Viewing entries tagged with 'innovation'
NOTE: This article is from the foreword to the new 2nd Edition of The Art of Scalability by Marty Abbott and Michael Fisher. I’m reprinting it here because quite a few people have written me asking how to get their old-style company to start behaving more like a modern technology-powered business.
One of the most significant changes in how we do product today is our use of analytics. Any capable product leader today is expected to be comfortable with data, and understand how to leverage analytics to learn and improve quickly.
Normally I like to keep my newsletters to discussions of organization, process and best practices that I believe apply to nearly all technology companies, and I limit the number of product-specific techniques I discuss because of that. I save the product-specific techniques for my direct work with companies so that I can be sure it's relevant.
Measuring innovation is a popular topic lately. Many product teams use Product Scorecards to keep their focus on outcomes rather than output. Eric Ries introduced the term “Innovation Accounting” for this purpose as well.
I don’t think there has ever been a better time to be a product person than right now. In fact, I’m fully expecting the decade about to begin to be far and away the most productive in terms of innovation.
Last week I ran into two different software technology companies (neither in Silicon Valley) that had just recently brought in Six Sigma consultants. This caught me by surprise because it¹s been a very long time since I heard of a technology company even considering this. I'm hoping this was an anomaly, but in the spirit of "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," I thought it's important to discuss quality-centric methodologies like Six Sigma.
In the last article, we discussed techniques for getting stuff done in a large company. Now I’d like to talk about the related problem of innovating in a large company.
You can read about technology breakthroughs in the green tech space nearly every day now, but my favorite has been watching the guys at Xerox PARC turn their expertise in electronics, materials science, printed circuit board technology and systems software towards the green technology market. We all owe a much greater debt to these guys than most people realize (especially if you’re reading this on a Mac or even using a mouse), but they’ve come up with some very innovative approaches to solar energy that could redefine how we generate power (check out concentrator photovoltaics). Another example is in solid-state lighting; did you realize that 22 percent of electricity produced in the US is used for lighting purposes, and that solid state lighting technology can cut this in half or more?
Silicon Valley is all about creating products, and I would argue that no company in history has done that better than HP. HP had an absolutely unmatched record of consistent product innovation in a wide range of markets. That’s why they’ve personified Silicon Valley better than anyone else. Many companies, even large successful companies like IBM and Oracle, are essentially one-product companies – they ride the wave of their big product for decades, but essentially they don’t innovate past that. But Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were able to create a company that was unique in that they created a culture and mechanism for breeding new products and new businesses. HP has created literally thousands of breakthrough products in its history. I know of no other company in the world today or in the past that has managed to do this. Even more important for this valley, HP spawned hundreds of other Silicon Valley companies.
The other day I was doing an interview with a member of the press having to do with the future of Silicon Valley, and I was asked the question: “Do you think there are any good opportunities left?” It took me a minute to realize that he meant this as a serious question. The whole concept seems so foreign to me especially since I personally see more opportunity now than I have ever seen before.