GE Capital's Peter Hasslund: Fridays are for innovation

If you really want to innovate, you better schedule some time for it. Peter Hasslund, GE Capital Americas CIO of customer growth and initiatives, devotes four hours of time a week to innovation and ideation.

At General Electric Capital Americas innovation is for Fridays.

Peter Hasslund, CIO of Customer Growth and Initiatives for GE Capital Americas, said his team devotes four hours a week to innovation and schedules time on Friday mornings. "You have to build time for innovation and schedule it," explained Hasslund. "Innovation is not something that happens by chance."

The company, the commercial lending and leasing arm of GE Capital, has about 300,000 customers in the US and Canada and conducts transactions for loans covering everything from ATVs to aircraft. GE Capital's Americas unit targets companies with revenue between $10 million and $1 billion.

That wide range of customers — and the wide range of personalization and mobile technology needed as work patterns change — requires innovation both large and small.

Hasslund said his company went with Friday because the beginning of the week is too busy. Monday is about execution. Friday is about burnout from the previous four days. What innovation Fridays mean is that the brain gets to work on something new and stretch. "What we find is that scheduling on Friday generates energy," he said.

This innovation time is spent individually, but many employees form teams. The time is spent picking over ideas, looking for new avenues of business and breaking down silos between marketing, finance and commercial, said Hasslund. The innovation time often results in the information technology department talking to other units. In addition, the Friday innovation time builds on what happened during the week, customer conversations and fixing recurring pain points.

The ideas from the innovation time are logged and expanded on by other employees. The goal at GE is to use its ideation tools so any employee can toss out an idea that can be exposed in hackathons and other innovation events.

These innovation sessions at GE Capital Americas revolve around everything from digital marketing to mobile sales tools to user experience changes and analytics.

One example of Hasslund's innovation pods is the company's Genius application. Genius, used via and iOS app and soon every browser, is a tool designed to give the salesforce and other workers in the field access to information immediately. The browser access will be there because "it's hard to give an iPad to everyone," said Hasslund. Here's a look at the application. 

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Genius will pull information from multiple systems, but serve as a front end to various data housed in Salesforce's sales cloud. Hasslund said GE Capital Americas is sucking information from Salesforce via the Apex API. "Genius doesn't hold data because it all comes from Salesforce," said Hasslund.

The idea behind Genius is that a sales rep can get information on the fly and react quickly. Given GE Capital Americas' diversified customer base, needs aren't cookie cutter, said Hasslund.

Genius isn't built on the Salesforce1 platform, but GE Capital Americas is in talks about enabling widgets in the future. Genius has been rolled out to 300 sales reps in Americas so far and all businesses and 1,800 employees will have the application by the second quarter of 2015. Genius won't be rolled out in EMEA until 2016 because those businesses are moving to Salesforce in 2015.

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