The Link Between Innovation & Mentorship

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Alexander Waters, Director, New Product Development & Innovation, Kinesso

TheEngine+ initiative of 2020 was a fantastic example of how innovation should still thrive, even during a crippling global pandemic.

From the very beginning the initiative was designed to say to the entire organization that even though there are specific teams within Kinesso that look after innovation, it should be everyone’s responsibility and task to innovate. We termed this thought the Culture of Innovation with TheEngine+ as its core driver. 

The response for the first year was extremely exciting, with a healthy number of entries from all across the country and all three business units. (Acxiom, Kinesso and Matterkind) getting involved. Fast forward to Pitch day, we had over 500 eager viewers watching the five teams pitch their idea to a very senior panel of investors, with the event an absolute hit and the in-flood of positive messages after was rewarding.

The event was so successful that next year we have been tasked to make it bigger and better, and cross international shores to all markets around the world. That alone is a huge task, but the IPG board also requested we make this an IPG initiative and invite all IPG companies to participate. The culture is growing within the business and its employees are seeing that their voices are heard and their ideas can be invested in, which is exactly what the program was designed to do. Next year we will keep going and pushing this culture of innovation to find exciting new ideas.


Graham Wilkinson, EVP Product Innovation, Kinesso

Being a mentor on TheEngine+ program has been a deeply rewarding experience. Working with the Customer Retention Analytics team, it was amazing to see their project and them personally grow over the months of mentorship. They went from having a very robust solution that would be exceptionally complex for a non-subject matter expert to understand, to being able to articulate their solution clearly and concisely to anyone.

Thinking about the program in its totality, it was fantastic to see all the ideas go from their initial submissions to the final presentations to our judges. The level of development over the mentorship months was incredible and speaks to the willingness of staff to seek and take feedback, as well as to the ability of our senior leaders who were mentors.

It’s clear that the program went a long way to contributing to a culture of innovation, which was its primary purpose. The areas of our Culture of Innovation Framework where the program had the most impact were in cultivating customs, building belief in possibility and encouraging interactions.

The live finale also helped all the staff to understand that this program is accessible to everyone and see the infinite possibilities to innovate within the company. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with people already beginning to form ideas and teams in readiness for the 2021 program.

As the leader of Product Innovation in Kinesso, a program like this injects an incredible amount of energy into the organization and gives a renewed sense of purpose on all innovation projects. It also helps to identify talent within the group that exhibits ambidextrous or system thinking, a skill that is invaluable in being successful in the innovation space. I know our team will be reaching out to the participants in the future to be involved in our innovation efforts.


Karlene O’Hara, VP Product Management, Acxiom

TheEngine+ is a great mechanism that expresses and highlights the impressive level of creativity throughout the organization. These ideas focus on the area of the business the contestants work in today, which demonstrate a thoughtfulness about their work. These ideas are further expanded understanding the current gaps in the marketplace and a willingness to challenge the status quo about how we do business, while focusing on how we can more effectively support clients. The most important benefit of TheEngine+ is how it encourages employees to be more willing to test their ideas, engendering an innovative mindset in the workplace. 

TheEngine+  brings forth innovative ideas that can produce new products and position the company for long-term success. Many of these projects can be incorporated into new product development processes to inform either new solutions or feature enhancements to existing offerings. It provides the framework to improve product development approach and reducing time to market as the teams work to validate their ideas through proof-of-concept and financial analysis.

My biggest takeaway is an appreciation of the depth of talent within our organization. Mentoring is a growth experience for the mentor as it is for the mentee, and for me this was an energizing experience. I felt more informed about a subject that was new for me, while I was able to provide guidance on the project. I have found myself thinking about the application of the idea in my daily work.


Radhika Nayak, SVP Product Management, Kinesso

The word “innovation” connotes ideas that are life changing or disruptive to businesses and industries. But, simply put, innovation is the process of identifying a problem or opportunity and solving for it. This was the power of TheEngine+ – revealing that innovation is not something that ‘they’ do but is something ‘we’ all do. 

What I appreciated about being a mentor is that I was part of a program that provided an avenue for everyone in the organization to come up with new ideas or new ways to solve existing problems. But ideas can die quickly when people don’t know how, or where, or to whom to share them with. And even if these ideas are communicated, they have to be thoughtfully considered. I was thrilled to be a mentor in this process because it gave me the opportunity to help a team refine their idea, introduce them to people within the organization that could validate their proposal or identify the gaps in their thinking and enhance it with revenue models.

The involvement of IPG executive leadership was invaluable in that we all were provided the opportunity to peek behind the curtain, and to hear the considerations that go into funding new initiatives. 

TheEngine+ fosters a culture of innovation which strengthens our product portfolio by generating a company-wide cycle from idea to business validation to development. This is critical as the strength of an organization is not only in the ideas generated but also in the diversity of that innovation.


Tracy B YoungLincoln, EVP Global Client Solutions & Success, Kinesso

What was probably one of the most enlightening experiences yet in my tenure with Kinesso was the collaboration as a mentor in TheEngine+ Program.  Enlightening, as I had the great pleasure of meeting team members that I may not have been exposed to, who’s enthusiasm and energy for their idea was met with thoughtful business practicality in an area that felt somewhat foreign to me. That inspiration fueled the weeks that followed on the journey to the final presentation. I very much enjoyed the team dynamic and if anything, envied their position of living the hustle of a good idea.  

So, beyond it being an innovative process, TheEngine+ also fostered the inventive nature of curiosity and promise. Curiosity in who can help them tell their story, curiosity in meeting other agencies and leaders who can support their idea development and the promise that they were really onto something strong with each conversation, each slide made for the presentation.  Which together, curiosity and promise, really moved the team to not only see their idea to the end but inspired new off-shoots for the next time around with my discipline team members. I think what the program has to offer is that the fire that we fuel within our teams through TheEngine+ program will keep us constantly pushing the innovation horizon line with ideas that clients love.

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