Talent Incubator members enthusiastic and ready to learn.
Innovation at Bosch

Bosch Named “Best Workplaces for Innovators”

Fostering Workplace Innovation

5 minutes

Innovation is part of Bosch’s DNA and encouraged at every level of the company. Every associate at Bosch, no matter their role or location, has ample opportunities on a regular basis to participate in any number of Bosch innovation programs. These innovation programs have been created and implemented to encourage associates from every area of the company to share new ideas or ways we can repurpose existing technologies to solve real-world problems and quickly validate those ideas through a lean start-up methodology.

Talent Incubator Program pilot cohort team photo.

Bosch was recently named to Fast Company’s Second Annual List of The 100 Best Workplaces for Innovators, a competitive list that celebrates organizations with deep commitment to innovative thinking, demonstrated by investing in technology, research and development, and their employees.

All group photos taken prior to March 2020.

Automotive Aftermarket Talent Incubator

Talent Incubator Program pilot cohort team photo.

To help identify and develop individuals who have leadership potential, Tracy Huber (HR Partner), Bonnie Scherwitz (HR Director), Michelle Verkerke (HR Manager), and Sarah Balal (Program Manager), created a 12-month Talent Incubator Program, piloting its first cohort last September 2019.

The Talent Incubator Program provides an opportunity for associates to learn how to manage interacting with different personality types, how to build their personal brand, and how to navigate career paths that may take many forms with cross-functional and lateral experience, in addition to upward mobility.

Talent Incubator members enthusiastic and ready to learn.

The formal application process requires recommendation letters and a creative pitch video, in addition to meeting various program criteria. Eligible associates are then invited to an assessment center where they interview and are evaluated on critical competencies.

Associates accepted to the program are assigned to a group project combining lean start-up and design thinking to explore business opportunities outside of core business, as well as a mentor with whom they meet monthly for development.

Not only was it innovative for these HR leads to create the program, it also provided a space for associates to innovate.

Powertrain Solutions Invigoration Day

Tushar Parulekar hard at work.

A few times per year, the Powertrain Solutions division hosts “Invigoration Day,” a day spent working on things adjacent to daily work, for example, learning new technology.

Associates participating in Invigoration Day prepare to break out into smaller groups.

During “Invigoration Day,” Pra Wicaksana, Senior Calibration Engineer, and Tushar Parulekar, Associate Calibration Engineer, brainstormed how they might use machine learning to detect gasoline combustion knock. Based on their progress, the pair received funding to continue to explore new techniques to improve existing knock detection function above and beyond their traditional roles.

grow: Internal Incubator

grow team working in collaborative space.

Julia Endroes leads the Marketing team for grow, and most enjoys the working environment is the best of both worlds: corporate structure and start-up culture.

Established in 2012, grow is the internal Bosch incubator for global start-ups and intrapreneurs, aiming to continue the Bosch success story by providing new profitable business on a global scale, at high speed.

Based on a trusted network, grow explores markets, identifies relevant problems and offers a platform to systematically develop high performing teams who leave a true footprint on human history.

Julia Endores directing innovation workshop.

grow offers comprehensive trainings and workshops such as entrepreneurship, business modeling and user experience to build high performing teams. It provides Bosch start-ups a professional home in one of its innovation hubs, in which they are challenged and empowered to grow into independent businesses.

Acknowledging failure very openly, grow encourages teams to re-iterate and pivot at an early stage and – whenever a market is not ready or an idea not mature enough – opt for an exit.

Andreas Douglas: Waltham Workplace Innovation

Andreas Douglas Speaking

Runner, home chef, devoted husband and father of five, Andreas Douglas, Site Leader & Engineering Director in Waltham, MA, works to identify opportunities and innovate developments for his division. With almost 9 years under his Bosch belt spanning three different divisions, Andreas came to Bosch because of its people, development programs, and opportunities for overseas assignments.

Waltham Workplace

Andreas’ division, Electrical Drives – Thermal Systems, has a history of innovation that continues in the workplace today. The Waltham facility promotes an experimental culture offering an ideal playground for engineers: lab space, equipment and tools needed to design, prototype, build and test within short periods of time. It also offers quiet office space separate from labs to allow time for critical thinking and individual creativity. Complete with top talent and the autonomy to explore, Waltham encourages the freedom to springboard good ideas into action. Both the people and their attitudes lend themselves to an environment of trust that gives associates the space to fail and learn. This has led to decades of patented innovations, production implemented product designs, and industry leading business results.

Waltham Team Photo

At Waltham, the workforce is made up of many different generations. To foster an inclusive environment of collaboration and trust, Andreas has worked on institutional knowledge transfer between the generations through succession planning and competency management. “It’s encouraging to see associates with 30+ years’ tenure and wisdom fully support and get behind ideas from younger associates, regardless of tenure.”

Advice to others on how to build and maintain an innovative workplace environment? “Acknowledge the need for time to explore without constraint during the workday. Strive for the space to experiment and think outside of the box. Honor innovation and invest long term. And ensure leadership recognizes its power and ability to provide encouragement that fosters an innovative environment.”

B:Hive: Drew Horticulture Center Design Day

B:Hive Team Photo at the Charles Drew Transition Center.

To build a space for associates to innovate outside of traditional roles, Preet Gill (Corporate Strategy Director), Jolene Castillo (Technical Services Representative), John Haworth (Engineering Manager), Andy Woodrich (Senior Calibration Engineer), and Jason Zink (Technical Expert), founded B:Hive: A self-directed and self-organized volunteer group that brings associates from all backgrounds together to identify relevant business and technology related challenges to create innovative solutions through collaboration.

“Drive the Future”: 4 Part-Series on Innovation, Business Model Generation & Prototype Hacking

Since its founding, other core team members including Jon Frey, Magdalena Jablonski, Andrew Krier, Angela Patterson, and Sarah Salmonowicz, have helped B:Hive tackle diverse topics. Topics range from coaching corporate/divisional innovation teams, crafting relevant hackathons, supporting experience based digital transformation learning opportunities, enabling university outreach, providing actionable assistance to charitable organizations, and more.

B:Hive had a unique opportunity to collaborate with the Bosch Community Fund to assist the Drew Horticulture Program. The Charles Drew Transition Center (part of Detroit Public Schools) is one of the few schools in the United States dedicated to improving job security for their students with special needs with a wide array of skill building programs. The Drew Horticulture Program educates students between the ages of 18 and 26 with physical, cognitive and health impairments and provides them with valuable agriculture skills before they enter the workforce. Within the past 6 years, the program has grown to such heights that it is now also a force to be reckoned with in combating the lack of affordable, fresh produce in the Detroit metro area.

Associates working together at BHive Hackathon.

Drew Horticulture Program’s coordinator and instructor, Michael Craig, wanted to improve operational efficiency. After two in-depth discussions and a site visit, the B:Hive core team discovered that the most pressing problems were in the areas of: Electric Power Management, Water Management and Disposal and Process Improvement and Business Automation.

The B:Hive worked with Bosch Builds to organize the Drew Horticulture Center Design Day. Several Bosch Associates volunteered for a day at the center to design and develop innovative solutions. The proposed solutions have enabled Drew Center to improve their water filtration and lighting. Volunteers also introduced software solutions to help manage business operations. The center also received a grant from the Bosch Community Fund. The design day was a win-win-win. This engagement helped to strengthen the horticulture program, and Bosch associates not only got a chance to contribute to a worthy cause but also got an opportunity to acquire new innovation skills.

IoT Hackathon

Hackathon participants working to categorize UX findings.

To separate innovation from traditional day-to-day work and leverage user experience (UX) and innovation frameworks to ideate, create and promote concepts into products, Eric Acevedo, Digital Product Owner, spearheaded a 5-Day Hackathon.

Associates from diverse backgrounds and functions turned UX findings into proof of concepts, development roadmaps, and prototypes for a new mobile IoT app, aimed at creating a direct relationship with both users and new, useful digital products.

Dremel business unit celebrates a successful culture week.

To fuel the 5-day hackathon, facilities helped transform an old conference room used for storage into a fully stocked collaboration space, equipped with a large conference table, chairs, work stations, plenty of wall space for post-its and most importantly, a snack station.

Eric Acevedo professional headshot.

“We had everything you need to drive innovation. Diverse groups of people. Dedicated space. Leadership buy-in. The mindset to think big, start small and move fast. You can future-proof your business if you empower a small group of innovative, curious individuals with a small budget and dedicated space. And challenge them with a mission to show you what’s possible for your business.”

Eric Acevedo

Innovation Framework: Catherine Norman

Oil painting by Catherine Norman

A thought sparked by personal experience led Catherine Norman, Executive Administrative Assistant and painting connoisseur, to pitch an idea for vehicle theft prevention through the Bosch innovation framework.

With manager support for flexibility and time away from daily duties to focus on innovation, Catherine worked with a cross-functional team to pursue viable solutions using a customer-centric approach.

The team held offsite workshops to remove distraction of traditional working environments and be in a more creative, free-flowing collaboration space, conducive to innovation.

The Innovation Framework provides a curriculum combining lean start-up and design thinking to explore business opportunities outside our core business. In most “explore” cases, we do not have all the answers and have to use a different approach with a strong primary focus on understanding and identifying customer needs prior to developing the solution.

Catherine Norman professional headshot.

Everyone has something to contribute. There is no such thing as a wrong idea. You just need the right framework to see an idea through to fruition.

Catherine Norman

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