Articles & Case Studies by Topic

Ideation, Prototyping & Pilots

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…

Inside Moen’s prototype-driven product development strategy

Moen’s SVP of Global Strategic Development describes the customer-focused innovation process behind a new line of motion-sensitive faucets. “With our prototypes,” says Mike Pickett, “if we’re not activating emotional excitement about the product, we’re probably not on the right track, and we’ll keep working.”

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 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.

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.

Fidelity VP: Pick the right innovation tools for your trip

Rick Smyers, who runs the Center for Accelerated Innovation at Fidelity Investments, likens running a successful innovation program to planning a mountaineering expedition: you don’t want to leave base camp without a plan of attack, the right people, and the proper equipment. Details, slides, and video inside…

Exclusive excerpt: Why you should kill off ‘zombie projects’

Are your innovation initiatives plodding along? Do they lack resources? Innosight managing partner Scott Anthony says the problem could be too many “zombie projects” — and an organizational inability to kill them. Learn more in this Innovation Leader exclusive.

GE’s chief marketing officer talks innovation, partnerships

Innovation Leader had ringside seats at a Harvard Business School event, where GE’s marketing chief Beth Comstock discussed the company’s views on crowdsourcing, the Internet of things, the lean startup movement, and more. Quick bullets from her presentation and the complete audio are inside.

Lessons from Marriott on rapid prototyping and co-creation

We recently sat down with the Global Brand Officer of Marriott International to discuss how innovation works at the $12.8 billion hospitality company. Inside, Brian King takes you into “The Underground,” Marriott’s innovation lab, to see how rapid-prototyping works there, and offers lessons for replicating the process.

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.

General Mills shares learnings, pitfalls on open innovation

Mike Helser, head of the General Mills Worldwide Innovation Network, shares what the $17.8 billion consumer packaged goods company has learned from its open innovation experiences. We’ve got slides, steps for porting his model, and details on his “X-Squad.”

Why News Corp. is trying ‘under the radar’ innovation

After launching a high-profile iPad newspaper that didn’t succeed, the Manhattan-based publishing company is taking a quieter approach to incubating new products. News Corp. senior vice president of product Nick Bell explains.

What you can learn from GE on connecting with entrepreneurs

GE hunts for breakthrough ideas by engaging with startups and academic researchers in new ways. Says exec Venkat Venkatakrishnan, “Our challenge has become, how can I find a technology that I will be the first to apply, not, what do I invent tomorrow?” Here’s a look at how Vankatakrishnan’s group held a first-of-its-kind event last fall.

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.

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.

Will your project live or die? Predicting corporate infanticide

In business, internal “corporate infanticide” happens all the time. Corporate innovations are encouraged and funded one year, only to be stymied and shut down by their parent companies a few years later. Thomas Thurston of Growth Science, a business model simulation firm, explains the role that corporate culture plays in predicting whether internal innovations and acquisitions will survive.

Project flow: 3 key trends in distributed work

There’s an undeniable shift happening, toward judicious and strategic use of distributed talent — whether full-timers who don’t happen to live where your company has an office, or freelancers who prefer not to become anyone’s employee. We explore the shift with oDesk CEO Gary Swart, left, and Scott Berkun, author of the new book “My Year Without Pants: and the Future of Work.”

Learning to love Innovation Day at UnitedHealth Group

Ryan Armbruster, VP of Innovation Competency at UnitedHealth Group, shares an outline of how the company structures its annual Innovation Day event — and discusses his initial skepticism about it. “To me, innovation is about deep skills and competencies, not something you just celebrate on a single day,” Armbruster says.

Why Coke is hiring founders & holding failure conferences

VP of innovation and entrepreneurship David Butler shares the experiments Coke is trying internally and externally as a way to “regenerate the culture” of the 150,000 employee company, including hackathons to improve its soda dispensers and conferences focused on learning from failure. Above, two employees present an idea at Coke’s first employee Startup Weekend, held in June 2013.

Community hackathon how-to: 5 keys to success, 5 examples

Companies like Campbell’s Soup, Coca-Cola, and Hasbro have started to organize hackathons as a way to get outsiders building prototypes of new products and services — some of which may help further the company’s strategy, or get a new kind of ecosystem going. Here’s advice on how to do it right, and some of the controversy that can arise.

Simplicity: Put it on the menu

Are you confusing customers with a constellation of choices, add-ons, and upgrades? The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, a southern California wildlife attraction, decided to streamline the options it presents to visitors. You’ll be surprised by the impact it had on their business — and by what inspired the park’s design approach.

How the Game Show Network runs employee hackathons

The cable network’s digital game development studio spells out the goals, process, guidelines, and awards for its quarterly employee hackathon. Includes a downloadable PDF used to organize the most recent one, in July.

Intel’s Brandon Barnett: Mapping the future

The chipmaker’s Director of Business Innovation explains how he uses experiments, hackathons, and networks of experts to help Intel map out areas of future potential — and talks about what it takes to get the attention of business unit heads.

Naomi Fried: My 3 highest-impact programs

Three years into the job, Naomi Fried, the Chief Innovation Officer at one of the world’s top pediatric medical centers, reflects on the three initiatives that have moved the needle most. Fried also offers a look at her annual innovation progress report.

What Philips wants from open innovation and crowdsourcing

Philips North America chairman Greg Sebasky, left, calls it “one of the first attempts by a large company to do open innovation.” The company is dangling $100,000 in prize money, plus mentorship from Philips execs, for new product ideas in healthcare. But before the competition launched, Sebasky had to deal his attorneys.

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.