Innovation Labs & Spaces
Southwest is the country’s biggest airline, with 55,000 employees serving 115 million passengers annually. We spoke with President Tom Nealon about how the airline is working to address customer and employee pain points.
Bissell Homecare is best known for making cleaning equipment for floors and upholstery. But Chuck Martin was convinced that the pet care sector offered new growth opportunities. Here’s how he launched the company’s first dog grooming product, with an assist from crowdfunding site Indiegogo.
Last week, we asked our community members: “Does your team charge other groups in the company for your services? If you don’t charge, why not?” Here’s a summary of their advice…
Chief Innovation Officer Zachary Gipson explains how his USAA Labs team engages employees and members; experiments with new technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence; and works to build new businesses.
“One of the roles that Piaggio Fast Forward plays within the company,” explains Jeffrey Schnapp, the CEO of Piaggio Fast Forward, “is to bring engineering staff from the Piaggio Group [in Italy] to Boston, to our facilities, to get them involved in [our] projects, which go beyond traditional or conventional approaches to light transportation — motorcycles, scooters, small trucks. They involve robotics, machine intelligence, artificial intelligence. For these engineers, its a whole new realm of experience, but it’s also a whole new model of how you work.” More insights from Schnapp in this short video…
Julie Ferland, General Manager of the Shell TechWorks innovation lab, offers an inside look at how the space is designed; the types of projects it works on; and the team Shell has assembled from outside the oil and gas industry.
From Ford to Walmart, GE to Amazon, here’s our run-down of the 10 most interesting corporate innovation happenings of 2017.
Uber’s Elevate initiative aims to launch a new fleet of electric aircraft that would carry a pilot and up to four passengers. And the company plans to begin its first Elevate test flights in 2020 in places like Dubai, Los Angeles, and Dallas, and be fully operational by 2023. We talk to two of the NASA veterans overseeing the project.
One new initiative in the security division at Connecticut-based Stanley Black and Decker is its “Futures Innovation Factory,” which opened earlier this year in Boston. The 5,200 square-foot space, led by the Vice President of Breakthrough Innovation Spencer Maid, houses engineers working on new products like smarter security cameras, automated doors, and more. Maid gave us a tour of the space, and discussed its objectives…
Guests who check into Marriott’s M Beta hotel in Charlotte, originally built in 1984 but revamped last year, are immersed in an environment where nearly everything is experimental, and intended to gather feedback. Here’s a look inside…
Los Angeles isn’t just about the movie industry; it’s one of the most active cities in North America for innovation in big companies. We created this map to display 15 of the top innovation and R&D labs in area.
With seven labs across the globe, Thomson Reuters has a larger network of innovation labs than most companies. Mona Vernon, Chief Technology Officer of Thomson Reuters Labs, discusses goals, people, governance, and the relationship between the lab and the core business. Vernon also touches on the question of where to locate an innovation lab.
Two slides lay out the way David Crean of Anthem’s Innovation Studio views the different innovation options, or “flavors of innovation,” that a company might pursue. Each one has different levels of risk, different funding requirements, and different potential outcomes.
“What we’ve done with the innovation lab is say, ‘Maybe there are other ways to create an experience for our passengers that also helps to increase and create different streams of revenue,’” says Rick Belliotti, the San Diego International Airport’s Director of Innovation and Small Business Development. Innovation Leader sat down with Belliotti to discuss the lab’s approach to creating partnerships, how the airport innovates in a regulated environment, and what it really takes to make airports better for travelers.
Plenty of big companies working on new business ideas talk about the potential for spinning them out. But few actually follow through and do it. Here’s the inside story of how it happened at Eastern Bank, the largest and oldest mutual bank in the US.
The entire insurance industry, argues Zia Zaman, has “lost its way by not focusing on the customer.” Here’s how Zaman, the Chief Innovation Officer for MetLife Asia since 2014, is working to change the status quo.
It’s hard to think of a more complicated, operationally-intensive business than air transport. It’s regulated and overseen by a federal agency. Customers expect on-time arrivals, food, and frequent flier miles—and increasingly, in-flight wifi. And every new plane you add to the fleet can cost $75 million or more, and needs to be inspected regularly. In that environment, what role does innovation play? That’s the very big question that Matt Muta, VP of Innovation and Operations Technology at Delta Air Lines, has been responsible for answering since March 2014, when he joined the company from Microsoft. Our interview inside…
“Gore is well known for internal innovation, and we’re increasing our focus on external innovation,” says Linda Elkins, a veteran of Gore’s R&D organization and leader of the company’s new Silicon Valley Innovation Center. Elkins gave Innovation Leader contributing photographer Cayce Clifford a look at the center in July.
Tim Gorman, Associate Director of the Verizon Innovation Program, explains the objectives of the company’s innovation centers in San Francisco and the Boston suburbs, and offers a demo of an augmented reality solution for “smart cities.”
Autodesk Technology & Innovation Strategist Rick Rundell talks about starting an innovation initiative at the software company.
The Applied Innovation Lab opened its doors in September 2015, with a goal of helping Medtronic evolve from being simply a maker of medical devices like pacemakers and stents to one that is thinking more broadly about improving health and patient outcomes. In the two years since it opened, there has hardly been a quiet moment at the lab — and there has been so much demand from different groups in the company the team has had to create screening criteria for what they will work on. Brian Bechard explains…
Bean is the Chief Experience Officer and Head of Innovation for Global Solutions Delivery at Manulife Financial, the $53.3 billion financial services group that operates as John Hancock in the US. He shares his advice about setting up a network of labs, building support among middle management, and the “DevOps” approach to bringing software development closer to IT operations folks. Includes downloadable audio…
We’ve now written about or visited dozens of labs run by Global 1000 companies. This list lays out the six primary types we’ve seen — though there are “hybrids” which combine aspects of these — as well as the pros and cons of each.
“Active visualization” has been a big emphasis for Suffolk Chief Innovation Officer Chris Mayer — creating new ways to envision projects in their finished state, whether using augmented or virtual reality technology. Mayer explains why the $2.9 billion construction company is betting big.
When Cadillac relocated its global headquarters from Detroit to New York City in 2015, it wasn’t just a change of scenery for the luxury vehicle maker, a division of General Motors. The company was looking to get consumers to reevaluate the brand. Hear from Nathan Tan, Associate Director of Brand Partnerships and Experiences at Global Cadillac, about the creation of Cadillac House, and see photos from inside the space.
As part of our next Field Study learning expedition, we’ll visit the Hatchery, the innovation lab at AARP. AARP is not only one of the largest nonprofits in the country, but it’s also one of the biggest insurers and magazine publishers. We talked about what happens inside the Hatchery with Andy Miller, the SVP for Innovation and Product Development at AARP.
In any organization, there are plenty of stakeholders involved with innovation, and plenty of dynamics that can prevent them from attaining alignment. We wanted to explore those forces — and create a guide to dealing with them thoughtfully. So we partnered with XPLANE, the renowned “visual thinking” firm, to create a map of the corporate innovation ecosystem, along with discussion questions to get you working toward better alignment and more impact. You can download it here…
Creating an iconic brand — like Apple, BMW, or Nike — requires more than great design and technological breakthroughs. According to Soon Yu, the former Global VP of Innovation at VF Corporation, when something is iconic, it has three simple qualities: Distinction, relevance, and universal recognition. More from Yu in this live call replay, with audio and transcript inside…
The seven startups at XRC Labs’ 2017 Demo Day in New York represented the forefront of innovation in the retail space — from on-demand activewear manufacturing to indoor mapping services to artificially-intelligent visual search technology. In kicking off the demo day, XRC’s Managing Director Pano Anthos discussed some of the trends he is seeing in the retail space, and what retailers must do to stay relevant. Four of the trends he discussed are recapped inside, along with short descriptions of each of the presenting startups.
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 from MasterCard’s NYC Tech Hub, opened in October 2014.
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.
“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…
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…
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.”
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…
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.
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.
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…
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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…
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.)
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 executive chairman and former CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp talks about Future Lab, a separate team the company set up to explore new avenues for growth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”?
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…
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…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.