innovation at the 66,000-employee insurance company — and also on how to avoid the “danger zone” of innovation, when all the resources and energy that you’re pouring into a new project have yet to deliver tangible results. Includes slides…

Cartoon: What do the business units really want from innovation?

Sharing this original cartoon by Ricardo Galvao, which appears in the Fall 2015 edition of Innovation Leader magazine. (Click it to get a larger, printable version.)

Corporate innovation needs a simpler approach

Mark Nitkey has been an executive at companies like Apple, Gap Inc., Victoria’s Secret, and Ahold, the Dutch grocer. He writes, “Complexity is Public Enemy #1 when it comes to innovation. You may have the budget. You may have the CEO’s explicit support. But when things are too complex, innovation initiatives die.” Here’s his advice on a simpler approach…

What Manulife’s senior tech execs want from new LOFT initiative

Executives at Manulife Financial knew they needed to play more offense when it came to exploring and experimenting with new technologies. To speed up the company’s tech metabolism, Manulife last month launched the Lab of Forward Thinking, or LOFT. We’ve got slides on their strategy, and their first big event…

Five ways to spread innovation throughout the organization

As part of our New York Field Study last month, Michael Dewar of the New York Times Research & Development Group discussed the various ways that his group can build awareness of what it is working on throughout the organization — and ideally increase other departments’ willingness to support the R&D team’s projects as they move from initial demo to production. Here’s an annotated slide from his talk…

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.

Steve Blank: Are you having impact, or performing ‘innovation theater’?

Our conversation with “lean startup” proponent Steve Blank focused on several things necessary to take pilot experiments and turn them into significant new products — including supportive management teams, proper metrics, and sufficient funding. Without those, Blank says, many innovation teams will simply be performing “innovation theater.” Includes audio and slides…

15 challenging and conflict-ridden jobs innovation execs must do

Few jobs are tougher than that of the innovation leader — whether you work in product development, strategy, R&D, or a dedicated innovation team. Working with a half-dozen people in the role, we created this list of 15 challenging and conflict-ridden jobs that face innovation leaders.

Inside the creation of D&B’s Cloud Innovation Center

An acquisition in 2014 gave Dun & Bradstreet a 49-person, cloud-focused software development team in Vancouver. Here’s how that group has evolved into D&B’s Cloud Innovation Center — and some of the challenges they’ve faced.

How many people wield the ‘power of no’ at your company?

Stuart Jenkins, SVP of Innovation and Product Development at $1.5 billion footwear company Deckers Outdoor, says it’s near-impossible to innovate if any one person can shoot down a good idea. Jenkins also talks about driving innovation when you don’t have an R&D group, and his approach to keeping division heads up-to-date on progress.

Kennametal exec on innovation governance and ‘fast fail’ testing

Colin Tilzey, head of the Innovation Ventures Group at the $3 billion tool-maker, talks about the evolution of the innovation governance committee; looking for the cheapest way to test new ideas; and a new position he has created on his team.

12 interview questions: Ask these to set yourself up for success

A long-time innovation leader from the financial services industry agreed to share with us — anonymously — the questions he uses in conversations with the people who sponsor or collaborate with the innovation team.

Humana exec on consultants, mix of projects, reporting to CEO

Audio and notes from our recent “Innovation Leader Live” call with Nate Bellinger of Humana. Bellinger talks about the 15-year history of Humana’s innovation initiatives; some of the lessons they’ve learned as it has evolved; the ratio of incremental innovation to transformational innovation; budgets; and various changes in reporting relationships. Includes 30 minutes of downloadable audio…

Nancy Shea: Turning your CEO into a fully-vested partner

“You really have to be careful what you wish for when you talk about getting your CEO involved with innovation,” says Nancy Shea, who has been a senior innovation and marketing executive at Kraft Foods, Ashland Inc., and World Kitchen. “Often, a CEO wants results now, now, now.” Here’s her advice on how to turn your CEO into a productive partner for the innovation team and it’s long-term goals.

Dear Boss: Here’s how to manage our innovation team

Phil Swisher, Head of Innovation at the private bank Brown Brothers Harriman, shares the one-page guide he put together for the partner who was taking over management of his team in 2013.

Humana exec on the ups and downs of innovation programs

As staffing levels have risen and fallen, and reporting relationships have changed, $40 billion health insurer Humana has kept a commitment to innovation alive. Director of Consumer Innovation Nate Bellinger describes his current strategy, and some of the lessons from almost 15 years.

Clay Christensen: Why most innovation leaders will fail

Christensen, author of the seminal business book “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” warns that too many CEOs and Chief Innovation Officers don’t understand the “corporate laws of physics” in enough detail — and think they can simply will the organization to change how it works. And Christensen says tracking the wrong metrics forces companies to underinvest in long-range, truly disruptive innovation initiatives. Includes 30 minutes of audio.

Insights and war stories: Starbucks, Kraft and Hyatt

What do you do when business unit executives won’t return your calls — or complain that your ideas are just too complicated to deploy? Is CEO support and sponsorship sufficient to really make change happen? Innovation leaders Rachel Antalek of Starbucks, Barry Calpino of Kraft, and Jeff Semenchuk of Hyatt share their advice. Includes audio from a recent panel discussion.

Right relationship between innovation and business units?

A member of the Innovation Leader community asks: “What is the optimal relationship between an innovation/team group and the lines of business? Is there a ‘golden rule’ for how close or how far away it should be?” We want to hear your answer…

Is the CEO serious about innovation? 10 questions

Proselytizing and PowerPoint just don’t work if an organization’s leaders don’t want to change. If you want to achieve truly transformational innovation, you have to find leaders who are open to it, and willing to organize around it, says Saul Kaplan, the founder of Rhode Island’s Business Innovation Factory. Here are ten critical questions you can use to explore a CEO’s commitment.

Hostile comments from division heads; Have you heard worse?

When innovation initiatives aren’t exactly welcomed with open arms…A dispatch from the commodities business.