Hewlett-Packard was famously founded in a one-car garage by William Hewlett and Dave Packard. It has become one of the world's most innovative and successful technology companies, but it's never lost sight of its founders' original vision.
According to legend, Hewlett and Packard operated under a strict set of rules, which were later put into words by an HP CEO:
• Believe you can change the world.
• Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, work whenever.
• Know when to work alone and when to work together.
• Share tools, ideas. Trust your colleagues.
• No politics. No bureaucracy.
• The customer defines a job well done.
• Radical ideas are not bad ideas.
• Invent different ways of working.
• Make a contribution every day. If it doesn't contribute, it doesn't leave the garage.
• Believe that together we can do anything.
That about sums up any doubts Hewlett and Packard had about what they were capable of doing. About the only rule that seems to be missing is "reinvent the wheel."
Innovation seems to move at the speed of light in business and education. New products and methods pop up almost every day. Your phone/computer/television is outdated as soon as you take it out of the box because of new systems constantly being developed. Your car can essentially drive itself. Your house can tell you whether the lights are on when you are across the ocean. Innovation affects every phase of our lives.
I'm way beyond wondering why I didn't think of that myself — I'm just grateful that someone had the courage to tackle a seemingly impossible idea that made my life much easier.
Innovation is central to every organization's growth. As a manager, it's important to develop an environment where it will flourish. If you are working on your own, give yourself the gift of time to let your plans simmer.
Not all innovations have to be technical or expensive. Let me share a couple of innovations that we now take for granted.
When automobiles first came into common use, there were few roads, and none of them were striped to denote lanes. When Dr. June McCarroll, who lived in the California desert, made house calls, she couldn't tell what side of the desert road she was on, especially at night. She bought a brush and a can of white paint and painted a line down the center of the road as a guide to other travelers. The California Highway Commission adopted her innovation for all the roads in California.
A Florida citrus grower lost 85 percent of his trees in a tropical hurricane. Instead of being discouraged, he formulated a plan. Before the storm, his trees had been planted far apart because land was cheap and he had plenty of space. But when he replanted after the storm, he put them close together, almost like a hedge, to protect each other. His yield was twice what it was before the storm destroyed most of his trees.
Where do you find inspiration for innovative ideas? Some days, ideas pop into your head without any effort at all. Other days you probably feel like you're digging for them at the bottom of the ocean. Don't get frustrated. When you are looking to develop a new concept, there are some steps that will make it easier.
• Gather information. Do some research into whatever you're trying to develop. Don't worry about solutions right now; just immerse yourself in the subject. Put your concept into simple language that won't limit your scope.
• Mix everything together. Look for underlying assumptions, common concepts and roads not taken. Don't force any ideas, but take notes on anything that stands out.
• Brainstorm. Invest some time in generating more ideas from the information you've processed. Let ideas flow freely, because sometimes parts of ideas can blend together to lead to an even better result.
• Take risks. New ideas usually involve failure. There's no guarantee that everything you try will succeed, but sometimes you have to see what doesn't work in order to see what will be successful.
• Share your idea. Run it past someone you trust for feedback. An outside perspective can help you shape and mold your idea into something you can put into action.
• Expect some frustration. Remember the adage: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." You will often stub your toe, maybe even fall flat on your face, before you are satisfied with your results. Innovation isn't instant — it can take years.
Mackay's Moral: Bright ideas light the way.
Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.