Innovating Globally With the Hub and Spoke Model
Author: Michael Parlotto
June 9, 2020

When we were developing Go Studio, we left nothing to chance. From the design and specs to the staff and oversight, we made sure to fine-tune the studio to meet our mission: solving our clients’ problems and consumer challenges using breakthrough technology. This attention to detail included the process flow for Go Studio’s intake and output; to ensure we meet the varied needs of our internal departments as well as our partners and their customers, we’ve adopted a hub-and-spoke model to guide our ideation and innovation.

The Model

If you’ve ever made a connecting flight, you’re familiar with this model. It began as a transportation model, cutting the costs of sending half-full planes directly between small markets by centralizing passengers from low-traffic airports at a primary hub before sending the maximum planeload of flyers to their final destination. Delta Airlines is credited with introducing this approach to air travel (fittingly, Atlanta became Delta’s central hub in 1955). The model was later adopted by shipping and logistics companies as a distribution paradigm in the 1970s, as a new industry realized the benefits of consolidating shipments and keeping payload in constant motion, resulting in faster, more efficient routing and increased consistency.

InComm has long incorporated elements of the model in its processes; since we began expanding in the late 90s, it’s how we’ve managed to stay connected across regions and continents. Our emerging technology team and company leaders have been hubs themselves, staying connected across business units and attentive to partners. Whether it’s managing rollouts of new technology or services across the globe or staying abreast of partner’s needs and challenges wherever and whenever they arise, our Atlanta headquarters (or specific departments therein) serve as the hub in these cases, with communication and information relayed through spokes to near and distant employees and partners. With Go Studio, we have the chance to apply the hub-and-spoke model more directly, to enhance it and maximize our opportunities to innovate.

It’s not a hard concept to visualize; picture the spokes lacing off from the center of bicycle’s wheel. Or, even easier, see the examples below:

Our Application

For our purposes, Go Studio will now be the hub of innovation and emerging technology at InComm. Using this model, we’ll foster collaboration more effectively than ever before. Our spokes will vary. We’ll take challenges from partners, as we always have. We’ll experiment at the forefront of emerging tech, seeking application at the advent of new technologies. And we’ll continue pursuing internal ideas with a new platform, Crowdicity, which will allow any InComm employee to submit an idea online. To assist them, we’ve appointed Innovation Ambassadors to guide development and submission, making sure that employees with any level of experience and expertise have an opportunity to be heard. In addition, we’ll work with university systems, seeking opinions, ideas, and feedback from bright minds at the forefront of their fields. All roads lead to our central hub; instead of individually connecting ideas and challenges to various teams across our global enterprise and facilitating development from afar, we’ll streamline everything emerging tech-related through Go Studio and its expert staff, enabling faster, more refined approaches to building budding ideas into demonstrable results.

This array of incoming spokes will fuel our work in the studio (and the space will be physically accessible to originators of these ideas, not just their brainchildren). With this approach, the Studio will be logically accessible to constituents around the world, and the solutions and services we develop will “ship” out to partners or internal teams, where they’ll be applied, refined, and developed for market. In this way, the studio will be a conduit for innovation, with our output ultimately reaching consumers across the globe. This model allows us to remain adaptive; the Studio won’t be turning out refined products but rather research or insights, solutions, prototypes or proofs-of-concept – the outlines and skeletons empowering commercialized innovative breakthroughs – and they’ll go where they’re needed, whether to an in-house department, a worldwide retailer, or a consumer’s smartphone. Our physical workspace may be in Atlanta, but Go Studio won’t be tied down to any one location.

What We Gain

The primary benefits of this model will be inclusion and diversity. Sustained innovation is difficult for any company, because breakthroughs tend to come as the culmination of small steps versus sudden leaps and bounds, and from divergent knowledge versus narrow, linear paths. Without a dedicated focus on innovation and a system to ensure inclusion of diverse individuals and ideas in the process, innovation can falter, and great ideas can get left on the cutting room floor, or even unseeded, never to sprout.

InComm has long been committed to a diverse workforce. To truly harness our potential, our focus will be on innovation inclusion – products and services we develop should reach all consumers, not just those with the means to stay synced up with the latest high-end gadgets and tech. To achieve that, we’re prioritizing wholesale diversity of opinion, background, expertise and experience to be reflected in ideation – after all, our goal is customer-centric solutions, and the diversity of our partners’ global customer bases should be reflected – and we want those ideas to be readily shareable.

This means connections across departments and regions, for all of our employees. It means aligning merchants and university students with employees, all listening to consumers’ voices and brainstorming together. This is the biggest strength of our hub-and-spoke model; a tiny spark from anyone, anywhere has the chance flourish, and voices are encouraged to make themselves heard. Our Ambassadors will be accessible in every region, and whether the idea or challenge comes from an employee, an intern, or a constituent, it can be nurtured, refined, and moved forward to the Studio. Our internal diversity is already fostering creativity; we’re just making sure our process flow results in a straightforward path to success.

Don’t think we’re married to the physical model, either. While we’re extremely proud of the space we’ve built, we understand some solutions will require onsite experience and application at remote locations. That’s why Go Studio will be mobile – whenever necessary, our experts will take their know-how on the road, either problem-solving remotely or traveling to partner locations, InComm satellite offices or other workspaces around the world. Sometimes seeing is believing, and we may need to know more about the environments and marketplaces we’re solving for to make sure the solutions meet the needs of consumers, wherever they may be. That’s fine with us, our bags are packed.

From the Central Hub

The Go Studio venture, combined with the Crowdicity intake model and our Ambassador program, have us anticipating big things in the future. With 2,000+ employees, a presence in 34 countries, and over 1,000 brand partners globally, we possess the diversity of backgrounds and knowledge to develop a multitude of tech-based solutions. And for us, innovation won’t just mean the latest and greatest in sparkling-but-hollow “Oohs and Aahs” technology. It will mean customer-centric solutions that have real application solving retailer and consumer challenges, heightening financial inclusion, and improving the consumer experience beyond the payments industry.

We’re taking input from everywhere, and we’re always on the search for collaborators. If you have a challenge we can address, or an idea we can help you flesh out, reach out to the studio to start getting involved – and involving us in the solution. Go Studio is just the latest in a legacy of innovation at InComm, and our partnerships will help take us further than we’ve ever been. Because when the end goal is inclusive innovation, there’s no such thing as too many spokes.

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