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How do we democratize innovation in a way that’s inclusive and scalable?


Result: An innovation program and system that moves ideas faster to market, identifies new talent, and integrates with usual workflows

The Need

For the SVP of Consumer Insights, the results of their internal Climate Survey were troubling.  To the question “Do you trust that when you bring new ideas that they will be considered and acted on?” the resounding answer from employees was “No.” 

How can we collect great ideas from our people and make a pathway to development?  

The Work

Training and systems for idea generation and submission, then connecting them with resources in the organization was the most direct part of this project. But if we didn’t address the barriers to engagement—time and active engagement from leadership—none of it would work.  For the time constraint, we established the 5% Rule: everyone got two hours for ‘innovative problem solving’, and directors would help protect it. For leadership engagement, we created a Venture Board to vet and connect ideas to opportunities and teams across the businesses. 

The Outcome

The 5% Rule was so effective that it was adopted across the organization: Meetings before 9am or after 3pm were optional.  The program also generated impressive results for the company. One project was a never-been-done-before guerilla social media campaign used to launch a new product (with a tiny marketing budget). This one experiment drove net sales for the division by 5%.  Having proved the value of social media marketing, the group also introduced a new measurement tool that quickly became the industry standard. Most gratifying were the results of the next year's Climate Survey: where innovation had ranked low, it was now celebrated as “the norm,” and respondents also celebrated how the program “took the hierarchy out of innovation."

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