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4 secrets for fostering an innovative workplace

Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Human Resources Officer reveals how the organization stays forward-thinking after 133 years in business, garnering it a spot on Fast Company‘s inaugural Best Workplaces for Innovators list.

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For more than 130 years, Johnson & Johnson has been at the forefront of delivering life-changing healthcare products that meet the evolving needs of the more than one billion people we touch each and every day. These include such inventions as antiseptic surgical sutures way back in 1887 to, more recently, the launch of ACUVUE® OASYS with Transitions™ Light Intelligent Technology.

How do we do it?

A key to our success is fostering a culture where employees are empowered and inspired to find new ways to eradicate and prevent disease, reimagine care delivery and promote lifelong health for the patients and consumers we serve. Simply put, innovation is crucial to our ability to adapt to the rapidly changing healthcare landscape.

I’m incredibly proud of our recent recognition by Fast Company as one of the 50 best workplaces for innovators—and to share the top four ways we enable innovation to thrive across every aspect of our business.


We foster an innovative mindset at every level.

As our Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels, M.D., likes to say, “You take the risk. I’ll take the blame.”

JLABS @ Shanghai

JLABS @ Shanghai, one of eight JLABS locations worldwide

From our most senior executives to employees just starting out in their careers, having an innovative mindset is imperative. Our core set of leadership behaviors that define expectations for all employees underscore the importance of inspiring those around you to contribute ideas that challenge thinking, and to have the courage to test and learn, while demonstrating agility to drive and adapt to change.

Working in healthcare, our employees know that people around the world are waiting—sometimes for lifesaving and life-changing innovations—and we have no time to lose in bringing them to those in need. That means innovating in every part of our company, whether it’s a trial designer securing the participation of a diverse and representative patient population in our clinical trials, or a supply chain engineer discovering a faster and safer way to deliver our products to the consumer.

This is about more than just investing in research and development. It’s about maintaining a culture and an operating model that allows our employees to experiment and have a strong sense of ownership and agility, and an engagement model that encourages partnerships and collaboration with others, both inside and outside of Johnson & Johnson.

For example, through our Johnson & Johnson Innovation Centers, we provide resources, financial support and global regulatory know-how to scientists, entrepreneurs and emerging companies working in areas of unmet medical need similar to those we’re pursuing, to help us all advance the science of tomorrow. Through JLABS, our healthcare start-up incubator model, we invite external partners with new perspectives to participate in QuickFire Challenges designed to crowdsource thinking around some of the biggest healthcare challenges, like maternal and newborn health.


We believe inclusion drives innovation.

Understanding the needs of the patients, doctors and nurses, mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services relies on cultivating a workforce that reflects this diversity, enabling individuals to come together to challenge thinking. In order to truly unlock innovation and collaboration, employees must feel comfortable bringing their whole selves to work every day and feel confident that their ideas will be heard.

Johnson & Johnson employees at a Pride march in Brussels, Belgium

Johnson & Johnson employees at a Pride march in Brussels, Belgium

In a recent internal study, we found that Johnson & Johnson employees who feel included at work are 140% more likely to perceive a culture of innovation around them, which we see as critical to encouraging participation at every level.

Our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are one powerful tool we use to help empower our people to expand their inventive capacity and confidence.

From Alliance for Diverse Abilities, which works to create an enabling culture for people of all abilities, to Women’s Leadership & Inclusion, which works toward achieving gender equality across our businesses globally, our ERGs not only contribute to the feeling of inclusion and belonging at Johnson & Johnson, but also enhance our competitive advantage and fuel the future of human health.

When tackling the world’s toughest healthcare challenges, those directly affected by a problem must be at the forefront of designing its solution. In sub-Saharan Africa, we’ve been collaborating with adolescent girls and local governments to reduce the number of new HIV infections in young women.


We include those who will benefit from our innovations in the problem-solving process.

Johnson & Johnson Worldwide Chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky meets with DREAMS participants in South Africa

Johnson & Johnson Worldwide Chairman and CEO Alex Gorsky meets with DREAMS participants in South Africa

We’ve found that when tackling some of the world’s toughest healthcare challenges, those directly affected by a problem must be at the forefront of designing its solution.

We took this approach in sub-Saharan Africa with a partnership called DREAMS, which aims to address the structural drivers that directly and indirectly increase girls’ HIV risk there, including poverty, gender inequality, sexual violence and lack of education.

Through the partnership, we’ve been collaborating with adolescent girls and local governments, using strategies based on their real-world experiences and ideas to reduce the annual number of new HIV infections in young women across the region.


We encourage employees to gain a breadth of experience at Johnson & Johnson—and beyond.

Inset- 4 Secrets for Fostering an Innovative Workplace- Talent for Good fast company

Employee Veronica Baltazar (left) with a Guatamalan medical worker during a Talent for Good program

Innovation is a long-term commitment that is nurtured in everything we do—including investing in our employees.

We offer a number of programs that allow them to expand their horizons and hone their skills, whether they’re moving cross-functionally or geographically within the company to gain new experience in different work roles or volunteering outside the walls of Johnson & Johnson.

One example of this is our Talent for Good programs, which allow people to take paid leave to make a positive impact and gain new perspectives in their communities and around the world.

Innovation Through Collaboration

Johnson & Johnson Innovation works every day to help entrepreneurs around the world realize their dreams of creating life-changing healthcare solutions.

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