Celebrate Mistakes

“We celebrated mistakes at a management gathering with 1,000 people in the room. A manager would get up and say why the environmentally sensitive light bulb or whatever it was…had failed…Then we’d give them $1,000 or a TV or something, depending on the scale of the thing. The point was to share the learning and get smarter as an organization.” — Jack Welch

Improving Your Product or Service via User Feedback

Online music streaming service Spotify encourages its users to engage in its online community and to provide product ideas via its Idea Submissions page. Here, Spotify customers can submit suggestions on how they want the product to evolve, and other customers can vote on these ideas. Spotify then takes the critical step of closing the loop by letting its online community know which customer ideas … [ Read more ]

Create an Internal Innovation Futures Market

A consumer products company created an internal innovation futures market, where managers can go long or short on innovative ideas pitched by the teams creating them. Once the market price of an idea crosses a threshold, the innovators get more funding; if it crosses a higher threshold, it’s transferred into an existing or new business unit. But if its price falls below a certain level, … [ Read more ]

Identifying and Bounding Innovation Opportunity Spaces

Fresh, creative insights are invaluable, but in our experience many companies run into difficulty less from a scarcity of new ideas than from the struggle to determine which ideas to support and scale. At bigger companies, this can be particularly problematic during market discontinuities, when supporting the next wave of growth may seem too risky, at least until competitive dynamics force painful changes.

Innovation is inherently … [ Read more ]

Great Innovators Do Not Permit the Present to Crowd Out the Future

IBM dedicates three teams to drive the company’s innovation agenda by focusing separately on innovation strategy, technology trends, and innovation operations. To ensure an emphasis on both current and future priorities, IBM organizes business opportunities across three different time frames: short-term core business opportunities, medium-term growth opportunities, and long-term emerging opportunities. IBM made a conscious decision to maintain a set portion of funding (about 10 … [ Read more ]

Developing Perceptual Acuity

There are several tools you can use to develop perceptual acuity for yourself and your organization in this way. One of the most valuable is a simple exercise at the start of any staff meeting. Allocate the first 10 minutes to learn about and discuss anomalies in the external landscape. Ask a different staff member at each meeting to present to the team a structural … [ Read more ]

Do You Publicly Reward Failure?

Create a safe, open environment that gives employees the confidence to share ideas, failures, and the learning points in between. 3M holds formal meetings called “failure forums,” which gathers together staff who worked on unsuccessful projects to discuss barriers to success. When plastics company W.L. Gore & Associates kills a project, they host a celebration with beer or champagne, just as they would if the … [ Read more ]

Start an Initiative to Kill Initiatives

Heike Bruch and Jochen I. Menges make a strong argument for starting an initiative to kill initiatives in their April 2010 Harvard Business Review article “The Acceleration Trap.” Far too many “walking dead” projects clog capacity in most organizations. Once superfluous activities have been cut, leaders can allocate resources according to the priority of the remaining projects and initiatives. This requires the application of a … [ Read more ]

Have Teams Complete a Charter Before Starting a Project

It’s perilously easy for corporate innovators to skate past the why and the how, particularly those working in new-growth groups or incubators. One mechanism some companies use to deal with this problem is to have each team complete a charter before it starts to work, detailing the project’s strategic intent (the why), specific goals (the how), strategic options that are on and off the table, … [ Read more ]

Internal Product and Service Fairs

Put on regular product and service fairs that allow all areas of your company to show off their results, explain what they’re working on, and swap ideas. A giant two-day fair at a large house-wares manufacturer resulted in 2,000 ideas for new products.

Create an Internal Market for Ideas

Instead of a suggestion box with a stack of cards, for example, you can offer a “venture planning” tool kit that enables all employees to submit more robust ideas than a few sentences on paper would allow. The tool kit could ask a series of basic questions — why should I invest, what are the potential markets, who might be the new industry players, what … [ Read more ]

Corporate Tourism

Make sure that you and people throughout your organization spend lots of time in external benchmarking and “corporate tourism” mode, looking for good ideas to swipe. Many of the opportunities or problems you’re facing now are old hat to somebody somewhere. Learning from other people’s experiences — both the successes and the failures — can take years and millions of dollars off your learning curve. … [ Read more ]

Listening to and Using Customer Feedback

Global manufacturer 3M has collected thousands of reviews and comments from more than a dozen retail sites and mobile apps, as well as Facebook postings, using them to improve marketing campaigns or create new ones. In one case, the company’s Precision Ultra Edge nonstick scissors were selling below expectations. 3M changed its product copy, quoting the language consumers used online (“they’re great for cutting fabric … [ Read more ]

Set up an Innovation Slush Fund

Set up an Innovation Slush Fund to provide seed money to champions and skunk works. Couple it with allowing your key operations people 10-15 percent of their time to work on projects that they feel have some high innovation potential. The only condition of getting the money or time is a periodic report (preferably voice mail, E-mail, video, or group presentation rather than a bureaucratic … [ Read more ]

Using an Internal Stock Market of Ideas

New employees at Rite-Solutions get issued $10,000 worth of “opinion money” and are invited to become part of the company’s internal stock market for ideas. The stock market, named Mutual Fun, “is a mechanism to take the employee relationship beyond the transaction level—I pay you, you do a job—to an emotional level where people are entrusted with the future direction of the company, asked for … [ Read more ]


An example of a metric that matters is return on innovation investment (ROI²). A series of Booz & Company studies conducted over the past seven years statistically correlates ROI² with organic growth, and links innovation spending with financial performance in ways that can lead decision makers to generate higher, more reliable returns on innovation and research and development. The statistical validity of ROI² bolsters its … [ Read more ]

Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes to Foster Innovation and Creativity

Would-be innovators need to break free of preexisting views. Unfortunately, the human mind is surprisingly adroit at supporting its deep-seated ways of viewing the world while sifting out evidence to the contrary. Indeed, academic research suggests that even when presented with overwhelming facts, many people (including well-educated ones) simply won’t abandon their deeply held opinions. The antidote is personal experience: seeing and experiencing something firsthand … [ Read more ]

Bolster Your Company’s “Innovator’s DNA”

Recent research by Christensen, Brigham Young University Professor Jeffrey Dyer and INSEAD Professor Hal Gregersen concludes that successful innovators share a set of attributes. The good news is that anyone can bolster their “Innovator’s DNA” by taking the right actions.

For example, organizations can help individuals develop their DNA by providing experiential learning opportunities such as “job swaps.” In 2008, Procter & Gamble swapped employees with … [ Read more ]

Fiercest Competitor Workshop

One good way to get at these disruptive designs (innovations) is to do what we at my firm call a “Fiercest Competitor Workshop,” which starts with the premise that you have been fired from your old organization but you have access to ample capital and talent. Your task is to design the fiercest competitor that could take the market from your old firm. In my … [ Read more ]

Advancing innovation with a “Mutual Fun” market

Jim Lavoie, CEO of the technology firm Rite-Solutions, built something called a “Mutual Fun” market within the company’s intranet that has three indices employees can invest in—Savings Bonds for ideas on saving costs, Bow Jones for ideas on extending existing products, and Spazdaq for new product concepts. Any Rite-Solutions employee can suggest a new idea in any of these markets. Workers can also view the … [ Read more ]