Innovation isn’t something reserved for Tesla and Google—it’s happening right in your backyard (relatively speaking). Michigan organizations are finding new ways to foster innovation within their companies, and they’re showing that it doesn’t matter how many beanbag chairs and ping pong tables you have—it’s about people, and bringing out the best in them. Check out these 3 companies, fostering innovation in unique ways.

Menlo Innovations

Pair Programming
Menlo Innovations is a software company based out of Ann Arbor, and they’re known for joyful company culture—their CEO Richard Sheridan literally wrote the book on it. Sheridan took software programming—usually a solitary occupation, and instead created a workplace built entirely on collaboration. Pair programming puts Menlo’s employees into pairs, who share a single workstation, but Sheridan put a spin on it—every Monday morning, those pairs switch and each employee is matched with a new partner.

By matching employees with a partner, it creates a dynamic where they can challenge one another, and their Monday rotation jumpstarts the creativity that will take place. Gallup research shows that an effective employee seating plan can generate up to a 15% increase in organizational performance. Menlo’s seating plan rotation has earned them recognition from Inc Magazine, Forbes, and by Sheridan’s measure, Menlo is now “ten times more productive than traditional software teams.”


Recognition Platform
GTB is an international marketing firm based out of Detroit, employing over 3,500 people. With a workforce of that size, they needed something unique to increase engagement and mindfulness, so they implemented a recognition platform to keep the team engaged on an individual level. YouEarnedIt is a web app that serves as a hub for employees to give kudos for a job well done, and it solves a deeper engagement problem that many companies face—no formal place to give recognition.

YouEarnedIt keeps recognition in a single visible place, encouraging engagement and positive culture. It also makes it easier for under-the-radar employees to engage with the rest of the team. A Cox School of Business study shows that improving culture can increase retention and “revenues coming from innovation by as much as 10 to 15 percent.” GTB has since hit 83% employee engagement with YouEarnedIt, and their positive culture won GTB the Positive Business Project grand prize in 2015.

Greenleaf Hospitality Group

Innovation Workshop
Greenleaf Hospitality Group (GHG) is a hospitality management company which oversees several businesses throughout West Michigan. To simplify the planning of major strategic initiatives, bring their teams together, and earn full-organization buy-in, they started using a tool called an “Innovation Workshop”, which brings together members from different departments and roles to weigh-in on strategies as a team.

Goals, pain points, and solutions are discussed and collected, and proposed solutions are put to a vote. The Innovative Workshop improves collaboration and gives a voice to people who might not otherwise be heard. GHG accomplished some of “the best projects they’ve ever done” as a result of their first Innovation Workshop, and since then they’ve applied this mindset to other initiatives.

These three companies have one element in common—they’re encouraging innovation by bringing people together, to bring out each other’s best qualities. Rewarding creativity, encouraging collaboration, and cultivating team buy-in, is how innovation thrives within these teams. Your company can be a home for innovation too. Read this post for 3 tactics to drive your team’s innovation.