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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 key is speed: Prototype fast, and fail fast. "We don't choose 30 things to pursue," Fergang says. "We scale back to just a few and then do them as fast as possible." About twice a year, the group conducts a show-and-tell, inviting business leaders to see a range of prototyped ideas.

" Equinix: It's crucial to recognize that some ideas don't pan out. At Equinix, "no one is penalized" for failures, because failing is part of learning, Lillie says. In fact, one engineer learned so much about hybrid clouds through a stalled innovation initiative that he now helps educate customers on the topic. "Not everything is going to work out, but it's all great learning," Lillie says.

What are some tips for getting executive buy-in and funding?
" CapitalOne: Early in her tenure, Shivanandan organized a "scan trip," which involved taking a group of business and technology executives to visit with innovators and startups, including Google, Facebook and Square, to answer the question, "What is innovation in the banking industry?" "I wish I could say I did it intentionally to get everyone jazzed up, but that was the ultimate result," she says. "It was an 'aha moment' that really showed us there's a lot happening and that technology is a key enabler to banking in the future." Nine months later, the company secured a physical structure for its first digital lab, hired a leader and assembled an agile team to get started.

" American Cancer Society: For Ferro, securing innovation resources hinges on showing senior executives something concrete. "You need to give them confidence that this isn't some nebulous thing," he says. Another important element is focusing innovation around specific objectives. "When executives see you're targeting innovation at outcomes that matter and not aiming it blindly, they derive comfort from that," Ferro says.

Ferro dedicates a small percentage of the IT budget to experimenting with new ideas and spinning up proofs of concept. Before they are moved further in the process, ideas are subject to a more formal review. "Our process recognizes good ideas, so that even if we didn't plan it for 2013, for instance, we will pursue it if the ROI makes sense," Ferro says.

" MasterCard: Above all, says Lyons, having a CEO who understands the importance of innovation is critical. It also helps, he says, to show how the work done by MasterCard Labs enables other company efforts to succeed. Because Lyons reports to both the president of the technologies and operations division and the president of the global products and solutions division, "together, we can work through the really tough questions about why we should advance one idea or another," he says.


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