Citigroup's Innovation Catalyst Model
Sparking growth systematically: How to turn innovation into a discipline
By Robert B. Tucker
Published on 2/12/2003
The innovation catalyst model
In this model, ideas don’t leave the division or business unit to be developed elsewhere-at headquarters, say, or in a skunkworks or incubator. Citigroup’s Citibank division uses the innovation catalyst model to drive organic growth and capitalize on synergies created by a string of acquisitions. The effort is led by the chief country officer, working with a full-time “innovation catalyst,” who expedites the process.
Many of the ideas come from structured ideation sessions with clients. Members of a Citibank senior team spend a day with their counterparts from a particular client. A facilitator focuses the brainstorming on present and emerging needs, marketplace changes, and customer service issues. To ensure the flow of new-product ideas, the innovation catalysts work closely with “magnet teams,” locally empowered, cross-functional groups of senior executives that regularly meet to review ideas. The catalysts don’t propose new ideas; instead they help the local managers prepare a case for their ideas.
In one Asian country, the innovation catalyst model has worked so well that the magnet team meets every week to review and prioritize ideas that have been proposed. And in Citibank’s Trinidad bank, the model was responsible for 30% of the total revenues during a recent year.