Lessons from Chubb – Innovation as a Core Function

Lessons from Chubb: Innovation as a Core FunctionMany companies think they’re serious about innovation. But in most cases, they’re dead wrong.

Why? Because they haven’t invested in building a core innovation team. And thus, they’re not treating innovation like a true enterprise function. Which, in my experience at Imaginatik, is a killer for any chance at achieving real, sustained, SIGNIFICANT innovation results.

Let’s say you’re at a cocktail party, and someone asks what you do for a living. Many people might answer “finance” or “marketing”. But…how many would answer “innovation”? Some for sure, but not very many.

The reality is that most organizations consider innovation a spare-time activity. Many people may be involved part-time (or overtime) on “innovation” work – but when the calendars get busy, innovation is the first priority to drop. Innovation is seen as non-core, a nice-to-have.

And yet – in those cases when innovation does become a core business function, great things happen.

Consider Chubb Corporation, the subject of a recent piece in MIT Sloan Management Review. Jon Bidwell has been Chief Innovation Officer at Chubb since 2008, where he leads the innovation team – the members of which would each answer “innovation” to the cocktail party question.

Over the years, Imaginatik has worked with Jon and his team to build out their innovation capability – and the results speak for themselves. Chubb has launched three new business ventures worth $10M+. Other prominent innovation wins have vastly improved customer service, increased and strengthened collaboration, and made the company both more effective and more “global”.

None of this could have happened without Chubb’s core innovation team, which is devoted full-time to building innovation into the company’s fabric. With a core innovation function at work, they have gotten:

  • Someone always paying attention to “innovation”. It doesn’t get dropped at the first sign of trouble, or busyness
  • An ability to connect the dots and push a larger innovation agenda – while also keeping the wheels spinning on-the-ground
  • A global innovation software platform, managed by the innovation team, to collect and leverage ideas for the business
  • A proven track record of innovating – and growing legitimacy for “innovation” within the company

It’s time for more companies to create a core innovation team. Or course, it does take a few years to build this new function within the enterprise. And as with any institution-building process, there are plenty of bumps and bruises along the way. But the returns are undeniable, easily measured in the tens or hundreds of millions.

I’m looking forward to the day when every cocktail party has people who work in “innovation”. People who say with pride that enterprise innovation is their career path, not just their hobby. The trend has already begun…

image credit: bamsmallbizconsulting.com

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https://www.disruptorleague.com/components/com_wordpress/wp/wp-admin/post.php?post=24515&action=edit&message=1Chris Townsend is Senior Director, Strategic Marketing at Imaginatik. He is passionate about ideation, innovation, organizational transformation, and building great teams and companies. Imaginatik is the pioneer of idea management software, and now the global leader in helping companies become deeply, permanently innovative.

Chris Townsend




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