It’s easy to say you want to innovate. These companies are doing it.
Posted on: June 17, 2016

A lot of companies say they want to hire innovators, but creating a culture where ideas filter up from the rank and file can be really difficult. Sometimes, employees fear that their ideas will be tossed aside in favor of established modes of operation. And the time and financial resources it takes to put new ideas into practice isn’t always available. Nevertheless, some organizations have found success. Here’s how they did it…

FRIENDLY COMPETITION, WITH REAL REWARDS

As the government-facing arm of the former AT&T product center Bell Labs, LGS Innovations has always looked to employees for new ideas. A regular 18-to-20 month “Shark Tank”-styled competition formerly called the Bell Labs Summit turns the company’s size into an advantage.

“I’ve got 650 scientists and engineers, each of which could probably go be a chief technology officer somewhere, but they don’t,” said LGS Innovations chief executive Kevin Kelly.

The competition begins with a call for proposals that anyone around the company can submit. That’s followed by a rigorous 18-to-20-month process in which hundreds of proposals are narrowed down to a handful.The best of the best are given funds to pursue a patent.

One finalists last year invented a hand-held device to detect airborne flu pathogens, Kelly said. The technology ended up being put to use by the Air Force.

Read more of Aaron Gregg’s piece in the Washington Post.

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