Two paths to innovation at Stanley Black & Decker

At Stanley Black & Decker, the $8 billion tools and appliances giant, there isn’t a single right way to foster innovation. John Cunningham, president of the consumer products group at the Baltimore company, thinks there are at least two.

blackdecker-autosenseOne, the Breakthrough Innovation team, focuses on “longer track, bigger prospects that are much more risky,” Cunningham says. “They have prototyping capabilities, and access to universities, and they’re breaking through some ‘this can’t be done’ challenges at the current technology level.” That team developed 10 project ideas, and one, Cunningham says, has evolved into a product that will launch late next year. “It’s truly a revolutionary product,” he says, but it will have taken about four years from conception to the market.

The second tack at Stanley Black & Decker is called Total Innovation, which allows employees in engineering, marketing, legal, finance, and other departments to participate in innovation projects that get evaluated at a “science fair” event every six months. “We give certain guardrails around user frustrations, or problems that exist,” Cunningham says. “Then, we let the engineering team dedicate 10 percent of their time to solving those problems.” At the biannual event, management reviews the solutions and selects those that will go on to the company’s standard, milestone-oriented development process. “About 40 percent move on, and 60 percent we shelve, or we send them back to be developed further,” Cunningham says.

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