Articles & Case Studies by Topic

Working With Startups

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.

Tom Peters: 2014 Reading List for Revolutionaries

Here’s what author and management guru Tom Peters thinks you ought to be reading as we head into 2014. It’s a fantastic collection of 50 books, on topics ranging from big data to robotics to gamification to loyalty to neurotechnology.

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?

What Matter Labs means for the future of product customization

What if consumers could adapt and personalize products you’d designed, and have them created in lots of one? What if employees could easily create alternate versions of products you already sell, to meet the demands of particular customers? Is that scary, or a massive opportunity? Web-based 3D modeling software from a startup called Matter Labs takes a step toward those possibilities.

Inside iRobot’s “business-driven” innovation strategy

Colin Angle, co-founder and CEO of the robot-maker, says one of his most important jobs is protecting innovative products that have left the safe confines of the R&D lab but haven’t yet grown into significant businesses. At that stage, he says, “it’s just a big, ugly, non-revenue producing, pimply, adolescent, cash-sucking thing that most companies are lethally effective at killing.”

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.

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.”

3 big company lessons from smartwatch startup Pebble

Pebble took 275,000 pre-orders for its first product, a $150 smartwatch, and also landed it on the shelves of Best Buy. Here’s what you should know about the Silicon Valley startup that is suddenly on the radar of much bigger players like Apple and Samsung. Includes a video interview with founder Eric Migicovsky.

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.

Steve Case: Creating networks is the new competency

Case was part of the biggest merger in corporate history, when AOL acquired Time Warner in 2000, and he has also been an entrepreneur and startup investor. He sat down with Innovation Leader to discuss some of the defensive tendencies of established organizations, and how to overcome them. “The traditional command-and-control, build-it-within model has broken down,” he says. “Today requires a more of a networked approach, and more collaboration. It’s a little like creating an API to plug into your company.” Includes audio.

Creating a disrupter ecosystem: How Athenahealth did it

With an initiative dubbed “More Disruption Please,” CEO Jonathan Bush decided to give other companies access to his customer base, inviting them to integrate into his cloud-based platform for helping doctors manage their practices. Eight hundred prospective partners raised their hands.

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.

Real-time resource visibility: Why it changes the game

The web has already created the expectation of real-time inventory visibility — if a website can’t show visitors whether what they need is in a retail store or warehouse right now, odds are increasingly low they’re going to pick up the phone to find out. The new expectation, illustrated by the transportation app Uber, is real-time resource visibility. Here’s where that leads.

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.

Speech rec: Moving beyond commands to conversations

The speech recognition built into our phones, computers, and cars today is mostly about dictation or commands: writing a short text message or e-mail, or asking Siri to pull up the weather in Dallas. Here’s a demo from start-up Veveo that shows we’re heading toward more conversationality. Apps will need to be able to banter with users as a way of helping solve problems or guide them to information.

Beta test: Locally-made products, backed by the crowd

With Onehundred, father-and-son duo David and Calvin Laituri are trying to create a tight feedback loop between a product’s designer, its buyer, and its manufacturer. In a video about the project, David Laituri, a former director of product development at Brookstone, talks about their experiment at the intersection of crowdfunding and local production.

Monitoring power usage with a countertop display

Ambient Devices’ Energy Joule frees information from the PC or the mobile device, and puts it in a prominent new place. Its goal is to change the way you use electricity — and potentially also your relationship with the utility that provides it.

Spotted: World’s best-looking vending machine?

Is there a duller visual environment than the typical airport gate area? San Francisco-based Benefit Cosmetics is trying to shake things up with a vending machine that looks like a mash-up of an ice cream truck and a Mary Kay Cadillac. The machines stock 30 of Benefit’s top-selling products. They’re in five airports now, with plans for 20 more by the end of 2013.

What if 3D-printed objects could be used to test demand?

Items made by 3D printers have mostly been used as prototypes, to solicit comments from colleagues or customers about design or functionality. But 3D printing technology is getting so good — this fruit bowl, for example — it’s starting to produce objects that could be put on store shelves as a way to gauge customer demand in a low-cost, low-risk way.

Inside the Hidden Hunting Lodge at Dyn

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

Blockbuster idea: Expanding markets by being multi-lingual

Hollywood studios aren’t always enthusiastic when it comes to embracing a new technology. But a smartphone app from a stealthy startup called myLINGO could help them get more non-native English speakers into theaters, with almost no additional effort. Company co-founder Olenka Polak, who grew up in a household that spoke mostly Polish, has already been pitching the idea to studio executives.