From annual pitch competitions to robust internships, these nine U.S. companies have created infrastructures for innovation, leading to important breakthroughs.
Hickory, North Carolina
This wholesale company, which owns subsidiaries, including Lowes Foods and KJ’s Market, prioritizes innovation through its annual “Sparx” program. The Shark Tank-style event allows employees at the grocery and retail wholesaler to pitch ideas, and three winners earn seed money for further development. The initiative is not only limited to an annual competition, however; Alex Lee emphasizes the importance of this program through soliciting ideas from employees on a biweekly basis. These submissions are reviewed monthly, and a $100 spot award is given to the winning employees through the company’s “Fast Sparx” initiative.
Altoura University, the in-house program for onboarding new employees, has proved so effective that the collaborative software company has expanded the offering to include its customers.
Newark, New Jersey
The audiobook and podcast company’s Next Chapter Returnship Program is a four-month paid internship for those who left the workforce to care for a dependent; providing professional career coaching and often a full-time job offer to those who complete the program successfully.
St. Louis, Missouri
In 2021, the software company’s engineering team created the “Hack-Pack,” a program open to any employee interested in expanding their coding and software-developing skills.
In 2021, the construction company was granted a patent for its Fall Arrest Acknowledgement System (FAAS), which aims to prevent worksite fall-related injuries and deaths.
Farmer’s Business Network
San Carlos, California
The eight-year-old ag-tech company has implemented a strategy to produce its own ingredients and source others directly from China, bypassing supply chain issues and lowering its prices for consumers.
The advertising agency isn’t shy about its unconventional approach to business, hosting daily stand-ups that resemble talk shows more than meetings to keep morale high throughout the pandemic and the Great Resignation.
After 20,000 cycles of testing, the door and window company has introduced its Easy-Slide Operator window, designed to enhance functionality for consumers of all ages and physical abilities.
Las Vegas, Nevada
The electrical manufacturing company has discovered innovative ideas from unorthodox sources. After discovering the dimensional constraints of LED lights, the team was inspired (by a tail!) to reshape previously short and thick LED packages, when the CEO’s cat unexpectedly joined a Zoom call.