Creating an environment for innovators at India’s $43 billion Reliance Industries

“Some organizations think that putting processes of innovation in place will ensure a culture of innovation,” says Sushil Borde, VP of Innovation at Reliance. “But they don’t focus on creating the environment or fostering innovative talent, and that’s where they fail.” We spoke with Borde to learn more about how the company is working to institutionalize innovation, the innovation programs he’s helped to create, and the five tenets that guide innovation at Reliance.

Learnings and slides from Pfizer’s work to foster a culture of innovation

What happens if lots of divisions in a global company come up with their own approach to innovation? “If you don’t have a common vernacular, if you don’t have a common culture, if you don’t have the same frame of reference,” says Pfizer exec Dan Seewald, “then you lose the scalability and the impact of having one program, one mindset, and one social movement.” Inside, details on the Pfizer “Dare to Try” innovation initiative, which Seewald oversees.

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.

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.

Deep dive: How the innovation champions program works at telecom giant Vodafone

Vodafone’s Jerry Spann and Ashoka’s Sarah Jefferson lay out the key design principles for Vodafone’s global innovation champions program, as well as the benefits of the approach for the company, its customers, and its employees. Today, a network that started out with just eight champions has grown to over 70 champions and “Innovation Agents.”

How EY launched an innovation program inside a professional services firm

One big challenge, according to Jeff Saviano, who runs innovation inside EY’s tax practice for the Americas: “Making sure that we’re not just asking people to spend time on nights and weekends to build something new, [and] move us in a new direction.” He explains how they’ve been working to overcome that. Includes 30 minutes of audio…

“Process kills innovation”: Merck exec’s advice on fostering innovation in a global business

When it comes to innovating across the globe and in emerging markets, Merck’s head of commercial innovation is adamant about streamlining processes and paperwork. “If you need ten steps and three forms to fill in for every idea you have, nobody is going to do it,” says Wim Vandenhouweele. Inside, his advice for building a global innovation capability in a highly-regulated industry…

Our take: If you’re going to stage some ‘innovation theater,’ make it ‘Hamilton’ and not ‘Carrie’

This week, Innovation Leader editor Scott Kirsner provides a contrarian view on “innovation theater,” the label that some in the startup or consulting world put on just about any efforts at corporate innovation. “Ignore the nay-sayers,” says Kirsner, and use the Tony award-winning show Hamilton as your guide. “Innovation theater, done thoughtfully and creatively, can set the stage for more constructive work ahead.”

The secret of corporate innovation is …

Here are seven things we see having a big impact inside large organizations, and seven things that set you up for failure.

How $6B real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle built a revenue engine  

Innovation VP Alec Humphries discusses how his group inside the commercial real estate firm has begun generating millions in revenue within five years of its creation.

‘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…

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.

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…

Book excerpt: When rewarding innovators, do medals work best — or money?

Motivating and rewarding innovators is one of those topics that comes up frequently at Innovation Leader’s live events, in interviews, and in our regular conference calls with innovation execs. Innovation psychologist Dr. Amantha Imber addresses that topic in her new book “The Innovation Formula: The 14 Science-Based Keys for Creating a Culture Where Innovation Thrives.” We’ve got an excerpt.

Why India’s Tata Communications sends employees to Silicon Valley for ‘immersion week’

“We want to show people that there are different ways of growing a business, defining customer problems, and becoming more customer-centric,” says Alex Pelletier, Head of Innovation at $3 billion Tata Communications, part of India’s Tata Group. “In the old telco world, that is historically not so true.” Pelletier explains how his company’s Shape the Future program works, and shares slides…

How MasterCard adapted the Adobe Kickbox innovation kit to its culture

Participating individuals and teams receive an Orange Box containing a $1,000 pre-paid card and tools to help them explore an idea and develop a pitch in 60 days. If the pitch is approved, the team receives a Red Box, which contains $25,000 and 90 days to develop their project further. We talk to Senior VP John Sheldon about how the program works.

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?

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…

Why insurance firm Assurant designed a strategy game for employees to play

Among the goals behind the company’s Strategy Learning Game: helping employees understand the direction the company is going and “how they fit in,” and driving a cultural shift to urgency, adaptive thinking, agility, and accountability. SVP Melissa Kivett explains how it worked…

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.

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.

Four steps to getting your innovative subculture to spread

Michael Foster, who has developed innovation programs at companies like Dun & Bradstreet and Fiserv, provides four tips for nurturing and elevating the “subculture” of innovation that exists within large organizations. One challenge he highlights: Most companies have a tendency to over-complicate things. Here’s his advice.

Powering innovation within Rolls-Royce’s engineering-centric culture

The $20 billion British company employs more than 18,000 engineers, and thinks about new technologies along a twenty-year timespan. Head of Innovation Hardev Ubhi discusses how Rolls-Royce is working to bring new tools and new thinking into an organization that is understandably obsessed with safety, precision, and quality. Includes slides…

How the accelerator program at Daimler Trucks trains intrapreneurs

A three-month long accelerator program at Daimler Trucks North America gets employee teams talking to customers, cultivating ideas, and then pitching the board. Lori Heino-Royer, director of the company’s Business Innovation and Program Management Office, talks about the objectives and one of the projects that resulted. Includes slides…

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…

Gap exec on innovation training, co-creation, customer insights

Gap Inc.’s Dean of Global Innovation talks about creativity, co-creation, the Mindspark training initiative,  and the importance of solving small problems first. Includes slides and 30 minutes of audio from a recent call.

Q&A: A guidebook to successful hackathons

“I see you’ve written a lot about hackathons, and have some great case studies from companies on how they run theirs. But I wonder if you have a kind of ‘guidebook’ or ‘top 10’ list of things to do to (a) get started; and (b) succeed.”

Enforcing candor: How Ford, Pixar, others innovate with brutal honesty

It’s very common for our innovation initiatives and projects to just muddle along, because no one is willing to step up and be honest and candid about what might be wrong with the idea. Do you have any thoughts on how other companies have brought more candor and honesty into their innovation programs?

Q&A: How to start education, training initiatives on innovation?

We’re in the process of starting an educational / training initiative around innovation, and could use some guidance on where to start. Is there a typical starting point for these programs? We’re a relatively big company (15,000+ employees) and are struggling with whether we begin in marketing, product management, product development, executive management, etc. Any thoughts or best practices or the progression / trajectory of such programs?

Why Google does ‘Beer & Demos’ every Friday

Craig Nevill-Manning, Director of Engineering at Google’s Manhattan office, talks about why the company encourages engineers to show off raw prototypes every week. “The most important thing is that your demo exists,” Nevill-Manning says. “That’s the biggest achievement.”

Florida Hospital innovation exec on ‘Internet of Things’ learnings

Florida Hospital has been deploying “Internet of Things” technologies — including RFID locator tags attached to equipment and worn by employees — since 2010. Innovation Leader editor Scott Kirsner spoke recently with Ashley Simmons, Director of Innovation Development, about what they’ve learned so far, in a session held at the Internet of Things Summit in Boston.

Q&A: Employee engagement issues

Though we’re a $10+ billion company, I wouldn’t say that innovation is in our bloodstream. We’ve been working to instill a culture of risk-taking and innovation, and are butting up against employee engagement issues.

Exclusive: Fast Company founder on corporate innovation challenges

Twenty years after the launch of Fast Company magazine, we talk to co-founder Bill Taylor about the challenges that face innovators in large organizations today. At many companies, he says, “the default mode is, let’s say no” to new concepts. “What’s the harm of that? It takes a big committee to say yes.”

What are your peers doing to move the innovation needle?

We worked with a group of 15 innovation executives recently to develop this list of “Innovation Approaches.” It endeavors to capture what innovation leaders are doing when they are setting strategy; trying to change company culture; building capabilities for cultivating and testing new ideas; or investing in promising startups.

How Pfizer disrupted the traditional innovation conference

A senior R&D leader at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer raved to us last November about the innovation gathering he’d just been to. “It was like TEDMED meets ‘The Apprentice,'” he said, which didn’t sound anything like the typical innovation conference put on by a major multi-national. We asked Julio Corredor, who organized the event, to tell us how he structured it and what made it work.

Changing culture at French insurer BNP Paribas Cardif

Héloïse Lauret, Head of Innovation at BNP Paribas Cardif, discusses the three main culture-change initiatives the French insurance firm has launched — and the importance of building trust.

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.

How a video series is spreading innovation at Thomson Reuters

Chief Innovation Officer Cary Burch explains the objectives and impact of a weekly video series that puts innovative employees in the spotlight.

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.

Is this the fate of every employee idea-sourcing initiative?

You launch an innovation initiative and cast a wide net for employee ideas. What happens next? This slide from Thomson Reuters VP Mona Vernon predicts it with startling accuracy.

Why Wells Fargo says diversity of thought is essential to innovation

Without the rights kinds of people on a project team, says Mike Duke, the Chief Innovation Architect at Wells Fargo, progress can stall. “Diversity of thought is critical,” Duke says. “If you have the same minds in the room, you’ll get the same ideas.” He offers an overview of innovation initiatives at the $21 billion financial services company.

How Roche pursues patient-centric innovation; inside the ‘Imaginarium’

Global Head of Innovation Management Sheila Babnis offers an inside look at how the Swiss pharma giant’s innovation function was created and how it operates today, including tight partnerships with business units. “We find that doing innovation within the business, it sticks much better than if it’s done to the business,” Babnis says. Includes a downloadable PDF overview of Roche’s “Imaginarium” approach to design thinking and prototyping…

Innovation matures at Transamerica from skunkworks to true partner

Chief Innovation Officer Aaron Proietti explains how his group’s mission has evolved, shifting from an isolated “skunkworks” responsible for developing its own projects to more of a consultancy to the business units. Here’s why that happened…

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 Ingersoll Rand hires, trains, tests and prioritizes innovation

Listen to our recent “Innovation Leader Live” call with Michael Wynblatt, VP of Innovation & Emerging Technology at Ingersoll Rand, the $12.3 billion industrial giant. In the audio, Michael discuses the complexities of his role; how he creates and tests innovation hypotheses; training and capability-building; metrics; priorities; hiring and more.

Innovation gaffes: How rocket turtle was communication bust

Changing culture within an established organization is a huge challenge. And there’s always the impulse to make it fun, or to create an icon or image that represents something aspirational. But communicating the wrong thing can spark an employee backlash.

Six tips from innovation VP at $10 billion Partners HealthCare

At the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, Chris Coburn oversaw the spin-off of 57 companies. Now, as the VP Innovation at Partners HealthCare, he’s leading commercialization efforts in an entirely different culture. Inside are Chris’ tips on maximizing innovation efforts, including five key metrics for measuring success.

How Vodafone built a network of innovation champions

Shannon Lucas explains how a small innovation team inside the telecom giant Vodafone has cultivated a global network of 40 innovation champions. Lucas shares details on how the champions are recruited, what they focus on, how they collaborate, and what they are measured on.

Chubb global innovation VP: ‘Stop the innovation carnival’

At too many companies, employees interact with the innovation team during sporadic “Innovation Days,” idea challenges, or off-site meetings. Chubb global innovation VP Gerry Myers explains how the insurer created a “social layer” for innovation and collaboration, to help weave innovation into employees’ daily activity. Includes slides.

Exclusive compensation survey: How innovation execs are paid

What’s the average salary for a VP Innovation? What about Directors or Catalysts? Does company size or reporting structure impact pay? Find out in our first-ever compensation survey of innovation leaders, complete with salaries, bonuses, and performance metrics.

In detail: More on how bonuses are set for innovation executives

Chief Innovation Officers, VPs of Innovation, Directors, and Innovation Managers explain how their bonuses are calculated, in their own words. Data comes from our 2014 compensation survey.

What we learned running our hospital’s first hackathon

Innovation exec Lesley Solomon explains how Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston set up its first hackathon, what the event achieved for the organization, and what they will do differently next time around.

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…

Sweet! Four steps Hershey’s uses to reduce innovation risks

Director of Adjacency Innovation Deborah Arcoleo lays out the four steps she uses to de-risk innovation initiatives, from assembling the best team possible to ensuring that key stakeholders at the company have contributed to the key measures of success.

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.

Climate for innovation: Estée Lauder, Pfizer, Sony + more

Who should innovation teams collaborate with in large organizations? Who should use new software tools first? And when is taking a field trip to Google your best option? Executives from Sony, Estée Lauder, Fisher-Price, and Pfizer share their tips for spreading creativity and innovation throughout large organizations. Includes audio.

Gap Inc.: Moving Ideas from ‘Fuzzy’ to ‘Fruition’

Dean of Global Innovation Michael Perman explains how Gap Inc. has trained about 250 employees to be innovators, through a program called Mindspark. But Perman also asserts that not everyone in large organizations is cut out to innovate: “Not everyone is built that way, anymore than everyone should be an accountant.” Perman also outlines Gap’s current innovation priorities. Includes audio.

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.

Julia Austin: Is your company really set up to innovate?

When a company launches an innovation program, what they’re trying to say is, “We are a creative organization that wants to foster and support creative stuff.”  But the big question is, are they set up to succeed in making that statement a reality? Six key points on supporting, rather than smothering, the creative sparks at your organization, from Julia Austin, the former vice president of innovation at VMware.

Inside the Hidden Hunting Lodge at Dyn

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