Good ideas can come from anywhere. The challenge is creating an environment that invites people to contribute their very best thinking in a way that drives the performance of the business.
How successful is your company at tapping into the collective intelligence and imagination of employees?
That question is top of mind for many executives today. For good reason. The world is changing fast and our challenges have become increasingly complex.
Collaboration can bump up against all kinds of obstacles in large, complex organizations. I teach a course on Collaborative Leadership, and I make every attempt to take on the tension that results from trying to work together while balancing the new pace of business and the pressure to perform. In 2012, I had the good fortune of working with a customer who offered a compelling case study on change and innovation amid complexity.
AT&T is a 136-year-old company that takes innovation seriously, and I’ve had the good fortune of meeting leaders across their business, learning how they tackle challenges and change head-on. Here are three ways AT&T’s leaders are continuously reimagining their business strategy.
They have a place to collaborate
AT&T Foundry. These are innovation centers where venture capitalists, developers and startups can get a meeting at AT&T, and move through a fast-pitch process that takes only 10 to 15 minutes. AT&T’s centers in Plano, Texas, Ra’anana, Israel and Palo Alto, Calif., have played host to more than 1,000 pitches. This video offers a little more insight into the foundry concept.
They have a PROCESS to bring the best ideas forward
The Innovation Pipeline (TIP). This is a crowdsourcing and collaboration tool, designed to tap the collective imagination of employees. Ideas grow, get refined and enhanced – and the best ideas get turned into real products, applications and services for our customers. Employees suggest products, services and even processes that will improve the company, and their peers get to vote them up or down. With TIP, employees vote on the 10 best suggestions every quarter and those are presented at a fast-pitch session. Three receive funding from AT&T’s own angel funds. To date, more than 22,000 ideas have been generated, with 50 items patented and 17 services launched.
They involve the customer
AT&T is taking a new approach to “bring the brand to life” inside its new, first-ever flagship store on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. Complete with App Tenders, an Experience Platform, and Lifestyle Boutiques, the experience was most certainly a leap of innovation and something a customer might not initially expect from AT&T. That is exactly the point. Take a video tour of the store.
How are you rethinking your business?