Ep. 37 | Five Tips For Driving Innovation at Your Company

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In this episode of the Rethink Podcast, we interview Tina Wung from Anheuser-Busch InBev about driving innovation within your company.

Look at most company mission or values statements and you’re likely to read something about fostering a culture of innovation. That’s not unusual, according to Wung, the Global Director of AB InBev’s Innovation Community. Lots of companies are rethinking how to do innovation; whether B2B or B2C, scrappy startup or tech giant.

Yet many innovation labs within companies have failed or have been shuttered in recent years, including notable examples at Coke, Nordstrom’s, Ogilvy and others.

Four Ways Companies Innovate

Wung says there are four ways that companies can institute innovation within their company: building an in-house team, creating an incubator or innovation lab outside the core business unit; creating an accelerator VC fund to invest in startups and other tech that will benefit the overall company; and the fourth model is fostering an open community of innovators built from users and others who are enthusiastic about your brand.

But how do you get started driving innovation within your company?

Five Tips For How to Innovate

Wung has five tips for how to be successful driving innovation at your company.

Define what innovation means.

Lots of people are jumping on the innovation bandwagon. But each person, each division, each department may have a different definition of what that means. Is it incremental innovation of your product? Is it innovating the process? Or it is developing a game changer to leapfrog all the competition. Innovation could be a variety of things, and it is important to have everyone on the same page within the organization.

Additionally, or part two to defining innovation, Wung said, is to make sure everyone has “their own swim lanes” and you’re being efficient with resources.

Top-down buy-in and alignment

As with any change to your company’s core beliefs and values, being innovative isn’t going to happen unless you have everyone believing in the mission.

Institutionalize innovation

We’ve heard of Google’s 20 percent policy, in which employees there were encouraged to spend 20 percent of their work time on any project they wanted. Wung uses the example 70-20-10 principle she learned in the CPG industry.

  • 70 percent is tied to your tried and true initiatives
  • 20 percent are incremental changes that you’re testing
  • 10 percent are off-the-wall innovation

The model allows you to mitigate risks to time, budget and other resources that come with asking yourself and your team to “think outside the box.”

Reward Smart Failure

And Wung says that in order for innovation to flourish, you have to reward smart failure. We’re often assigned targets for success — 10 percent increase in this, or a 25 percent increase in that — and no one is going to take risks with some untried innovation if their job or compensation or eval is on the line. Wung encourages companies to rethink their incentive structures so that teams can feel comfortable stretching themselves with regards to innovation.

Set the Right KPIs

Your innovation does need measurement so find the right KPIs that you can use to measure and evaluate if you’re headed in the right direction or not. Those KPIs likely won’t be tied to ROI, at least initially, due to the “newness” of your innovation within your marketing, but they could be about adoption rate or market awareness.  

Enjoy the conversation, and we hope you can get one or two takeaways that you can bring to your business.


Tina’s website

Example of ABI using innovation to improve barley production

Anheuser-Busch InBev Open Innovation Portal