I have had the great pleasure of attending the World Innovation Forum (WIF) in New York City the last two years. Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend the event this year (be sure to watch #wif11 on Twitter and follow the bloggers on June 7-8), as I will be in Las Vegas for HP Discover. At the HP event, I’m expecting a good dose of tech, good interaction with bloggers and I am very excited that Paul McCartney is the musical guest. HP’s history is tightly tied to innovation and they have also brought in Don Tapscott as one of the keynote speakers (I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Don twice before: at the first EMC Innovation Conference and also at BIF-6). Most companies list being innovative as a top goal, but after listening to thought leaders at previous World Innovation Forum and World Business Forum conferences, the question that arose was can large corporations innovate?
Two of WIF’s speakers that I have seen before give good insight into this question. Clay Christensen is one of the foremost experts on business innovation, and his books are a must-read for anyone in tech. Christensen’s material shows how companies can fail to take advantage of new innovations and find themselves disrupted by startups. Even when companies are aware of the new waves that are coming, the commitment to existing customers and inertia of legacy processes will cause most companies to fail to change as needed as the market demands. One of the most powerful weapons that a company can leverage is the passion of its people; this is the message that WIF participants can expect to hear from Tony Hsieh of Zappos. Tony has a powerful message (and excellent book) of how companies can deliver happiness to customers and employees. I tend to agree with a note that I saw on Twitter recently that said: companies can’t innovate, but they can get out of the way of employees who can.
My friend and former colleague, Steve Todd’s second book, Innovate with Global Influence, continues the discussion of how to be a corporate intrapreneur (see my write-up of his first book). Steve draws on teachings of Vijay Govindarajan, Gary Hamel and Daniel Pink (Steve and I saw Vijay and Gary at previous HSM events, Daniel Pink is at WIF11) to give a framework as to how employees can innovate, delivering results and working with teams around the globe. Steve readily admits that there is strong pressure by management to stay in Vijay’s Box 1 (Managing the Present, which is incremental improvements). Steve encourages employees to deliver on their commitments so that they can move to the journey of innovation in Box 2 (Selectively Abandon the Past) and Box 3 (Create the Future). One of my favorite parts of Steve’s approach is that he recommends indoctrinating new employees immediately in the innovation process. Employees who feel empowered to be innovative and who can be connected with a broad community with similar passions are more likely to be excited and happy with their work. I recommend Steve’s book to anyone who wants to grab some of the power of innovation and help make sure that your company doesn’t stop the passion of its workers.
There are plenty of ways to get a dose of innovation, whether it is hearing an inspiring speaker at a conference, reading a book or blog that makes you think or watching a video; the TED website and iPad app alone can keep you busy for a long time. What have you read or watched that has inspired you?
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Innovate with Global Influence, but am under no obligation to write about it.