Interview with Lem Lasher, CSC Chief Innovation Officer
While I've had a chance to visit 3M and talk with innovators at Dell and other firms, I don't usually think of large consultancies as hot beds of innovation. My image of CSC was of a large business and
government consulting firm, primarily focused on outsourcing and large government
contracts. That image informed my expectations: a slow moving organization
just kicking off an underfunded and misguided innovation focus. Since I have experience working in a large
consulting organization, I know how difficult it is to build and sustain a new capability
or competency, so I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at the focus, investment
and work that the Office of Innovation within CSC has accomplished in the last few years.
Office of Innovation
CSC formed its "Office of Innovation" just about five years ago based on the recognition
that a consulting firm needs to bring new thinking and new ideas to its clients, as
well as using innovation to reinvent itself. While other large consulting firms like
Accenture, EDS and Deloitte have made some attempts to become more innovative, CSC has
clearly invested a significant amount of time and resources, and has created an innovation
capability and focus within the Office of Innovation and throughout CSC that makes CSC
a leader in its space. The Office of Innovation's scope is to generate ideas and
develop intellectual capital for CSC. It offers its services throughout the
corporation and reports to the chairman of CSC. Lem Lasher helped to develop the Office of
Innovation over five years ago, The office has several key focus areas:
- the Leading Edge Forum which conducts research
- the Ideation Practice which runs ideation events internally and with clients
- a Catalyst group which acts as an information depository and knowledge management center
- a fully developed idea management and social media application
- Extensive relationships with over twenty academic institutions and other third party partners
CSC is actively engaging its staff, customers, academic partners and third party partners to participate in its
innovation activities, and doing its best to communicate its findings with this same network.
CSC's Innovation Model and resourcing
CSC has a highly distributed model of innovation. The Office of Innovation emphasizes open innovation and is responsible for setting the stage for innovation. In this role it creates tools and techniques and
supports the lines of business for innovation. Through its partnerships with academic institutions and software/hardware partners CSC generates a lot of research and insight into future trends and new ideas.
The Office of Innovation has over 70 staff members. Many of these people work not only
with internal innovation efforts but have "line jobs" as well, to assist CSC's clients
with innovation. This is a significant investment in innovation. Lasher believes that over 10,000 people within CSC have participated in innovation events and activities. This demonstrates a broad commitment to innovation throughout the organization.
Linking back to the theory
One final concept that I found interesting was the commitment within the organization to understand the "intellectual underpinnings" of innovation. Lasher felt that if the executives and staff didn't understand the theories of innovation then they couldn't engage effectively, so Lasher has spent a significant amount of time educating his teams on the work of Clayton Christensen, Henry Chesborough, Joseph Schumpeter, Peter Senge and others. He is a fan of creativity and relies on de Bono's Six Thinking Hats principles.
CSC has made a significant investment in innovation and it appears to be paying off. Their focus on open, distributed innovation is one of the more robust that I've seen, and they are relying on their partners and academic institutions as well as their employees to generate new ideas. CSC's model is worth keeping a close eye on, and hopefully they'll continue to talk about their successes and the challenges they've faced.