Five Ways to Spread Innovation throughout the Organization

By Scott Kirsner |  July 30, 2015

As part of our New York Field Study last month, Michael Dewar of the New York Times Research & Development Group showed the slide above. He was talking about 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.

  • Engineering means building and deploying something on your own that fills a need. Dewar calls that the “brute force” approach. And supporting that something for an indeterminate period consumes valuable resources.
  • Conversation means convening conversations about a particular opportunity or new technology, with people inside and outside the organization. The Times’ R&D group, for instance, has a demo area where visitors and employees can see the latest projects and talk about their implications.
  • Media means getting your work publicized in the media. An example of this for the Times was its “Magic Mirror” project in 2011, which explored how a digital display built into your bathroom mirror might prepare you for the day ahead. (See the video below.)
  • Personnel refers to sending R&D team personnel out into the organization to participate in a large-scale roll-out of the project. (It can also refer to bringing personnel from the rest of the organization into the lab for “fellowships” or temporary residencies.)
  • Policy relates to working with constituents throughout the organization so that the right policies and structures are in place to support something new. For example, The Times is exploring the ways its reporters and photographers will use drones in their work. “We got to grips with the tech,” explains Dewar, “but then the bulk of the work was spent engaging policy structures inside of the Times: Counsel and various advisors, and stakeholders in the newsroom.”

(Our next Field Study takes place in Boston on October 21st and 22nd.)