Why Stanley Black and Decker Isn’t ‘Following the Herd’ During the Pandemic

By Lilly Milman |  October 26, 2020

It’s more likely than not that you encounter a Stanley Black and Decker product nearly every day of your life without realizing. Maybe you don’t work in construction, or have any of their kitchen appliances, but if you’ve walked through an automatic sliding door, then you have SBD to thank. 

Mark Maybury, Stanley Black and Decker

The company produces about half of all electric doors, according to Chief Technology Officer Mark Maybury. This is one of the key reasons Maybury, who previously worked as the Chief Scientist for the United States Air Force, joined the company in 2017. Realizing just how many everyday products the company make is what inspired him to join the team after 35 years in the public sector.

Maybury is the company’s first Chief Technology Officer, and he is responsible for fostering its “extreme innovation” which means that he takes care of “the developing, the nurturing, and frankly, the success of our innovation ecosystem.” He reports to the company’s CEO and President, James Loree. 

“The company decided back in 2014 to initiate a journey of innovation,” he says. “It was a re-energized focus on innovation. One of the top three objectives of our CEO [is] … becoming known as one of the great innovative companies in the world, and we don’t say industrial innovators. We really mean innovative companies.”

In a recent conversation, Maybury explained how Stanley Black and Decker is growing during the pandemic, prioritizing investment in different technologies like AI and quantum sciences, and encouraging all employees to participate in innovation. This interview with Maybury is a part of InnoLead’s most recent research report, “CxOs & Innovation.” For more data and interviews on how the role of innovation leaders is changing during COVID-19, visit the main report page

How do you prioritize which areas of tech that you explore or invest in? 

When I came to the company…I spent about six months working together with teams from across the world to create what we call Innovation Horizons, [which is] our blueprint of what are priority technologies and priority opportunities over the next three to five years. We identified a set of core technologies like artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, robotics and IoT, innovative materials…construction technology, and also energy. Think of new battery chemistries.

Last year, we had Innovation Horizons 2, where we looked at a couple of key technologies, like blockchain, 5G, and quantum sciences. We have a series of focus technologies that we think are going to add differentiable value or advantage in the future, and so we build expertise in those technologies. But importantly, it’s not just about the technologies. In fact, the technologies are the easy part of it. …

The challenging part is actually getting those to commercial reality at scale, globally. You need global supply chain excellence, you need manufacturing agility. … You need deep customer insights. So, using AI and big data analytics, and then just great human touch… 

Our prioritization really is holistic. That’s…one term I would use. We do have focus because we do think there are certain key technologies that will be maximally disruptive or give advantage, and so we pay attention to those. … We bring a very entrepreneurial and a small startup mindset to everything we do. We’re always doing things in 30, 60, 90 day sprints. We’re always asking “Look, do we need to do what we’re doing anymore? Is there something more valuable to do?” 

How do you foster an innovative culture outside of the innovation team?

We want innovation everywhere, innovation of everything, innovation by everyone. There’s a program [called Innovation Everywhere] that involves hundreds of teams across Stanley Black and Decker, and people can just volunteer. They can say, “Hey, look, I have an idea.” We have one team which amazingly helped us reduce a significant amount of paper waste. We had a long-term archiving of a bunch of physical records, and we realized that we could eliminate a tremendous amount of them… 

We also have a mentorship program. You can get a mentor, you can be a mentor. We actually have an emotional intelligence training activity that’s going on through Innovation Everywhere. Because it turns out, if you’re more empathetic, and you pay attention to not only your customers, but also even your own emotions…you can actually discover new innovations. …  

We want our people to be inventive. We expect our people to be inventive, and we try to teach them how to be inventive. Because everybody has not just one great idea, but many great ideas. Not all of them are meant to come to realization, but we also realize that we have to go beyond our walls because frankly as many have said before me, the smartest people in the world don’t work for you. Statistically. There’s just so many great people out there. We want to tap into everybody.

What advice do you have to give to innovators or product developers who are outside of the C-suite when it comes to building strong relationships with senior executives?

Let your voice be heard. It can be heard in many, many ways. It can be heard on social media. It can be heard if you write articles. It can be heard if you participate in events. It can be heard through surveys. It’s a lot easier, obviously, if you’re a senior person because people listen to you. … 

If you listen very carefully to what the C-suite leaders say, you can learn a tremendous amount. … I listen to [my boss] very carefully because if he says something once, I hear it. If he said it three times, he is really concerned about it or focused on it. So you better pay attention to these sometimes small signals. …  

A good C-suite person will always be listening. There are lots of ways to get to them. Don’t be afraid to send them an email. If you’ve got something important to say, tell them. What’s interesting is people don’t oftentimes realize that executives can get very isolated. … 

SBD has decided to scale up its innovation team and efforts during COVID-19. How was this possible and why did you decide to grow the team while others scaled down? 

The advantage of scaling in this time is like the advice Warren Buffett would give you, right? “When the entire herd is running in one direction, consider running in the opposite direction.” Why would you do that? Because they’re running probably on the basis of fear or some perception. Now, sometimes the herd’s right, but oftentimes the herd’s wrong. In this case, what this means is that there is a tremendous amount of talent available, very high-quality talent. … Everybody wants to join a team that’s going somewhere. Nobody wants to join a team that’s going down. … 

We are very grateful to be able to be in a building mode because we do know there’s a lot of pain out there. But we also know that innovation generates wealth, and wealth generates prosperity and wellbeing.