Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Corporate Culture of Innovation takes many forms

These days, more and more companies encourage a corporate culture that embraces innovation. Today’s forward-thinking companies support innovation in a number of ways. They can acquire innovative technology by purchasing start-ups with products in development or at idea stage but that lack the resources to take the products to market. They can introduce and fund initiatives within their existing infrastructure and among existing employees, even hiring an “innovator-in-chief” to take the helm. They can ally with other companies in joint enterprises to incubate ideas for new products and/or services. And they can take advantage of innovative ways to share technical information that would be helpful to their customers and others. 

What does it take to get started? One answer is commitment from the top down. A study by Accenture of 519 companies in over a dozen industry sectors in the U.S., France, and the U.K., found that 43% of businesses that have institutionalized formal innovation management systems are very satisfied with idea generation abilities compared to 24% of those companies that do not have that type of system in place. Perhaps more importantly, they are twice as likely to introduce a new business model or process (32% rather than 16%). The same study found that over half (51%) of participating companies had increased funding for innovation and that 70% of executives put innovation as one of the top five company priorities.

Below are examples of how several companies describe or promote their innovation efforts.

Cisco (http://www.cisco.com/web/about/ac79/innov/index.html), a multinational technology company that makes networking equipment and sees innovation as “everyone’s job” has an Innovation Academy where teams of employees are encouraged to brainstorm new ideas and be on the lookup for new development opportunities. As the company explains it, it is a cross-functional enablement program with personnel from different functions working together to address business opportunities in new ways so there are always new ideas to leverage. The program, in essence, formalizes a structure to go outside normal day-to-day jobs.

ASCO Power Technologies, a division of Emerson Network Power (www.emersonnetworkpower.com), a world-wide electrical manufacturer that provides integrated infrastructure solutions that help ensure availability and efficiency of power for data centers, telecom networks, and industrial facilities, has, over the past 90 years, pioneered numerous major product innovations in power transfer technology, including automatic and non-automatic power transfer switches. The company has introduced several significant precision switching technologies and power transfer advancements that, even today, are industry benchmarks, with its controls facilitating operation with Web-enabled communications and digital user interfaces. Six years ago, it launched ASCO Power University, an educational and informational website  (www.ascoapu.comthat shares news, technical information and insights on trends and other issues of interest to engineers, facility managers, and others about the technology and applications of power switching and control. The site offers e-learning videos, articles, case studies, white papers, and “industry perspectives” on topics that relate to monitoring and optimizing power reliability at facilities where reliable power is critical. 

Philips (www.philips.com), a diversified technology company well known in areas of healthcare, consumer lifestyle, and lighting, is very keen on innovation as a corporate strategy. According to the company website, Philips Group Innovation, led by a Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, “leverages company-wide synergies in technology, IP, research, design, shared competencies and laboratories to bring innovations to the market faster and more effectively.” The Group “feeds the innovation pipeline,” enabling its business partners (the three Philips operating sectors and external companies) to “create new business options.” Philips also has a website portal (www.SimplyInnovate.philips.com)   that invites people outside the company to bring their own idea, technology, component for a new product, or improvement to an existing product to Philips for consideration.

3M (http://solutions.3m.com/innovation/en_UShas a stated culture of innovation. The company self-identifies on its website as a “global innovation company that never stops inventing and notes that for more than a century, “innovation has been the hallmark” of its growth, “reflecting a culture of shared ideas and technology.” The company has long encouraged employees to spend a significant part of their work day on projects and research that is outside their core responsibilities. From that “tinkering,” the company notes, have come many innovative products, including Scotch® Brand Tapes (1925), Post-it® Notes (1980), and, this year, transdermal components, Scotchpak white backings and liners silicon adhesive systems that offer high visibility for transdermal and dermal drug delivery systems.

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