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How enterprise IT gets creative

Mary Brandel | June 4, 2013
Creativity is the driving force in top-tier organizations. Here's how five are capturing opportunities for innovation and pulling in fresh new ideas.

The crowdsourcing approach yields fresh ideas with minimal resources, Ferro says. "You don't want to dedicate 100 people to innovation, but if you crowdsource ideas from people who might never have interacted before and then use a small core team to manage the process, a natural evolution takes hold," he says. "The speed of innovation is rapidly increasing."

" CapitalOne: Within the labs, staffers are split into small teams that follow agile processes, such as frequent iterations and fast prototyping. The environment itself -- including whiteboard-covered walls -- encourages creativity and brainstorming.

Each lab has a main focus for innovation, Shivanandan says: leveraging big data for better products and services in New York; mobile wallets, couponing and other digital services in Virginia; and opening the company's banking APIs to third parties to provide additional services in San Francisco.

The labs make monthly presentations to the steering committee on current projects and lessons learned. "The teams are agile and quick, so they get a lot done each month, and when something happens in the industry, we can quickly reprioritize," Shivanandan says. "We're really trying to create a tiger team to focus on the art of the possible."

Importantly, each lab's focus is well integrated with business goals. "It's not just this cool place where people do crazy things," Shivanandan says. "There's a prioritization process, and it's integrated with the work people are doing on an everyday basis."

" MasterCard: Each lab has three priorities: innovation management, technology and incubation. The teams work closely together to generate ideas, evaluate them and then define concepts, build prototypes and use a test-and-learn approach to see how those ideas will fare in the market.

The teams aren't judged based on hits and misses, but on their ability to apply lessons learned to what does eventually succeed, says Lyons. "We want to be honest with ourselves about whether or not ideas are viable," he says. "[That] involves failing fast and making the tough decision to stop work when it's appropriate."

Additionally, the company sponsors processes that spur innovation from its employees, Lyons says. For instance, more than half the company has participated in Aspire, an online, social collaborative brainstorming program, he says, and employees are also given time to work on ideas that they're passionate about. Meanwhile, Innovation Express is a 48-hour competition to build prototypes, video demos and go-to-market plans, and KickStart is a fast-paced, time-boxed, dedicated startup-like environment to accelerate commercialization of a product.

" Grange Insurance: During monthly meetings, the innovation group discusses opportunities, uses a heat map to rate ideas with the lowest risk, lowest cost and highest value and assigns skunk works groups to investigate applicable technologies and idea feasibility. Individual teams do some prototyping and provide updates at the next meeting. Once they have something to show, they share the prototype with business leaders. "When you have something that someone can visualize, you gain support more quickly," Fergang says. When approved, projects get funded and enter a formal project management process.


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