Strategy & Governance
How do you create legal guidelines for employee innovation that are loose enough to let people try new things, but not get a publicly-held company in hot water? Donna Kolnes of Adobe explains how the Silicon Valley software company approached it.
Five years after starting the innovation team at Cambia Health Solutions, a family of healthcare businesses in the Pacific Northwest, Chief Innovation Officer Mohan Nair shares what he has learned about different types of innovators — including some you may want to avoid — as well as delivering near-term and long-term impact.
Managing a distributed team comes with its own set of challenges. Creative manager Farrell Calabrese shares six tips and tools she uses to manage the Eastman Innovation Lab, part of $9.5 billion Eastman Chemical.
We analyze the results of our Q1 survey of 115 innovation executives, which explored how they’re using innovation software — and what software they’re using. One finding: most companies have just scratched the surface when it comes to utilizing software to manage innovation programs…
Selected comments from the executives who participated in our Q1 2016 survey on innovation software. One respondent told us, “User experience is the ONLY thing that matters. If you innovators won’t use the tools everything else is irrelevant.”
Earlier this month, Innovation Leader editor Scott Kirsner interviewed Clay Christensen of Harvard Business School onstage at the annual TIE StartupCon in Boston. They discussed Uber and disruptive business models; why a winning strategy is only temporary; Christensen’s work with the Department of Defense; and the need to set up separate teams away from the core business to focus on disruption. Includes 40 minutes of downloadable audio…
Among the topics we covered on a recent Innovation Leader Live call with Marla Capozzi of McKinsey & Co.’s Global Strategy & Innovation Practice: Why an organization’s commitment to innovation shouldn’t wax and wane; the risk of innovation committees running off the rails; and why it’s vital to create new metrics for the pilot tests and experiments you run. Transcript and downloadable audio inside…
How can large organizations create the future when almost all their time and energy is spent competing for the present? That challenge is at the center of “The Three Box Solution,” the new book from Vijay Govindarajan, professor at Dartmouth College and visiting fellow at Harvard Business School, who has also served as chief innovation consultant to General Electric. Our interview with Govindarajan includes 30 minutes of downloadable audio…
Plenty of corporate innovation programs struggle to produce tangible impact in areas that really matter to senior leadership. The San Diego-based chipmaker Qualcomm put that challenge front-and-center by dubbing its innovation initiative ImpaQt. In its first 18 months, says head of innovation Navrina Singh, it delivered a new surround-sound application for HTC smartphones and launched a robotics program to rival Intel, its biggest competitor. Singh explains how they’ve been doing it…
“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.
“I’ve learned that culture and politics both will have big impacts on the course your innovation program follows. But most people don’t talk about them,” writes Sreten Gajic, a former new ventures executive at Assurant and Coca-Cola. Here’s his advice on how you can build structures that can get innovation to happen in any company.
The odds are, with every project that pushes the limits of what your company has done before, or the boundaries of what is possible, you will encounter failure. The best organizations in the world expect it. They have a culture that tolerates it. And they are ready to learn from it and adapt. Here’s Julia Austin’s advice on how you do that…
We recently brought together a group of twenty senior innovation, product, and strategy executives in Manhattan, in collaboration with our partner Mindjet. The goal: to discuss how to create sustainable innovation programs that deliver big results. Here are twenty pieces of advice from the group…
Among the goals behind the company’s Strategy Learning Game: helping employees understand the direction the company is going and “how they fit in,” and driving a cultural shift to urgency, adaptive thinking, agility, and accountability. SVP Melissa Kivett explains how it worked…
“One the biggest knocks against corporate venture capital initiatives is that they are often a by-product of a booming economy and a pet project of the CEO. They’re here today, gone tomorrow. This reputation, unfortunately, is grounded in some truth, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” writes corporate VC Kyle Fugere.
Chris Kay of Humana discusses how the $48 billion health insurer is collaborating and co-creating with startups in the healthcare industry, and outlines his process for going from ideation to market.
There are even more barriers to innovation in industries that are heavily regulated — like pharma, healthcare, insurance, and banking. Legal and regulatory requirements can loom large, and have the potential to stifle innovation — if you don’t address them head-on. Here’s how…
Developed by Innovation Leader’s Editorial team, with input from corporate innovation executives, this assessment will help you evaluate the current maturity of your organization’s innovation strategy.
Michael Foster, who has developed innovation programs at companies like Dun & Bradstreet and Fiserv, provides four tips for nurturing and elevating the “subculture” of innovation that exists within large organizations. One challenge he highlights: Most companies have a tendency to over-complicate things. Here’s his advice.
Ten observations about the politics and realities of innovating in an established organization, from Phil Swisher, the former VP of innovation at the biggest private bank in the U.S. “It’s important to realize that there may be many people in the organization who are waiting you out,” Swisher says.
Tad Funahashi, Chief Innovation and Transformation Officer at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, talks about how the 177,000 employee healthcare delivery system is working to become less MD-centric, and more consumer-centric. Includes audio and slides…
To answer our latest subscriber question on business model innovation, we turned to Saul Kaplan, author of “The Business Model Innovation Factory,” who advocated companies playing offense, not defense. “Companies need to establish the capability to do ongoing R&D for new business models the same way they do R&D for new products and technologies.”
How are you going to make change and deliver results in 2016? Whether you work in an innovation group, new product development, strategy, or R&D, we believe that these issues deserve a place on your agenda for the year ahead.
Global Vice President of Innovation Dondeena Bradley talks about driving multiple new initiatives aimed at transforming Weight Watchers into a holistic, community-driven company.
MetLife’s Chief Innovation Officer shares his approach to supporting innovation at the 66,000-employee insurance company — and also on how to avoid the “danger zone” of innovation, when all the resources and energy that you’re pouring into a new project have yet to deliver tangible results. Includes slides…
Gap Inc.’s Dean of Global Innovation talks about creativity, co-creation, the Mindspark training initiative, and the importance of solving small problems first. Includes slides and 30 minutes of audio from a recent call.
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.
We talk to Ashlee Vance, author of a new book about Musk, about how the founder of SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity hires people, battles bureaucracy, and dispatches problems fast.
Mark Nitkey has been an executive at companies like Apple, Gap Inc., Victoria’s Secret, and Ahold, the Dutch grocer. He writes, “Complexity is Public Enemy #1 when it comes to innovation. You may have the budget. You may have the CEO’s explicit support. But when things are too complex, innovation initiatives die.” Here’s his advice on a simpler approach…
We’re a very large, well-known consumer products company, and our innovation portfolio is actually quite complex, as we have many different types of initiatives included, all at vastly different stages. In fact, we often debate whether certain projects should be included at all. Do you (or does anyone else including your partners) have any best practices related to defining what should be included, what should be left out, how they should be categorized or grouped, etc.?
Sharing some “bonus data” that came out of our recent benchmarking survey, fielded in partnership with Innosight. How large are the innovation teams at the largest companies? Here’s what our respondents who worked at companies with greater than $25 billion in annual revenues told us…
Leaders need to understand that fostering only incremental changes and improvements will doom a company to fall behind. Every company, says Google sales exec Todd Rowe, needs to set at least a few 10X goals — creating something ten times better than what exists today — and give employees the time and freedom to pursue them. Includes audio…
It’s very common for our innovation initiatives and projects to just muddle along, because no one is willing to step up and be honest and candid about what might be wrong with the idea. Do you have any thoughts on how other companies have brought more candor and honesty into their innovation programs?
We’re in the process of starting an educational / training initiative around innovation, and could use some guidance on where to start. Is there a typical starting point for these programs? We’re a relatively big company (15,000+ employees) and are struggling with whether we begin in marketing, product management, product development, executive management, etc. Any thoughts or best practices or the progression / trajectory of such programs?
Disruptive innovation, transformational innovation, and breakthrough innovation are not the same thing, says Erik Falck of The Hershey Company. And our business results likely depend on how we define the innovation we’re trying to pursue. Includes a chart outlining differences and challenges…
Dell chief innovation officer Jim Stikeleather opened a recent Brightidea “birds of a feather” innovation gathering in Austin with a fantastic talk about the importance of fostering divergent thinking in big organizations — and some of the challenges of making real change happen. Includes slides…
Peter Erickson, executive vice president of Innovation, Technology, and Quality for General Mills, is focused on a very clear goal: to help the company, with 43,000 emloyees and brands like Cheerios, Nature Valley, and Betty Crocker, become “the best big small food company in the world.” Here’s our exclusive interview on how he’s doing it…
On our latest Innovation Leader Live call, we spoke with Aaron Proietti of Transamerica about the evolution of the insurance company’s innovation program — including approaches that have worked, and those that haven’t.
Was your company born to disrupt established industries? Or is its heritage in marketing and distribution, building brands that are recognizable around the world? Maybe the way your company obtains new products is by acquiring small startups. Every company has different DNA, which means innovation approaches need to differ.
Our latest Innovation Leader Live call featured Graham Milner of WD-40 talking about how the publicly-traded San Diego company with the iconic blue-and-yellow cans has grown beyond a single product. In particular, Milner discussed the life and death of “Team Tomorrow,” which was formed by the CEO in 2002 to explore new opportunities.
Venture capitalists are the world’s experts at creating growth businesses: think Netflix, Facebook, or Dropbox. Their methods hold a trove of lessons for how corporate managers can create an environment that fosters new sources of growth. Includes slides…
We’re a $17 billion public company with lots of research and data around R&D, but I wouldn’t say it’s translating well to our corporate innovation and growth strategy. We have a bit of a gap there. I know this is complex, and every enterprise is different, but any thoughts or guidance or framework on the matter would be much appreciated.
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.
On our recent Field Study visit to Microsoft Research, Peter Lee showed one of those slides that had everyone in the group suddenly reaching for their phones to snap a picture.
Our conversation with “lean startup” proponent Steve Blank focused on several things necessary to take pilot experiments and turn them into significant new products — including supportive management teams, proper metrics, and sufficient funding. Without those, Blank says, many innovation teams will simply be performing “innovation theater.” Includes audio and slides…
Few jobs are tougher than that of the innovation leader — whether you work in product development, strategy, R&D, or a dedicated innovation team. Working with a half-dozen people in the role, we created this list of 15 challenging and conflict-ridden jobs that face innovation leaders.
The authors of the new book “Frugal Innovation: share with Innovation Leader their six principles of frugal innovation, and an example from the book about how Kingfisher plc, the largest home improvement retailer in Europe, is working to move the needle on one of those principles.
How can two companies productively innovate together to address an opportunity that matters to them both? Shannon Lucas of Vodafone Global Enterprise and Saidah Nash Carter of Thomson Reuters share a document that addresses that question.
Here are five favorite quotes from our recent conversation with Bill Taylor, author of the book “Practically Radical” and co-founder of Fast Company magazine.
Twenty years after the launch of Fast Company magazine, we talk to co-founder Bill Taylor about the challenges that face innovators in large organizations today. At many companies, he says, “the default mode is, let’s say no” to new concepts. “What’s the harm of that? It takes a big committee to say yes.”
We worked with a group of 15 innovation executives recently to develop this list of “Innovation Approaches.” It endeavors to capture what innovation leaders are doing when they are setting strategy; trying to change company culture; building capabilities for cultivating and testing new ideas; or investing in promising startups.
A senior R&D leader at pharmaceutical giant Pfizer raved to us last November about the innovation gathering he’d just been to. “It was like TEDMED meets ‘The Apprentice,'” he said, which didn’t sound anything like the typical innovation conference put on by a major multi-national. We asked Julio Corredor, who organized the event, to tell us how he structured it and what made it work.
Stuart Jenkins, SVP of Innovation and Product Development at $1.5 billion footwear company Deckers Outdoor, says it’s near-impossible to innovate if any one person can shoot down a good idea. Jenkins also talks about driving innovation when you don’t have an R&D group, and his approach to keeping division heads up-to-date on progress.
Héloïse Lauret, Head of Innovation at BNP Paribas Cardif, discusses the three main culture-change initiatives the French insurance firm has launched — and the importance of building trust.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ first Government Innovation Officer talks about the importance of quick hits; implementing a crowdsourcing initiative; and sponsoring competitions to diversify the pool of new vendors available to state government. Includes video and an annual report…
Kelly Chief Innovation Officer Rolf Kleiner talks about his CEO’s expectations; developing a process for collecting incremental and disruptive ideas; creating an incentive system for idea submitters; and one high-potential idea Kelly Services is preparing to roll out. Includes 30 minutes of audio from our Innovation Leader Live call…
A long-time innovation leader from the financial services industry agreed to share with us — anonymously — the questions he uses in conversations with the people who sponsor or collaborate with the innovation team.
A click-worthy slide presentation from Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and former SVP of Product Jonathan Rosenberg. Among their insights: “Most companies today are run to minimize risk, not maximize freedom and speed.” That approach “is a vestige of an era when failure was expensive, and deliberation was a virtue.”
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…
We asked about the issues, challenges and opportunities you’re focused on this fall. Here are the ten most interesting — and representative — answers we got.
The American Cancer Society’s new Managing Director of Product Innovation talks about building an innovation team, setting goals, and collaborating within a large non-profit. Includes slides…
A new innovation leader in the utility industry asks for your help: “Should our team aim to quantify the impact we have on revenues, or reducing costs, at our company?” Post a comment or send us your thoughts anonymously…
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…
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.
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…
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.”
“Doing innovation in a large company is not always an easy thing,” says Steve Yankovich, VP of innovation at $6.6 billion eBay. Inside, he talks about how his team “graduates” its projects to business units, and why it’s so important to be able to kill low-potential projects. His insights, plus a video and infographic, are inside…
“You really have to be careful what you wish for when you talk about getting your CEO involved with innovation,” says Nancy Shea, who has been a senior innovation and marketing executive at Kraft Foods, Ashland Inc., and World Kitchen. “Often, a CEO wants results now, now, now.” Here’s her advice on how to turn your CEO into a productive partner for the innovation team and it’s long-term goals.
“If someone on the team is not a little uncomfortable,” says Global Director of Innovation and Strategy Louis Joseph, “then it’s probably a little too safe.” Inside, Joseph talks with Innovation Leader about how the $4 billion footwear and apparel company gauges innovation success.
Director of Consumer Insight Karen Kricorian explains how Disney’s theme parks and resorts group approaches research. “When you think you know something,” she says, “that’s when you need to shake up your thinking.”
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.
Maurice Nicholson of The Relevance Company, left, discusses the four forces that will affect the relationship between companies and consumers. James Chung of Reach Advisors highlights companies that are winning with a “more for less” strategy. Audio and slides inside…
At the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, Chris Coburn oversaw the spin-off of 57 companies. Now, as the VP Innovation at Partners HealthCare, he’s leading commercialization efforts in an entirely different culture. Inside are Chris’ tips on maximizing innovation efforts, including five key metrics for measuring success.
Shannon Lucas explains how a small innovation team inside the telecom giant Vodafone has cultivated a global network of 40 innovation champions. Lucas shares details on how the champions are recruited, what they focus on, how they collaborate, and what they are measured on.
These dozen slide presentations offer insights into innovation strategy at organizations like NASA, Alaska Airlines, Nike, and Clorox. At left is an image from Bennett Blank’s presentation on rapid experimentation at Intuit.
At too many companies, employees interact with the innovation team during sporadic “Innovation Days,” idea challenges, or off-site meetings. Chubb global innovation VP Gerry Myers explains how the insurer created a “social layer” for innovation and collaboration, to help weave innovation into employees’ daily activity. Includes slides.
What’s the average salary for a VP Innovation? What about Directors or Catalysts? Does company size or reporting structure impact pay? Find out in our first-ever compensation survey of innovation leaders, complete with salaries, bonuses, and performance metrics.
Chief Innovation Officers, VPs of Innovation, Directors, and Innovation Managers explain how their bonuses are calculated, in their own words. Data comes from our 2014 compensation survey.
GE chief executive Jeff Immelt called a meeting in 2012 to rethink the company’s investing strategy. The result was the creation of a new GE Ventures team headquartered in Silicon Valley that builds on past experiences — and mistakes. Managing director Noah Lewis explains what changed.
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.
Director of Innovation Scott Burns takes us inside the annual goal-setting process at Reliant Energy, part of the $8.4 billion electricity giant NRG Energy Inc. According to Burns, setting goals is only half the equation: tracking progress is actually more critical. “Innovation teams often get a reputation for being ‘free thinkers’ that are in a lab trying to invent things in a vacuum and will bring these products to market eventually,” he says. Details inside.
After getting out of the venture capital game a decade ago, Dell recently jumped back in with both feet. Jim Lussier, managing director of Dell Ventures, explains how the tech company’s approach is different, and offers his advice for keeping corporate VC aligned with the business units. (Includes slides.)
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.
Just act more like a startup! Break the rules! Easier said than done, writes Julia Austin, the former VP of Innovation at VMWare. Getting good things to happen in large organizations requires an understanding of the key genetic differences between startups and mature companies. And she’s got a chart that details them…
General Motors R&D executive Clay Phillips talks about how the automaker is retooling research and development in the wake of bankruptcy; why some of its attempts to create internal innovation groups failed; and the skills necessary to cultivate disruptive innovations. Includes slides.
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.
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.
In an excerpt from his new book “The New Killer Apps: How Large Companies Can Out-Innovate Start-Ups,” Chunka Mui examines how the drugstore chain Walgreens has worked to claim a new position in healthcare at a time of tumultuous change for the industry.
Christensen, author of the seminal business book “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” warns that too many CEOs and Chief Innovation Officers don’t understand the “corporate laws of physics” in enough detail — and think they can simply will the organization to change how it works. And Christensen says tracking the wrong metrics forces companies to underinvest in long-range, truly disruptive innovation initiatives. Includes 30 minutes of audio.
What do you do when business unit executives won’t return your calls — or complain that your ideas are just too complicated to deploy? Is CEO support and sponsorship sufficient to really make change happen? Innovation leaders Rachel Antalek of Starbucks, Barry Calpino of Kraft, and Jeff Semenchuk of Hyatt share their advice. Includes audio from a recent panel discussion.
“How can you anchor and drive innovation in a crashing environment? The answer is you can’t,” writes Dieter Eisinger of NYSE Euronext. “What you can do is to establish a framework that helps your company snap back faster than its competition.” Eisinger describes the framework he built at NYSE Euronext, focused on purpose, process, and people.
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.
Corporate venture investing is on the rise. But if you’re considering jumping in, are you doing it for the right reasons? We talked to current and former investors at three of the most active corporate venture capital groups — Google, Intel, and Qualcomm — to understand how they set things up for success, and how corporate VC can go off the rails. We also spoke with Dave Balter, who runs a new investing team at Tesco’s dunnhumby division, about why the UK-based retailer began making investments this year.
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.
Proselytizing and PowerPoint just don’t work if an organization’s leaders don’t want to change. If you want to achieve truly transformational innovation, you have to find leaders who are open to it, and willing to organize around it, says Saul Kaplan, the founder of Rhode Island’s Business Innovation Factory. Here are ten critical questions you can use to explore a CEO’s commitment.
The State of Maryland’s Chief Innovation Officer talks about catching criminals, reducing hospital admissions among “frequent fliers,” and hackathons to help the environment. And how he makes innovation happen in the state with limited resources and plenty of partners.
Back in June 2009, Edward Boches became the first Chief Innovation Officer at Mullen a Boston-based ad agency that works with household names like JetBlue, Adidas, Google, and Zappos. “My initial objective was to get the company to pull its head out of its ass with regard to digital and social media,” he says. Here’s more of his take on being the agency’s inaugural CINO.
The Boston Consulting Group has been fielding its survey on the role of innovation since 2004. This year, the management consulting firm writes that “innovation is rapidly moving up the CEO agenda across regions and industries.” Here are the key findings.