I presented our employer’s innovation strategies last month in New York, alongside companies like: Kraft, Hasbro, Coca-Cola, Mellon and Disney. After watching this video of 3D chocolates during Hershey’s presentation, the scope of possibilities for product-dependent companies occurred to me. Someday, we’ll have 3D printers in our maintenance shops and print the replacement components needed for highways or homes in the blink of an eye! (In the meantime, I selflessly volunteer to test a chocolate printer…)

“Innovation” is big business. An international survey of 2,468 senior executives by Boston Consulting Group revealed two-thirds ranked innovation among their top three strategic priorities. But what is the “secret ingredient” that turns ideas into invoices? While themes differed from one company to another, the most common strategies are highlighted below.

Disney: The more profitable and traditional a company, the less likely it is to take on change or risk. The most effective ways to innovate are to:

  • be sure the idea comes from the CEO;
  • use the vernacular of “helping” not “changing” (creates less resistance);
  • the ability to “sell” is more valuable than any other skillset to implement change; and
  • understand the political landscape to ensure business leaders receive the credit for success.

Hershey: Crowdsourcing is statistically as reliable as science…place marbles in a jar and ask 2,000 people to guess the number. The bell curve will peak near the actual number every time. The larger the crowd, the more accurate the prediction. Companies use crowdsourcing for market insights and product improvement.

Morgan Stanley: With the rise of the Millennials into the work force, companies need to be cognizant of the new generation that was born in the age of social networks and gamified environments. Without a proper framework, to facilitate and engross our employees in a meaningful way, innovation just becomes another bullet point on a PowerPoint and nothing more.

To wrap it up, innovation is a term interpreted differently within organizations based on corporate culture, success and tradition.