Leading with outside perspectives unlocks new thinking at Kelly Services

Disruptive innovation is complex sort of code, but Rolf Kleiner, the current senior vice president and chief innovation officer at Kelly Services, may have cracked it.

When the Innovation Office at Kelly Services launched in 2012, Kleiner saw that the company was strong with incremental innovations that improved its current service offerings. He wanted to think bigger, to set precedents in the staffing industry.

Kleiner wanted to create disruption.

First he needed a way to gather ideas. He used a “pull” model to create communities of people from suppliers, clients, employees and outside industry experts. By including all Kelly employees in the innovation effort he created one community; the other arose from partner/supplier networks.

Anyone can become a member in these communities by submitting their own ideas, critiquing or voting on other member’s ideas. The innovation group uses directed
Innovation – asking for ideas around a specific topic – and open innovation allowing members to come up with their own ideas to post.

After these ideas are submitted, Kleiner’s innovation team used an idea-management process to decide whether ideas are disruptive enough for the innovation office to pursue. They screen the ideas through a set of disruptive innovation criteria such as whether the idea will impact the financial botton line by 15%. If an idea meets the criteria, it goes through a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis and pilot test of the idea. If the idea makes it through this process it is then integrated back into the business.

Kleiner likes reaching outside organizational walls because it provides his innovation team new perspectives. Most of Kelly’s current innovation projects are linked to third-party collaborations.

“External points of view help stimulate thinking about the fulfillment of needs different from the approach we typically take,” he said, “It helps break us out of a thinking rut if you will.”

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