Advice from Leaders of Innovation


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Forbes published a word from the top ten innovators of 2011.  Not only fun to hear what they say, but also their outlook on how to continue innovating in the future.  These companies are helping define business today:

Marc Benioff,
“My job is to guide Salesforce. I can’t sit in headquarters and pretend I’m in touch. Odds are, what we’re using today will be obsolete in a few years. The past is never the ­future. But it’s easy to get caught up in the continuum.”

Nitin Paranjpe, Hindustan Unilever
“Typically, in an entrepreneur, ambition outstrips resources and that inequality forces the entrepreneur to think differently. We’ve learned to innovate by raising our ambitions and constraining our resources.”

Victor Fernandes, Natura Cosmeticos, S.A.
Victor Fernandes is the director of science and technology concepts in innovation for Brazil’s largest direct-sales cosmetics maker. “We do not innovatearound products, but around a flow or well-being experiences…Our department of innovation is made up of almost 300 people here in Brazil…biologists, pharmacists, engineers, sociologists, psychologists..We launch more than 100 new products a year.”

Robert Kotick, Activision Blizzard
“The most important thing we do to encourage innovation is give people the freedom to fail…We really spend a lot of time upfront with our audiences…toreally try and draw out from that what it is they would like to play…And if we disappoint their expectation, I think we are a very good learning organization, really digging deep into understanding why it didn’t work.”

Jeffrey Bezos, Amazon
Bezos on what he asks all job candidates: “Tell me about something that you have invented. Their invention could be on a small scale–say, a new productfeature or a process that improves the customer experience, or even a new way to load the dishwasher. But I want to know that they will try new things.”

Pradeep Sindhu, Juniper Networks
Pradeep Sindhu is a cofounder and chief technology officer of Juniper. “Most R&D innovation at Juniper happens because someone looks two to five years out and notices a potential disruption. Our culture promotes vigorous debate based on a survival-of-the-fittest philosophy–regardless of the source. QFabric is a good example. It began as a what if conversation between two engineers debating ways to solve the data center connectivity problem at a massive scale. We formally launched it to the world earlier this year.”

Howard Schultz, Starbucks
“When I returned as CEO in 2008, Starbucks had forgotten that meaningful innovations balance an organization’s heritage with modern-day relevance and market differentiation, so we had to reorient. In one brainstorming session, we visited and observed great retailers, then asked ourselves, ‘If Starbucks did not exist, what type of coffee experience would we create?”

John Freund, Inuitive Surgical
“The manufacturing cost to make the set of instruments required [for a mechanical wrist] was going to be much higher than minimally invasive surgical instruments…That was one of the many things that made the business unpalatable to VCs…So we came up with this idea of “limited reuse disposables”..[and] we figured out a way to control the number of times an instrument could be reused..That became key to our business plan.”

Robert McDonald, Procter & Gamble
“Our vision is to be the most digitally-enabled company in the world…To achieve t his we are innovating…across all major business processes: from ‘molecule to shelf’…and from ‘ideation to consumption.’ We’re getting flatter, faster and simpler. We’re creating a technology-enabled culture through which consumers, employees and business partners seamlessly collaborate and interact from anywhere and at any time. And we’re learning to operate on a demand-driven real-time, forward-looking basis every day.”

Rakesh Kapoor, Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC
“Innovation is not a process; it is more of a way of delivering on our purpose and how we do business. This means we put our customers at the center of our business and constantly ask, ‘How can we make a real difference to them at those crucial moments when our products are being put to use to clean their dishes or remove the tough stain on their favorite garment?”

Jean-Paul Agon, L’Oreal
“Year by year, we increase our [R&D] budgets, often significantly faster than our sales…[We have a] permanent dialogue between research teams, whoinvent products which consumers have never dreamed of, and marketing teams, who listen to them and constantly analyze their needs. It is the richness of this exchange that drives innovation.”

Eric Schmidt, Google
Schmidt is executive chairman of Google. “Google+ is a 500-person project inside Google, but that includes everything, like apps and photos. The teams were five to ten people building on each others’ work on common platforms. At the launch, the trick is not to get expectations too high. What you don’t want to see is the headline, ‘Facebook Killer Fails.’ We’re really trying to define [social software] in a new way.”


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