How do you take 31,000 ideas and give them the care they deserve? If you’re AT&T, you create a team of “innovation champions” to bring the best ideas to life.

When AT&T started The Innovation Pipeline (TIP) program in 2009 to collect thinking from its employees, they didn’t expect to be flooded with so many ideas. Today, TIP has more than 130,000 members from all 50 states and 54 countries.

Enter a partnership between AT&T’s Talent Development HR program and TIP to create an internal consultant position. This employee could shepherd ideas through all the necessary stages to land in one of AT&T’s business units for development.

Similar to the process in a start-up, TIP Champions act as mini-CEOs. They create business plans and use their wisdom and experience to launch ideas into new products or services. This happens through earning funding from a group of AT&T executives who act as venture capitalists.

Today there are more than 20 TIP Champions who work on moving projects from concept to reality. A noble responsibility at AT&T, TIP Champions are hand-picked to work on these projects outside of their normal “day jobs.”

Alice Ham, Lead of Strategy and Capital Planning at AT&T, was tapped as a TIP Champion to help lead the development of SmartMic. This technology makes it possible for people to use their smartphone as a wireless microphone and polling system. Ham gathered support for the idea and was able to land the project for use inside AT&T. She is working toward bringing SmartMic to consumers.

“As a TIP Champion, you have to think about what kind of next great ideas might be helpful for our customers and business. Then you make those ideas a reality,” Ham said. “It makes me proud to work for a company that challenges its employees to bring innovation to life.”

Innovation is more than just coming up with a great idea. What is your role in the process?

Alice Ham, Lead of Strategy and Capital Planning at AT&T, talks about her role as a TIP Champion for SmartMic