When discussing innovation, inevitably many of the same companies are mentioned time and time again as delivering breakthrough innovation. Companies like Apple, Google and 3M are cited as the best of the best. And, in fact they are. On the list of the Business Week’s most innovative companies these three organizations are listed amongst other familiar innovative brands. So how do they become so innovative? What is their secret to successful innovation? To identify the underlying themes of why the most innovative companies are so innovative, we cross-referenced Business Week’s list of most innovative companies against other innovation-focused reports from Ernst & Young, MIT Sloan Management Review and other sources. Sixteen companies were found to have adopted innovative approaches to foster internal innovation.
These companies not only have innovation as part of their strategic imperatives but also allocate both time and resources for fostering and promoting the culture of innovation within the organization. Interestingly, many of these 16 companies utilize unique approaches to cultivate innovation within their organizations. For example, 3M encourages technical team members to spend 15% of their time working on innovative projects that would benefit the organization and provides financial support for new ideas. Adobe supports their innovation efforts by not only creating an entire division devoted to innovation, but also a new leadership position dedicated to championing innovation at all levels within the organization.
Another of the 16 companies, Ericsson, focuses on Open Innovation and collaborating with external agencies to impart innovation and training to its employees and staff. The common thread amongst these companies is that all are investing in people, processes and training to embrace innovation and creating Best Practices that fit within their own culture. This learning can be applied to virtually any business and we thought we’d share the best practices of these 16 companies over the next several blog postings.
Google Case Study
To encourage in-house innovation and idea conceptualization, Google has implemented its “80/20 Innovation Time Off (ITO) model.”
In order to stay competitive, Google has shown intent towards cultivating the culture of innovation through its initiatives like:
Dedicating time for innovation: Google has set up a formal process for encouraging internal entrepreneurship. Several years ago, Google implemented its concept of Innovation Time Off (ITO) to encourage creativity among its employees and support continuous innovation.
Google grouplets: To better harness the potential of its ITO scheme, Google conceptualized the concept of forming grouplets, where a group of engineers, who share interest in the same idea, work together to make that idea become a reality, all within their 20% time.
Sony Case Study
Sony Electronics promoted internal innovation by deploying Microsoft’s SharePoint Server 2010 and FAST Search Server 2010.
With diversified operations spread across the globe, Sony Electronics faced challenges in communication across divisions and between employees. Additionally, Sony Electronics employees faced challenges navigating the vast amounts of information on the corporate network and tapping into expert resources within the company
According to Sal Rosales, SharePoint Architect at Sony Electronics, “We have so many different business units and had so much data floating around. In order to work effectively and continue to innovate, we need to be able to search for relevant data and pinpoint its owners and authors very quickly.”
Innovation through technology: Sony Electronics sought to promote innovation through collaboration and efficient access to information and expertise across corporate boundaries by deploying Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint to address the company’s search needs.
SharePoint Server 2010 and FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint offered the following advantages:
“My Sites give us a deeper understanding of our employees’ work skills and interests, and provide a much richer organizational view that helps Sony better leverage the potential of its human resources for better innovation.” Sal Rosales, SharePoint Architect, Sony Electronics, May 2010
“With wiki functionality in SharePoint Server, we’re building what we call SonyPedia – bringing together insights from employees across the enterprise into a single body of knowledge, driving us toward a more unified company.” Jim Whitmoyer, Business Applications Manager, Sony Electronics, May 2010
SuperValu and Eisai Case Study
Generally, line managers and employees in the organizations are pre-occupied with operational issues normally don’t have the time to sit around and discuss ideas that lead to cross-organizational innovation. In-order to overcome this hurdle companies have created “Innovation communities” to develop an arrangement in which employees from across the organization can exchange ideas. In these communities employees first meet with the senior management, which decides the agenda for the meet. These communities offer requisite to share ideas without concerns about hierarchy and quarterly financial results.