A Garage Structure for Big Ideas | The Garage Group

A Garage Structure for Big Ideas

We’re always on the lookout for case studies of established organizations driving sustained growth, inspired by entrepreneurship. Leatherman Tool Group’s FreeRangePDX division definitely fits that criteria. FreeRangePDX is a separate team in a “garage” taking a new approach to product ideation and development. Here are a few things we can learn:

1) The team is clear on where it’s playing and where it’s not playing. This level of strategic specificity gives direction and context, but leaves the team empowered to figure out the answers.

What we do
“Explore, develop, build and test new product concepts with the potential to reach $60M annual revenue to grow our companies. We generate new product ideas internally and attract outside entrepreneurs to help facilitate the development of their ideas. The products and ideas that we explore must support the mission statements of our brands.”

What we don’t do:
“Contract design work…We only support Leatherman Tool Group and their family of brands (LED Lenser and Leatherman).
Work on flashlights and multi-tools…We don’t develop ideas for new features on, or mixes of current features on multi-tools, knives, flashlights or headlamps. Those should be sent to LED Lenser or Leatherman.”

Here are a few questions to consider:
– How clear are you on the types and sizes of ideas you’re looking for?
– Do you have clarity and a strong understanding of the brand/ core business mission/ purpose you’re building from?

2) The team is physically separate from the rest of the organization. This is critical as it gives the team space to envision a future portfolio of products for Leatherman without being constrained by existing boundaries.

– When trying to come up with new approaches, do you try to squeeze these efforts into the day-to-day business?  Or, do you create breathing room and freedom (with constraint) for teams to dream up the future of your business?

3) The team is open and enabled to seek input from inside and outside the company. This is a powerful statement as it activates strong entrepreneurial talent within the organization (talented people that might otherwise leave if they can’t create) and also communicates that the organization is both humble and smart enough to take contributions from talented people outside the company as well.

“If you are already an employee of LED Lenser or Leatherman, we can work a deal with your boss to get you 6 weeks away from your regular job with pay to work on your idea. In exchange for you ideas, time and effort, we can also offer you a royalty on revenue from your successful idea!”

“If you are an outside inventor/idea person with a great idea but don’t know where to start or how to take it to the next step, we can provide you help from our in-house team or hire contract services to work with you to design, make and test ideas that could become the next big thing.”

– When coming up with new ideas, how inclusive are you of potentially untapped entrepreneurial talent? When approaching significant growth goals, how open are you to answers that could come from outside the walls of your organization?

Clear, separate and open. Three approaches inspired by entrepreneurs that can enable growth in established organizations.

Images from the FreeRange PDX website.


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