Ignite Spotlight: An Interview with Johnson & Johnson’s Linda Lavelle

By Jeremy Brown | Spigit
April 4, 2018

With over 120,000 employees and billions of dollars in revenue, Johnson & Johnson is one of the top consumer packaged goods companies on the planet.

How, though, does a company of this size approach innovation? Especially in an industry that’s seeing new ecommerce startups popup that challenge traditional business models, and Amazon leveraging its distribution prowess for private label brands.

The Ignite conference – on May 1-2 in San Francisco – is fortunate to have Linda Lavelle, Director of Knowledge Management at Johnson & Johnson, speak about how the company drives innovation throughout the organization. The lessons she has learned while being part of Johnson & Johnson’s innovation efforts will be useful for innovation leaders of all levels to hear.

To give you a sneak peek, check out our recent conversation below.

Spigit: Are there any trends, specifically in innovation or technology, that you’re excited about exploring more in 2018?

Linda: I would say more on the digital front for us. There’s a lot that the various groups within Johnson and Johnson can do across the board with digital technology, and the capabilities and opportunities it presents. From developing digital technology solutions for our medical devices to utilizing a digital supply chain to better deliver our pharmaceutical products to our customers, I’m really interested to see what comes up from Fast Track Ideas (Johnson & Johnson’s idea management system – more on this later) along those lines.

Spigit: You have been running Fast Track Ideas for over a year. For someone who is just starting an innovation program, what advice would you give them?

Linda: Know the community and environment that is going to be implementing the program. Understand what they need and what their strengths and weaknesses are to be able to structure the system and governance to be successful.

Everyone implements an innovation program differently. Some create a structure with a central team dedicated to running their Spigit platform and they do everything – run the challenges, rewards and recognition, etc. This scenario would never work in my organization since we are too large and diverse. In addition, we want to have innovation and the creation of ideas be owned by everyone in Supply Chain, not be seen as belonging to the “Innovation Group”. So, before you start, take a step back and look at the organization and its culture to determine what would be successful.

Spigit: What are some of the lessons you’ve learned running Fast Track Ideas over the past year?

Linda: One thing is to find the balance between standardization and creativity. Allowing people flexibility in that innovation space but also finding where it makes sense to standardize. We are 120,000 employees in J&J total with 60,000 people in Supply Chain. Everyone from Quality to Engineering in our Consumer, Medical Device and Pharmaceutical manufacturing sites all focusing on creating transformational innovation in a variety of areas including new technologies, process improvement, and building capabilities.

For us, it was also about figuring out how to come up with the right challenge topics so that the challenge was not so broad that we get ideas that are all over the board and we can’t manage them. This has been something we’ve learned the hard way. Just figuring out the best way to get the right topics to be able to implement ideas that meet the pain point – or the reason why we even wanted to do the challenge in the first place – was a lesson that we learned. Aligning the challenge to our strategy and utilizing categories has helped us get better outcomes.

Spigit: What are you looking forward to at Ignite this year?

Linda: I’m looking forward to meeting other people who use Spigit. As a member of the Spigit Customer Advisory Board, I’ve sat in on a couple calls learning how others are using it and also, which I think is fabulous, calls led by your product development team to get our feedback on new product improvement ideas. It will be great to learn and share stories with other customers in person.

Spigit: Can you share a little bit about what you hope attendees get from your session at Ignite?

Linda: Johnson and Johnson started working with Spigit more than two years ago to help us promote innovation within our consumer segment to help us address a lot of the cost savings type work we needed to do in our plants. We were very, successful using this format for trying to bring innovation to the plant level and to be able to get ideas from the people who are working on the plant floor. Employees have been so excited to participate in these challenges we have implemented a technology that allows plant workers without a J&J computer to access the internal challenges.

About a year ago, our supply chain management asked us to come up with a process to track these ideas – not only consumer segment ideas, but every idea in supply chain. We have many ways to generate ideas in Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain, but we did not have way to track them and determine if they were successful projects. Based on our Consumer segment experience we decided to partner with Spigit to build our process to track our ideas on our J&J Spigit site.

The marriage of our process and the Spigit platform is Fast Track Ideas (FTI), launched late last summer. In FTI we can not only track ideas, we have built in design thinking strategy to help make our ideas more transformational. I plan on describing this process and its impact on our business at the Ignite conference.

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