"You don't get to be a senior manager in our corporation
if you can't manage business at different stages of maturity."

~ Roger Ackerman


Refocusing on New Business Creation

Highlights of the Corning's Innovation Strategy

  • The company's long-range technological strategy emphasizes optic fibers, photonic parts, and leading-edge ceramics

  • In 1990s, new business creation had become central to corporate strategy. Over 70% of business is now in growing and new ventures

  • From 1995 to 2000, R&D spending increased from 3.4% of sales to 8.4%, from $175 million to $560 million; research space doubled; research personnel increased by 67%, to more than 1,500 people

  • In 1998, 57% of the company's sales were from products less than four years old; in 2000, that portion had grown to 84%

  • The company's market capitalization rose from $9 billion in 1997 to $65 billion in 2000

  • from 1998 to 2000, the Corning's stock price rose tenfold, from less than $25 to more than $280

Main source of information: Venture Catalyst, Donald L. Laurie



Internal Venture Capabilities

Key Features

Compared with many corporate innovation processes, Corning's internal venture capabilities differ in three ways:

  1. Managers have a shared view of trends discontinuities and future events that could have an impact on industry and shape the future; they develop industry, systems, and technology roadmaps to develop the innovation strategy

  2. Respect for company's researchers, who are linked to the company's business objectives

  3. New business creation is central to achieving corporate strategic and financial objectives; cross-functional teams are involved at every stage of the innovation process; employees recognize the innovation process as the creative source of next-generation systems and products.


 Employee Motivation

Banking on people's potential to be entrepreneurial to solve problems and keep innovation and invention moving steadily along, Corning offers its employees quality facilities, access to resources, long-term commitment, and an attractive compensation program that includes stock option.

It rewards well its best employees, including hourly workers, through performance bonus plans. The size of the bonus may vary from 0 to 200% depending on the employee's performance.

 Culture of Innovation

Corning has a long heritage of inventing new technologies and creating new businesses. It presents an excellent example of harnessing the benefits of the in-company ventures and the business systems approach to new product development and project management

Managers of the company operate within a shared context that encompasses anticipation of future events that might have an impact on industry.  >>>

Research, development, and the innovation process are the lifeblood of Corning. It is an integral part of its culture and values-driven tradition. It is a highly competitive process ‒ not all projects get funded.

Corning is oriented around innovation, built on constant reinvention.  "Discovering Beyond Imagination" is a corporate slogan that embodies literal truth... More

Vision and Core Technological Competence

Corning invented optical fiber, has deep knowledge of materials, technology, and high-speed manufacturing, and  also has a systems perspective of how the various pieces of an optical communication network fit together. All that knowledge and expertise fostered Corning's clear vision of the large and fast-growing optical communications industry.  >>>

To form the corporate vision and technological strategy, a series of day-long off-site meetings of company's ten top-line and technical managers were held. These "deep dives" meetings were schedules every four to six weeks. Besides shaping the Corning's technological strategy and finding ways to get close to customers, the meetings were also to build a sense of informality, trust and shared understanding of the future among the ten team members.

Disciplined Approach to Managing Innovation

Having realized that a disciplined and highly managed radical innovation process for new product development makes the critical difference between success and failure, Corning identified the five steps to turning an idea into a successful new product.

General managers oversee a mix of mature and growth businesses, as well as early-stage ventures... More

The innovation process is used at Corning not just for product development; it is also applied to achieving process improvement.

Developing and Managing Project Portfolio

Project selection is a highly competitive and tightly managed process not all projects get funded.  For new high-risk and high-potential-return projects, project teams work hard to find opportunities for lowering costs and reducing risks.  >>>

CEO and the corporate executive team formally review individual projects three times a year, making decisions about the portfolio.

Involving Cross-Functional Teams

Cross-functional innovation teams are involved at every stage of the innovation process and have access to every resource and technology that is needed for project success... More

Project Leadership

Corning realized that having a sound innovation process is not enough. What is important is how you practice it. Thus, it's all comes down to leadership. It's project leadership, not control by top management, that makes the process work.

To maintain the rigor of the innovation process, Corning selects project managers on the basis of their innovation leadership skills and their cross-functional understanding of technology, marketing and manufacturing. Corning gives project leaders an autonomy to decide when to go fast, call for a formal review, or to blow through a prototype review gate that combines prototype and product development steps in order to accelerate time to market.

Two or three times a year, Corning stages a companywide "Growth Day" at which it show-cases its emerging products and businesses. The process is very informal. At the end of presentation, top managers usually ask the project leader: 'What are you worried about? What can we do to help you? We're not here to review you. The only thing we require is that you make your milestones. What do you need?'

Involving Suppliers and Customers

Corning keeps it's customers, such as Nortel Networks, end-users, such as AT&T, as well as OEM suppliers well informed of its technological strategy and product development plans. It uses road-mapping as a co-innovation tool that allows suppliers and customers to work together to build products.