Innovation Tips from Industry Trailblazers

Matt Harvey, Stanford University August 3, 2011

Innovation sure is popular these days. But saying the word innovation again and again is not enough to make it happen. How can you create and sustain innovation within an organization? How do you encourage an innovative spirit within a group of employees or an entire corporate culture?

We suggest learning from those who have traveled the path and made it happen. This is a guiding principle behind Stanford University’s Entrepreneurship Corner, or ECorner. This free, online collection of over 2,000 entrepreneurship-related videos and podcasts shares the stories of innovators who have changed the world, and who have led the companies who continue to make a global impact.

We’re so proud of this resource, it even inspired us to kick things of a notch by launching a center to create a nation of entrepreneurial engineers. This will hopefully lead to empowering the next wave of American innovation. Here are video clips from three individuals who have made innovation happen. Enjoy.

Technology Innovation Versus Business Innovation

According to Larry Page, co-founder and CEO of Google, not many companies are innovators in both technology and business. In order to be successful in technical innovation, says Page, you also must understand the business and marketing sides of the equation.

Page also explains that “As you get more and more people working on one thing, it becomes harder and harder for them to be innovative.” He even admits seeing this problem at Google, which at the time of this lecture had almost 400 employees. Today, Google’s headcount is approaching 30,000 employees. This video contains valuable insights for a young startup.

Don’t Take Innovation for Granted

Not only does innovation drive the economy, says JLABS CEO Judy Estrin, but it influences the very quality of our day-to-day life. In the following video clip, Estrin explains how innovations need decades of institutional push and resources behind them to develop.

Estrin also asserts that we have become too shortsighted and more risk averse when it comes to developing new technology, and that this cultural shift away from innovative breeding grounds is to our own long-term detriment.

Never Stop Spending on Innovation

Symantec Chairman John Thompson states a company must never stop spending on innovation, even in challenging times. Early in his tenure as the company’s CEO, Symantec’s customers had no way to measure the effectiveness of the security technology they deployed. To make things worse, Thompson states Symantec was going through a challenging period during that time.

However, Thompson and the management team remained committed to innovation by applying a sizable share of revenue to developing a wave of products and technologies that addressed customers’ needs. This strategy is an example of Geoffrey Moore’s explanation of why product teams hold the power within an organization. The strategy paid off and Symantec’s new portfolio would become, Thomspon argues, industry standards for how security should be done.