In HP Labs, we’re always looking for opportunities to get our technologies into our businesses and into our customers’ hands. One goal of industrial research is to have business impact, and we are always looking for ways to achieve it. This requires you to understand your customers’ needs, understand our businesses’ needs, develop technologies that satisfies those needs, and do whatever it takes to get the technologies from the lab to the customer through the business.
Is this hard? Yes. Is it a lot of work? Yes. Is it hard to do it in a big company? Yes. Is it worth doing in a big company? Yes. Why? Because once you get an idea rolling in a big company, you get the big company’s machinery working to amplify your idea in ways that you never imagined.
What does it mean to have a big company’s machinery amplifying your idea? Imagine having a business unit R&D team developing your idea. Imagine having a world-wide sales team selling your idea. Imagine having a world-wide solutions team deploying your idea around the world. Imagine having Q&A, customer support, and services teams supporting your idea. Imagine having a CEO, vice presidents, business unit general managers, and CTOs pushing your idea. Pretty cool, eh?
If you do manage to get a big company’s machinery rolling around your idea, your idea is no longer just your idea. All the people who have touched it along the way have added their ideas and helped grow it into something bigger. As a result, your little idea grows in ways you never imagined!
The vision is commendable, but how do you get a big company’s machinery rolling around your idea?
There are many ways to kickstart an idea in a company, and I’ll discuss them over time. But for now I want to talk about a new program that we have in HP. Alexei Oreskovic wrote the story Inside H-P’s Idea Incubator on TheStreet.com.
HP has created the Innovation Program Office (IPO) for bringing new ideas to market. The IPO is designed and run by Phil McKinney, the CTO of our Personal Systems Group and the creator of the Killer Innovations podcast. As you can guess, the IPO embodies many of the ideas that Phil discusses in his podcasts.
Many companies have incubation programs, and these programs may be done well or done poorly. While the HP IPO program will continue to evolve as its first projects go through it, it has a number of very interesting properties that I believe will make it a success. Here they are:
- It accepts ideas from anyone.
- Each idea requires a business sponsor to be accepted.
- Each idea requires a champion to drive it through.
- It sets clear goals and milestones.
- It provides sufficient resources. Not too little and not too much.
- It moves FAST! Once a project idea gets accepted, it rips through at record speed, getting resources to develop it along with milestones and goals that it has to achieve at each stage.
- It makes tough YES/NO decisions. Along with the resources come speedy checkpoints where a YES/NO decision can be made to progress to the next stage. And, no means NO.
- It makes bets. The YES/NO decision allows it to make bets. The IPO can’t peanut butter its resources around lots of little projects, rather, it has to make bets and provide enough resources to let the chosen projects fly.
- It remains lean. It can’t under-invest, as it needs to be able to make a few big-enough wins. It also can’t over-invest to risk making upper management lose patience and cut it before it bears its fruit. The speed, clear goals and milestones, appropriate resource level, and tough YES/NO decisions also help it stay lean and resource projects appropriately.
So far, it is looking like the IPO will be a terrific outlet for HP Labs technologies! We have a few HP Labs projects going through the IPO right now. Our researchers are fired up and working hard with our business folks to do whatever it takes to make these projects a success. I’ll keep you posted as we progress.
This is one way to get HP’s machinery rolling around our ideas!
Phil- Thanks for creating the HP IPO!
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