How five great corporate teams in the Fortune 500 push the envelope.
Many companies talk a big game about collaboration. We’ve found five employee groups within America’s largest corporations that have mastered the art.
Here, Matthew Nurse (squatting, right), senior director of the NSRL, has wired up distance runner and two-time Olympian Matt Tegenkamp (left) in the name of shoe-wear science. Seated left to right are Nike running researchers Birgit Unfried, Geng Luo, and Emily Farina.
Rank in Fortune 500: 106
Nike NKE has a larger share of the athletic apparel and footwear markets than any other company in the world. Its $16.2 billion in sneaker sales alone in 2014 would rank that business at No. 194 on this year’s Fortune 500. It isn’t the sort of place you reach by accident. Indeed, Nike has made a science of getting to the top—and to the rim, plate, and end zone—faster than anybody, employing more than 50 research scientists to evaluate human biomechanics, sensory perception, and performance training on everything from running shirts to basketball high-tops. The Nike Sport Research Lab (NSRL), founded in 1980, helped bring about key new technologies, including the company’s featherweight Flyknit sneakers—which can weigh 5.6 ounces for a size 9 shoe—and springy Lunarlon models. —John Kell
Rank in Fortune 500: 64
The final countdown has begun for five of Lockheed Martin’s LMT technicians. Next March the InSight Mars lander will rocket 26,000 miles an hour toward the red planet, where it will record the first-ever measurements of the planet’s interior. The core assembly, test, and launch operations team—including lead assembly and test technician Jack Farmerie (at rear) and quality-assurance technician Scott Montrull, shown here working in a clean room at Lockheed Martin Space Systems near Denver—is now immersed in the critical testing phase, which will simulate the lander’s operations in space and on the surface of Mars to prove it’s prepared for its deep-space debut. InSight, which is often considered the grandson of Viking, the first successfully completed mission to Mars, in 1976, has a narrow window in which to take off in order to catch Mars at the correct planetary position for landing—or else the mission will be delayed 26 months until its next alignment. —Laura Lorenzetti
Shown here left to right: models (and non-Kohl’s employees) Rania Benchegra, Jodie Smith, and young Gaby; photo assistant Nick Knezevich (up top, holding umbrella); stylist Melissa Comin; freelance hairstylist Sharon Giersch; photographer Lois Bielefeld; digital tech Don Grinker; and art director James O’Leary.
Rank in Fortune 500: 157
Every week nearly 40 photo teams snap more than 2,400 images at Kohl’s KSS , making the department store chain’s in-house corporate photo studio perhaps the busiest in the U.S. Each team is a mix of photographers, stylists, carpenters, art directors, production assistants, photo retouchers, makeup artists, models, and more. The result: an unending river of images that appear anywhere from in-store posters to print ads to online product descriptions. Kohl’s 100,000-square-foot photo studio, which is near its Wisconsin headquarters, boasts 35 photo bays, seven hair and makeup rooms, and an outdoor rooftop shooting space. The investment allows the retailer to exercise complete creative control over its visual execution. —Laura Lorenzetti
Rank in Fortune 500: 187
Starbucks SBUX might be the world’s java giant, but the company is trying to show off its coffee cred by going small. In December the Seattle-based operation opened a roastery and tasting room blocks away from its first store to process all of its reserve coffee—rare, small batches of beans that Starbucks sells in more than 1,000 of its 22,000 stores, or through its mail-order subscription program. In some cases supply is so limited that particular varieties can be purchased only on-site. There’s some theater involved: The team of hand-picked roasters—(from left) Marc Wanless, Joshua Read (in rear, with beard), Cameron Butcher, Susan Townsend, Casey Wolfe, Mikey Graham, and Shawn Sidey—works in full view of patrons. The Probat G120 that is pictured roasts up to 260 pounds of coffee at a time. Another machine primarily handles smaller batches that are for sale and consumption at the facility. Together the machines will process about 1.4 million pounds of coffee this year. —Beth Kowitt
Johnson & Johnson
Members of the team photographed among villagers in Kambia district in May: (from left) Hilary Bower, interim trial manager, LSHTM; Adam Hacker, global regulatory affairs leader, J&J; Caroline Maxwell, research coordinator, LSHTM; Tine De Marez, Phase 3 clinical trial project lead, J&J.
Rank in Fortune 500: 37
The Ebola outbreak that began a year ago has killed nearly 4,000 people in Sierra Leone. But in May a team of medical professionals from Johnson & Johnson JNJ , the global health care giant, arrived in the tiny African country’s hard-hit Kambia district on a hopeful mission: to ready it for a possible late-stage clinical trial of its candidate Ebola vaccine regimen. The delegation, comprising J&J employees and partners from London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), visited officials and health facilities to inventory the physical and educational resources—cold storage, vaccination clinics, culturally appropriate informational materials—needed to conduct a trial. In the works since 2008, development of J&J’s Ebola vaccine was accelerated last year; it’s now undergoing early-stage safety trials. —Erika Fry
A version of this article appears in the June 15, 2015 issue of Fortune magazine with the headline ‘Teams of the 500.‘