Community Forum – Innovation Time
Does your organization offer formal ‘Innovation Time’?
Does your organization have a formal ‘Innovation Time’ (10% – 15% of researcher’s time focused on topics individuals have passion to drive) program with associated seed funding? What approximate participation levels does your organization have in such activities? Are projects formally solicited and monitored for this initiative and if so, how? – Director, global consumer products company
Director of New Technology, Large coatings manufacturer
We have no formal “Innovation Time” as such. We have talked about having the ability to provide this but the usual issues of immediate and urgent needs frequently override a formal time for “dreaming of the possibilities”. Still, I would say that most of our researchers do have a passion on the topics and opportunities in which they engage. The challenge is that in this kind of environment, one ends up with “incremental innovation” rather than truly new ways that can dramatically help our customers win.
Kati Fritz-Jung, VP R&D, Sargento Foods, Inc.
While at Ralston Purina, yes. Everyone had available to them, if they chose to use it, up to 15% of their time to pursue projects that individuals had a passion and conviction to drive. Participation was about 20%, a lot lower than I would have liked to see. Individuals were given both the time and funding for minor equipment rental, visits to suppliers, raw materials etc. The burden was on them to sell their idea to Marketing. Consequently, it encouraged participants to think through the business application/potential. Although the participation was relatively low, it did result in new and profitable products for the company. It was very motivational and invigorating for those who participated. This was a long standing “program” at Purina and so it was baked into the culture.
I have tried to start the same at other companies with limited success. I believe it was partially due to resistance to change. I also suspect that the type of R&D person who thrives on the ability to have this “freedom to explore and opportunity to sell in his/her idea” may not stay long in a company who does not support it.
Bruce Merrifield, IRI Emeritus
Entrepreneurs are everywhere. 200,000 years ago a genetic split occurred between Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens, and ever since an extraordinary level of creative cognitive intelligence has existed in every population on Planet Earth (including in every corporation). However as Hernando deSoto, a Peruvian, has pointed out from his 7 year study of Latin American economies: “the primary definition of an underdeveloped country is one where entrepreneurial activity is illegal.” The entrepreneurs are always there, but they are in the underground economy and the black market.
The Meyer Briggs Profile reveals those most likely to be innovative. “Intuitives” are able to integrate disparate facts and data into new innovative concepts that others often don’t see. But these folks often are not encouraged to pursue them…the environment is not really conducive to innovation, especially in large companies, which tend to become resistant to risk and encumbered with procedures.
I never found that allotting 10% of research time for experimentation ever had much effect, and also it sometimes is difficult to pry out a new idea from one of these creative people. It helps to be especially alert to any expression of innovative thought (EVERY idea is a GOOD idea to be probed and expanded). But it takes top management direct intervention and support before fear of ridicule dissipates. The entrepreneurs are there, and a germ of a good idea has to be explored in all possible manifestations and expanded until it falls apart on its own, or moves forward. Once this safe environment is created, ideas come out of the woodwork. deSoto was right…
Ralph Sawtell, Director, Metallurgy and Product Science, Alcoa
We have a very small (0.5-1% of R&D spend) program where proposals are submitted to a peer review board for funding.
Richard Long, Director R&D, Sargento
There is not a “formal” process established within our organization. There is not a budget set aside for this at this time. Both are being discussed for implementation in the following calendar year.
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