The year of bold experiments

The year of bold experiments

Fuel for your 2022 innovation strategy

Halfway through 2021, Americans are feeling more optimistic than ever. That sense of optimism is making its way into different sectors and industries: We’ve spoken with executives who feel bolder this year than in 2020 — or even 2019. They’re looking at the world with fresh eyes and planning to make the case for change within their organizations.

Last month, we proposed a set of questions for leaders to discuss with their teams. We also asked our extended network about the areas of greatest opportunity and what we can expect to see in 2022. While we saw outsized interest in tackling the questions, only a few have arrived at the answers.

When embarking on something new, it’s helpful to look at reference points. We’ve collected a few examples of organizations making bold moves and rethinking business as usual. As you set your own innovation strategy and map it to next year’s budget, consider these thought starters.

Creating new models

Even if a company’s core product or service doesn’t change, there are opportunities to reinvent other aspects of the value chain and the customer experience — from production to purchase. During the pandemic, restaurants pivoted to ghost kitchens, to-go cocktails, outdoor dining, meal kits, and Instagram pop-ups — and some of those changes have the potential to become permanent. Disney is testing surge pricing at its Paris theme park. Albertsons is partnering with Google to offer new experiences to customers: shoppable local maps, predictive grocery lists, and online ordering through Google Maps. Amazon is bringing its cashierless “Just Walk Out” technology to a full-size grocery store. Apple Pay is introducing a “buy now, pay later” option to compete with rival services. And Pepsi plans to continue growing its direct-to-consumer business.

Making room for experiments

Innovation doesn’t just happen on its own. Developing and sustaining new ways of working often require a dedicated space within organizations. Hospitals and health systems across the U.S. have launched new innovation centers. Sanofi China launched a virtual healthcare company to address chronic disease management, partnering with Tencent and other tech companies to develop digital therapeutics. In France, Sanofi recently announced a joint venture called Future4Care; it will be “Europe’s only health-focused accelerator program for startups.” Second Nature opened an innovation center to support research and development for all its snack brands. P&G’s new innovation center is focused on supply chain sustainability. And Albemarle, a company that produces chemicals, opened a new battery materials innovation center. Next year, GM plans to open a new Advanced Design Center with an on-site innovation lab.

Rethinking the employee experience

Hybrid is the new normal, but with over one-third of employees looking to change employers this year, many companies are rethinking the entire employee experience — from recruitment to retention. A group of companies (including Herman Miller, Adobe, Dropbox, and Pentagram) have formed a new collective to “address the lack of Black creatives in design through education, internships, and career support.” Shopify is expanding its talent pipeline by launching a fully remote version of its Dev Degree for aspiring software engineers. Chipotle, Target, and Shopify are now accepting video resumes through TikTok. Kickstarter plans to pilot a four-day, 32-hour workweek in 2022. Companies such as Mozilla, LinkedIn, and Bumble closed their offices for a week this year to give employees a synchronous break. Major retailers such as Target and Walmart have already announced they will be closed on Thanksgiving. And United Airlines is making it easier for employees to be themselves at work: The company announced new, gender-inclusive appearance standards for uniformed employees.

Are there important initiatives missing from this list? Email to let us know what you’re tracking.


Sara Holoubek
Founding Partner and CEO
Jessica Hibbard
Head of Content & Community