Articles & Case Studies by Topic

Innovation Labs & Spaces

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.

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.