November 16, 2005 SDF Innovation

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The Foundation of Innovation
By DJ Cline

On Wednesday, November 16, 2005, SDForum held a special event on the Foundation of Innovation at SAP’s Palo Alto headquarters. The goal was to show how innovators interact closely and better understand customer problems to create profitable solutions.

The Workshop

Luke Hohmann of Enthiosys held an innovation workshop where total strangers were assembled in teams to brainstorm new products with cardboard boxes, markers and glue. Drawing on the table covered with large piece of paper was mandatory. The process is certainly fun and will be described in a book coming out next year. Watching just the process itself would make a great reality show. One idea was the iDream, a clock radio that lets you choose, download and display your dreams.

The Panel Discussion

Michael Copeland of Business 2.0 moderated a panel on innovation with
Brett Murray of Apple, Matt Halloway of SAP, and Tom Kippola of Chasm Group.
All agreed a corporate culture of shared vision encourages innovation and execution.

Brett Murray said Apple learns from the frustrations of customers and how to create a positive, seamless experience. Get the product out there and find out what improvements they want for future releases. Steve Jobs provides the leadership that drives that process.

Matt Halloway said SAP thinks the end user has to see the value of the innovation. SAP engineers actually interact with users and learn about the complexity of process a user has to deal with. Watch what customers do, not just what they say and quickly act on that feedback.

Tom Kippola of Chasm Group said Silicon Valley is very good at finding uses for disruptive technologies that may have no previous context. He quoted Henry Ford who said, “If I asked them what they wanted, they would have asked for faster horses.”
He gave an example of a corporate campus Wi-Fi network that had better applications for police or fire departments.

The Keynote

Bob Sutton, Stanford professor and IDEO Fellow, talked about ideas from his book, Weird Ideas That Work. He said innovation does not travel in a straight line, and requires new ways of thinking to bring products to market. Getting the right people for innovation contradicts traditional management principles. Human resource professionals are trained to screen out or drive out such people. Innovators are slow to learn the way your company does things. They make you uncomfortable. You think you don’t need them. They ignore or defy their bosses. Talented people argue constructively with fellow employees and develop better ideas. You cannot innovate without the risk of failure. Reward people for success and failure, but punish them for inaction. These strategies may destroy some companies, but if they don’t implement them, they are going to be destroyed by a competitor that can innovate.

DJ Cline
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.