Category Archives: Innovation

IT growth and global change: Ray Kurzweil interview – McKinsey Quarterly – Strategy – Innovation

IT growth and global change: Ray Kurzweil interview – McKinsey Quarterly – Strategy – Innovation.

Utopia or dystopia? Vision or tomorrow’s reality? Time will tell how much of a visionary Ray Kurzweil was but I did not hear in everything he said something that seemed science fiction or extra-terrestrial to me. One thing is sure, technology is indeed progressing at an exponential pace rather than a linear one. Some will perceive it clearly as a threat when others will see opportunities for a better tomorrow. Again all a matter of perspective and opinion. But in reality, we are in the driver seat (who else would be?), we can decide where and how to apply technological innovation in order to solve mankind problems.

What does it take to innovate?

This short video by IMD Professor of Marketing, Sutart Read is a good reminder that most innovations occured unexpectedly, as a surprise to some extent, while people were actually trying to find something else.  Examples of that abound in history and Professor Read shows several of them.

There is a beautiful English word to describe that, it is “serendipity”. Interestingly enough, this word has no equivalent in most foreign languages , French included. Serendipity is this whole notion that innovation cannot be ordered and commanded, it has its own ways and will very often appear where you expect it less…

As a result, we shall expect that very narrowly focused innovation programs will not yield in most cases the expected returns  because people are just too focused on a single goal. Reversely, you can embrace serendipity in the Google way by giving freedom to all employees to spend 20% of their time on whatever project they are interested in.

Gardeners and farmers got it a long time ago: there are things that can’t be forced, no matter how much fertilizer or whatever you put in the ground, it will take what it takes for the plant or the corn to germinate and grow. Innovation is not different from agriculture:  it can only emerge with care and time.

In our fast-paced world where business results must be immediate and focus is the key, maybe another way to innovation will be to relearn patience and curiosity?

Who’s the boss in an open world by Bob Sutton

Here is a refreshing excerpt from an interview of Bob Sutton, Professor of Management at Stanford University.

The part that I did enjoy most is the end of it where he shares with us the unique challenges that the CEO of Mozilla has to face by running a business, which only exists because there is an open community of Software developers that is committed to it. Interestingly enough, even though he is the CEO, he has no authority on the new features that will be added to its Firefox web browser. How does he live with it? Well.. actually very well, because he has understood and accepted that this software development effort is led by people, who are so much more knowledgeable than himself in that particular area that it is actually a safe bet to delegate the ultimate decision to them…

Wow, that’s a profound leadership lesson, the kind of we would like to see more often !

An internal market as a source of innovation

Here is an idea that I would like to see implemented more often in large corporations. A lot of start-ups exist because entrepreneurs get access to funds through venture capitalists. This relationship between entrepreneurs and venture capitalists works like a market. So what if we applied these principals to innovation and entrepreneurship within a large corporation?

In other words, innovators and entrepreneurs would present their ideas and projects to an internal market, that would be ready to place bets on some of them. Within a large corporation, who has the money? Business Unit General Managers so these guys are the ones, who would act as “internal venture capitalists”. Rather than  spending their R&D $ on projects coming from the labs, they would have access to a much broader scope of projects and ideas that they may be interested in pursuing further.

Remembering an article I came across some time ago that was showing that a large group of people is more likely to make more accurate future predictions than a panel of experts, we could even imagine that the project selection process is not the privilege of the GM’s and their direct staff any longer but is actually opened to all employees.

I’m wondering what kind of innovation and entrepreneurship would emerge within a large corporation if they implemented a model like this one…