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.”

Photos: Inside MasterCard Labs in New York City

Photos from MasterCard’s NYC Tech Hub, opened in October 2014.

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.

Cardinal Health SVP offers a look inside customer-focused Fuse lab

“When you come to Fuse, it’s all about the customers. It’s customer-in,” says Cardinal Health SVP and CTO Brent Stutz. Visiting employees and executives “leave their business unit affiliations and their badges behind.” Here’s a look inside…

Inside Target’s Food + Future coLab

The idea behind the creation of the coLAB, as founder Greg Shewmaker explains it, is that “we know less about our food than we ever have at any other time in history. We want to do something about it. I don’t want to go sell more Greek yogurt or healthy products. I want to go do something big, and fix some big problems.” Photo gallery inside…

At the Philadelphia 76ers new innovation lab, offering hands-on help to startups

The new lab is open to hosting all kinds early-stage consumer product companies and some B2B concepts — not just sports or fitness-related startups. “The sports category, although it’s really big, is pretty limiting,” says Managing Director Seth Berger. “The Sixers’ network is so broad across so many different industries — to limit ourselves to sports didn’t make sense.”

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…

How the Capital One Garage is incubating new products and ‘re-imagining the relationship with money’

“We incubate and accelerate great products,” says Gagan Kanjlia, co-founder of Capital One Garage, the incubator at the $24 billion financial services giant. “But also we’re driving this broader business transformation, which is essential for larger companies like Capital One.”

At Honda’s Silicon Valley Lab, riding shotgun with Google, Apple, Visa, and others

While it began life as an R&D outpost in 2000, and later added a venture capital team, Honda’s Silicon Valley site is now a full-fledged innovation hub for the company, overseeing a range of important partnerships and startup interactions. Nick Sugimoto explains how it’s set up.

Webcast replay: What top corporate innovators are doing in 2016

Innovation Leader editor and co-founder Scott Kirsner shares seven examples of how companies like Toyota, Disney, GE, and Amazon are working to innovate better, faster, cheaper — and more collaboratively. The webcast also explores some of the factors that lead to premature death for innovation initiatives.

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.

Photos: How Lululemon Athletica is bringing designers closer to customers

At a new “lab” store in Manhattan’s Noho neighborhood, customers come in to peruse merchandise in the front of the store, and when they head to the fitting rooms to try it on, or to a counter to pay for it, they’re just a few steps away from the designers who work in the back half of the space. Photos inside…

Innovation lessons from Airbus’ foray into 3D-printed electric motorcycles

One expects to hear about sleek new cabin designs or fuel-efficient aircraft from the $70.5 billion Airbus Group. So heads turned when the aerospace giant introduced the world’s first 3D-printed motorcycle in May. The story of the how and why Airbus brought the bike to market offers useful lessons for other large corporations.

Audio: Shell and Thales execs on setting up innovation outposts, gauging impact

Executives from Shell TechWorks and the Thales xPlor initiative joined Innovation Leader editor Scott Kirsner earlier this year to talk about what they hope to accomplish with the innovation labs they’ve set up in the Boston area, and how they’re being measured. Here’s the audio and slides.

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.”

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…

New York Times disbands R&D Lab, pulls innovation closer to newsroom and advertisers

The lab was founded a decade ago with a mandate to look “beyond the next product cycle, identifying trends and technologies that will emerge in the next three to five years.” Michael Zimbalist, who had overseen the lab, had already departed the Times in March to join Simulmedia, an advertising tech startup.

At Shell’s fast-growing TechWorks lab, it’s ‘all about deploying’

We talk to the director of Shell TechWorks about the lab’s projects, its funding, and its mission — finding cheaper, faster, and safer ways to drill for oil and gas, and to take advantage of future energy sources.

Schneider Electric exec: Quick decision-making is key in Silicon Valley

It has been just two years since the French multinational Schneider Electric set up an innovation center in Silicon Valley. But already, the outpost is helping the $30 billion company experiment with new services and business models. We talk to innovation VP Paul Campbell about its structure and one of the first projects…

Former Pixar SVP on creative conflict and why well-designed offices win

“Creative abrasion is the ability to have difficult conversations,” says former Pixar SVP of Technology Greg Brandeau. “It’s like taking sandpaper and polishing something.” He shares his thoughts on how to make it work, along with an assessment test.

Hearst Health’s chief innovation officer on lab funding, staffing, and focus

Our latest Innovation Leader Live call featured Justin Graham of Hearst Health, talking about the innovation lab he oversees in San Francisco. We discussed staffing, funding, and the focus of the lab — and took several questions from listeners. Read the highlights of our conversation, or listen to the audio.

Innovation Labs Report: What’s Inside

What exactly is an innovation lab? Ask ten companies, and you’ll get ten different answers. For our 53-page report on innovation labs, we talked to more than 20 executives at companies like Walmart, Home Depot, IKEA, Fidelity Investments, Royal Dutch Shell, MasterCard, Target, and others.

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…

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 IKEA is exploring the future of furniture, home design, and meatballs

To test ideas and prototype designs, the world’s biggest furniture company built a model apartment in southern Sweden. It invites local families to move into the apartment and document their experiences with the experimental furnishings. Includes slides…

How new CVS digital lab proves value, collaborates with business units

Chief Digital Officer Brian Tilzer discusses why the $37 billion retail and healthcare giant set up its new Digital Innovation Lab in Boston; how it connects with teams at CVS’ Rhode Island headquarters; and his thoughts on mobile payments, videoconferencing and collaboration, and in-store Bluetooth Beacon technology. Includes 40 minutes of audio from our recent Field Study visit…

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.)

Visa explores future of buying without plastic at innovation center

When most people talk about connected products or the “Internet of Things,” they mean a new generation of devices that can communicate with one another wirelessly. But what if devices could buy stuff, rather than just conveying status or the need for maintenance? Here’s what Visa is experimenting with …

Lego CEO: To innovate, create a separate structure

Lego CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp talks about Future Lab, a separate team the company has set up to explore new avenues for growth.

Lightweight engagement: A simpler approach to connecting with the world outside your walls

What’s lightweight? Things that can generate results within six months, with a minimum of funding, internal debate, and approvals. Lightweight is a kayak you can assemble yourself; heavyweight is a cruise liner. Here are some suggested approaches.

How the lab at Express Scripts leverages data to predict — and prevent — healthcare problems

The Express Scripts Lab, which opened in 2010, roughly tripled in headcount last year and now houses more than 100 employees. One area of focus: working with data to better predict which patients will need extra nudges to stick to a medication regime. We talk with one of the executives who leads it, Mark Bini.

How retail giant Walmart remade its global network of e-commerce labs

The Arkansas-based retailer, the world’s biggest company by revenue, restructured its tech development team in Silicon Valley in 2011. We talk to @WalmartLabs chief Jeremy King about some big ideas that have come out of the regular “hack days” that he runs; some projects that haven’t panned out; the vision that guides his group; and more.

Video: How corporations are supporting the ‘maker movement’

Google, Chevron, Saint-Gobain, and SolidWorks talk about what they’re trying to achieve by setting up makerspaces — a/k/a Fab Labs — for employee or community use, or a mix of the two. Ninety minutes of video from a recent conference at MIT.

Q&A: Structuring an innovation group for the “Internet of Things”

We’re a $1 billion+ physical products company that lacks software expertise; although we have some in-house, I wouldn’t say we’re “Google-esque” in our mastery of software development. Do any of your members or partners have any thoughts on how to think about the integration process re: “smart devices” or “the Internet of Things”?

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…

New York Field Study photos: Pfizer, BMW, Google, and more

More than 50 senior innovation, strategy, and R&D executives joined us last month in Manhattan for our June Field Study to visit labs, venture capital offices, and startup spaces operated by Pfizer, BMW, the New York Times, Google, Work-Bench, and Quirky.

Disney SVP on how accelerator program led to new partnerships

Senior Vice President of Innovation Michael Abrams discusses the upside of launching an accelerator program for media and entertainment startups, including some of the partnerships that it has sparked so far.

Lowe’s exec Kyle Nel on innovating in a time of exponential change

In the 1920s, the average time companies spent in the S&P 500 Index was 67 years. Today, it’s 15. Many of the also-rans fell victim to linear thinking at a time when the business and technological landscape was changing exponentially. Kyle Nel, Executive Director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, explains how his company is working to stay ahead of the curve. Includes slides and audio…

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.

Staples exec on building up $22B retailers’ digital muscles

When he joined Staples as its Chief Digital Officer in 2013, Faisal Masud was surprised how much of its technology development the $22 billion office supplies retailer outsourced. Since then, he has embarked on a campaign to build up the company’s digital muscles — both through attracting new talent and by acquiring small startups.

Starbucks VP on working with Howard Schultz to bring idea to life

Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of Starbucks, had a vision that he’d been developing for a decade. He wanted to create a shrine to coffee in Seattle, the company’s hometown, where visitors could learn about the bean and the beverage, immerse themselves in the Starbucks brand, and watch as it “rained coffee beans.” VP Liz Muller was asked to make the vision real.

Inside Home Depot’s new innovation lab at Georgia Tech

The $82 billion home improvement retailer opened the new site in January. One goal is to connect with students at Georgia Tech, but Home Depot exec Martin Key says they’re also exploring technologies that could impact the way people shop and the way store associates work. Includes videos.

Inside the entrepreneur-led innovation group at Eastern Bank

Dan O’Malley had tried to disrupt the banking industry from outside. Now, he’s working within it, as the founder of Eastern Labs, an innovation group at Eastern Bank, the country’s biggest and oldest mutual bank. Includes slides…

Why Ford is growing its Silicon Valley research center

Ford exec Jim Buczkowski discusses the strategy behind the expansion of the company’s Research & Innovation Center in Palo Alto, and shares several projects they’re working on.

Cambia exec: Why we created healthcare collaboration space

Nicole Bell is executive director of the new Cambia Grove, a 9,000 square foot facility in downtown Seattle that brings together innovators and entrepreneurs with health plans, providers, businesses, government leaders, and academic minds from around the country. She talks about how and why her employer, Cambia Health Solutions, created the Grove. Includes audio, photos, and a video…

MasterCard exec talks Whirlpool collaboration, startup accelerator

Group Head of Innovation Management John Sheldon shares the strategic objectives behind MasterCard’s Start Path accelerator program, and explains how his MasterCard Labs group collaborated with Whirlpool to rethink laundry.

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.

Hallmark innovation exec on retail pop-ups and new brands

Patti Streeper’s job at $3.9 billion Hallmark Cards is to help cultivate businesses that may not fit with the 105-year old company’s brand image — but ones that speak to new groups of customers. We talked with her about two examples: Easy, Tiger, a line of offbeat cards targeted at Millennials, and 5 Points, a pop-up retail concept that Hallmark launched last year.

Inside MassMutual’s radical new learning initiative

Organizing supper clubs and offering classes on how to plan for the zombie apocalypse, a spin-out from $27 billion MassMutual tries to target the future consumer. Here’s how it works…

How Panera Bread reinvented its customer experience

Blaine Hurst, the Chief Technology and Transformation Officer at Panera Bread, explains how he worked with CEO and founder Ron Shaich to design and test the “Panera 2.0” concept, working out of a single cafe near Boston’s Fenway Park.

Reebok VP Paul Litchfield on the inherent risks of innovation

Longtime Reebok executive Paul Litchfield discusses how he and his team work within the organization; the challenges of making innovation happen within a traditional annual planning cycle; experiments with wearable technologies; and why failure is unavoidable for innovation leaders. “Our job is actually to fail,” says Litchfield. Includes slides and 30-minute video…

Why Visa set up new innovation lab focused on digital payments

As more consumers look to pay for things without whipping out a credit card or carrying cash, Visa exec Bill Gajda explains the $12.6 billion company’s thinking behind a new 500-person innovation center in San Francisco.

Hospital innovation exec talks disruption, events, engagement

Audio and notes from our recent call with Lesley Solomon, who has overseen the launch of the Innovation Hub at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. Brigham & Women’s has 1300 researchers and 1700 clinicians, along with about $650 million in annual funding. Solomon talked with IL members about running hackathons; her steering committee; and how she gets busy doctors, nurses, and researchers engaged with innovation initiatives, among other things…

Why GE created the new FirstBuild maker community

GE design executive Lou Lenzi explains how the company’s new co-creation initiative, launched this summer, is allowing GE to “take little bets and do things fast.” Includes video and slides from a recent presentation.

How GM’s Silicon Valley office hunts for relevant innovations and connects to HQ

Managing director Frankie James talks about how her Silicon Valley-based team identifies high-potential startups and new technologies and interacts with teams at GM headquarters back in Detroit. Includes a slide detailing their four-stage process, from scouting to transferring.

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…

GameStop’s new Technology Institute explores future of retail

In March, the $9 billion videogame retailer created the GameStop Technology Institute to help it develop new experiences and offerings for the “empowered consumer.” Senior director of technology innovation Charlie Larkin gives us a look at their first project, launching this month.

Why UnitedHealth and the Mayo Clinic created Optum Labs

Optum Labs founding CEO Paul Bleicher explains why a new “open innovation center for the healthcare and life sciences industry” was created, the key to getting everyone to play nicely together, and how they’ll measure success. Includes slides.

How DuPont’s innovation centers bring it closer to customers

Karen Weining, Global Innovation Excellence Leader at DuPont, explains how the pioneering materials company has been collaborating with customers at its network of 12 innovation centers around the world.

Your input: How workspace design impacts ideation

Seeking your input: Have you had experience moving from a “traditional” office design to a more creative “innovation” space? If so, one of our readers is interested in whether you’ve seen the volume of ideas being generated change over time…

Why Lowe’s Innovation Lab hired sci-fi writers to guide its strategy

Kyle Nel, the Executive Director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, explains why the home improvement retailer created a comic book to help executives evaluate possible future scenarios. Nel also discusses why he doesn’t think labs should be located at corporate headquarters, and how his team is measured.

How publisher Pearson gets close to education startups

“Education is changing — there’s no denying that,” says Diana Stepner, VP of Innovation Partnerships at Pearson plc. Here’s what the British publishing company is doing to connect with tech startups that may help Pearson develop new products — and new kinds of connections with consumers. Also inside: the list of 10 company challenges that Pearson shared with startups.

Hacking away at hierarchies: Lessons from Houghton Mifflin

Mary Cullinane, Chief Content Officer and EVP of Corporate Affairs at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, talks about breaking down walls between print and digital products, hacking away at hierarchies, and renewing the company’s focus on the customer.

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.

Why Delphi planted a new innovation lab in Silicon Valley

Delphi Labs director John Absmeier explains how the automotive components giant is partnering, investing, and plugging into the Silicon Valley ecosystem — and hoping some of the “experiment-and-fail-fast” culture rubs gets absorbed by HQ.

Changing culture: Inside Mondelez’s experiment

Changing culture inside a large company is really, really hard. Mondelez VP Bonin Bough explains how the company’s Mobile Futures initiative tackled culture change by connecting managers from nine of the company’s brands with nine startups — and shipping them out to spend a week working in the startups’ offices.

10 innovation insights from Textron’s Scorpion jet program

Textron set an audacious goal: Get a new military plane from concept to the runway in less than two years, to fill what the company saw as a major market gap. Execs Bill Anderson and Dale Tutt, who led the Scorpion project, shared what they learned on the journey from blueprint to the blue yonder.

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.

Innovation execs need to be the ‘human API’ for employers

We talk to serial entrepreneur, investor, and former big company innovation leader Andy Palmer about the relationship between startups and big companies, the topic of our latest “Peer to Peer” report. Includes audio.

Working with Startups: The Innovation Leader report

Innovation Leader’s Q1 “Peer to Peer” report explores the ways that leading companies are tracking, investing in, and partnering with entrepreneurs and disruptive startups in their industries. The report includes examples and case studies from Time Warner, Constant Contact, GE Appliances, Google Ventures, and Qualcomm, among others.

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.

Five reasons you shouldn’t launch a startup accelerator

Want an innovation injection? Start an accelerator. At least, that seems to be the thinking at a growing number of companies, from from Barclays to Volkswagen to Disney. But a key player in the corporate accelerator movement, TechStars exec Dave Drach, says there are some important reasons why you shouldn’t start one.

Tracking the corporate-supported startup accelerators

Major players like Disney, Qualcomm, Microsoft, and Deutsche Telekom have all launched their own accelerator programs to attract entrepreneurs working on ideas related to their businesses. But before going that far, you’ll probably want to explore the low-risk opportunity to have your employees serve as mentors for existing programs, and attend demo days.

Exclusive: A first look inside Disney’s iD8 innovation studios

Christopher Chapman, Disney’s global creativity and innovation director, talks to Innovation Leader about how his team creates online and offline spaces to foster innovation; training employees in design thinking; and happiness as a metric. Includes an exclusive look at Disney’s newest collaboration spaces: the iD8 Studios in Orlando and Anaheim.

Time Warner & Blue Cross on why they started accelerators

Execs from Time Warner, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and TechStars talk about the potential upside in starting or supporting accelerator programs for entrepreneurs. “If the customer is your greatest concern, some of the best ideas can always come from outside,” says Sandy Khaund of Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting division. “We may not find the next Facebook, but we’re looking for companies with that same kind of game-changing potential.” Should you follow suit?

Nordstrom dissects an innovation project that fizzled

Nordstrom deployed a team from its innovation lab to the sunglass department at its flagship store in Seattle. Their goal: “the world’s first flash build” of a new iPad app for sunglass salespeople, over the course of a week. They created “user story maps” and paper prototypes. Here’s what happened after they were done.

Pinterest makes itself at home in new San Francisco HQ

Fast-growing tech startup Pinterest hired an architect and a designer to craft its new headquarters in San Francisco. But they also wanted employees to put their own stamp on the workplace with creative projects of their own. The end result is a bottom-up approach to making sure the office works for the people who work in it.

How J&J is building its global network of innovation centers

The healthcare giant, headquartered in New Jersey, is opening innovation centers in Silicon Valley, Shanghai, London, and Boston. Robert Urban, who heads the Boston Innovation Center for Johnson & Johnson, explains how it is staffed; his mandate; and J&J’s new thinking around collaborating with healthcare startups. Includes an audio interview with Urban and a look at the Boston office.

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.