We have the great ideas, now what?

Was reflecting on the second MIT Sloan Management Review article that I read, “Oops! Accidents lead to innovations. So, how do you create more accidents????”

This article is all about opportunity generation, stimulating creativity, etc. It highlights Xerox PARC. ..and suggests that corporations “keep PARC of the early 1970’s in mind as they consider the ideas that emerge unexpectedly.”

I would caution that  PARC contributed very little to Xerox’s growth. Is the issue really getting great ideas (i.e. Grabbing the Lightning)…or what to do with them once you’ve got ‘em????

2 responses to “We have the great ideas, now what?

  1. Gina,

    Are you talking smack about my crew here in Webster???

    Just kidding. You are especially correct to caution anyone who would look at the what Xerox is now as a successful model for innovation. In a intern-manager pep-rally for all the Xerox summer interns I was given the opportunity to ask Xerox’s CEO Anne Mulcahy an interesting question. It went something like this (not quite as articulate):

    You have used the term ‘innovation’ very liberally in your speech today, referring to Xerox’s ‘innovative culture’ and to the many ‘innovations’ that Xerox is bringing to market right now. As an intern in the Production Color Launch Team I see a lot of incremental innovations that build upon previous product platforms adding features and improving performance. What kinds of radical innovations is Xerox engaged in and what is Xerox doing that is radically different than its competitors

    The answer I got was quite painful.

    The initial response was:

    “Well, Color is still growing!”

    Which invoked laughter from about 75% of the crowd which consisted of interns and their managers. So which portion of the crowd do you think found this not quite so funny? Surprise! How about small percentage of us who weren’t getting a bonus next quarter because ‘color is still growing’.

    They all laughed in unison as if to say, “Silly little intern, Trix are for kids! Duh! Color is still growing!”

    Rather than snap back at her with, “HA, and SUV’s sales were growing 5 years ago!” I played politics and began to bite down hard on my tongue while she continued on, realizing from my glare that I was not satisfied with that answer.

    What do you think she mentioned next as the ‘radical innovations’ that Xerox was currently engaged in? HOW ABOUT RE-USABLE PAPER!!! HAHA!!!

    So I grinned, nodded…and sat back down with a mouthful of blood.

    How’d I do? B+? Hehe

  2. Bell labs during the 1950 & 60 produced incredible waste in R&D dollars for the returns they generated. Again, as Dr. Conner mentioned un-controlled idea generation, will produce many idea may be totally outside of the strategic capabilities and strategic interest of the host company.
    Applying a serendipitous idea generation strategy is very difficult and should be highly structured so that the ideas being generated fall within the companies interest.
    Brian Glassman
    Ph.D Candidate in Innovation Management at Purdue University

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