Premier 100 IT Leader: Garry Lyons

Hiring an R&D team that knew nothing about the business sparked disruptive ideas

When MasterCard WorldWide's chief innovation officer, Garry Lyons, launched MasterCard Labs two years ago, his approach to hiring was anything but conventional. Lyons began by recruiting talented people who didn't know anything about the payments processing business. "If you know too much about a particular domain, you end up saying 'that won't work' or incrementally improving something." And that, Lyons says, won't lead to the kind of innovations that bring disruptive change to the business. "Our goal is to get next-generation payment solutions into the market faster and cheaper than ever before," he adds.

Garry Lyons

Starting with a clean slate and the support of management at the Purchase, N.Y.-based company, Lyons looked for ways to bring innovations from the 50-person research and development lab to production. Among other things, he created Innovation Express, a program in which teams of people with a variety of skills from across the company are given a challenge to solve while they're sequestered in a hotel for 48 hours. "We expect them to come out with a prototype, a go-to-market plan and a video demonstration of what they created," he says.

"There were lots of reasons for people like me to say why this would never work," says Rob Reeg, president of MasterCard Technologies and Operations, one of Lyons' two bosses. "But Garry had the perseverance and vision to [make it a reality]."

Lyons takes an outside-in view and thinks about how to be faster to market. "He is an entrepreneur at his core, and his management style reflects that," says Reeg. "His ability to think outside the box and help the people who work for him think outside the box is key."

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