Innovation is often just a buzzword in large corporations. It is driven by various factors including new and changing customer needs, technological developments, policies and laws, competitor activities and societal changes. More than ever before, innovation leaders have to put an extra effort into creating a sustainable innovation culture in large companies. But how do you do that?

I believe changing a large company’s culture toward an innovative mindset is all about enabling employees to have the time, the flexibility, the resources and support for doing things differently and thinking outside the box. After all, they could have the next big idea that could transform the way we do business with our partners and customers.

For the past few years I have had the opportunity to work and help create an internal platform to encourage all employees to share and discuss their ideas with others. The Innovation Hub is an intuitive and collaborative portal that provides resources and support to all employees to move their idea forward from a tiny glimmer to an incredible moonshot.

It has become a thriving community where 50% of our employees connect every year from across all business units, functions, and over 90 countries.  Individuals go to this always-on portal to learn about innovation events and competitions, discuss new technologies and programs, and connect with peers and mentors.

But the process to create the Innovation Hub was not done in a “vacuum”. We took the time to research external vendors, put into practice Cisco Design Thinking methodology, and hold meetings with our key stakeholders and extreme users. This was important to understand how to design a service that will satisfy users’ needs and therefore be adopted and successful. While sometimes obvious, sometimes it’s easy to forget who is using your website. It may be colorful and nice looking, but that doesn’t mean it’s useful or helpful to the users.

For example, after our interviews with our most active “extreme” users we found it interesting to learn that they felt:

  • Navigating the site was very challenging,
  • finding information on existing innovation programs was still difficult,
  • and they didn’t know where to share and develop their new ideas outside of our annual global innovation competition.

We knew we needed to correct this quickly to increase participation and improve our users’ experience. As a team we listened and updated the portal to include:

  • A new navigation structure where menus were completely revisited to take the user through a journey of learning throughout the site,
  • a calendar widget on the home page highlighting upcoming events and challenges,
  • and a comprehensive user profile to personalize the experience.

These changes resulted in a positive network effect with an increasing number of competitions and events happening on the Innovation Hub. On average, we have now 8 to 9 events per month and 6 to 7 active challenges per month, generating more than a thousand ideas every year.

Building a community of innovators in a company this size can be challenging particularly when you are targeting 74,000 users across all geographies and functions. How are you building and cultivating an environment which truly encourages and enables innovation at your company? Share and comment below.


To learn more, download the Innovation Hub white paper.


Sylvain Baron

Innovation Program Lead

Innovation Strategy & Programs