Greetings from the main tent at Innovate. Here we are in the second full day of events and the mornings have been exciting. The band welcomed us all and after yesterday's lightning sessions I was looking forward to some panels and speakers. First up was Robert Leblanc, SVP of Middleware. What I gleaned from him was that our customers clearly understand the latest trends of mobile, Cloud and more but they feel they are very unprepared to adopt and react to those trends. Seems like an opportunity for us to help them with the transition. I loved the example he gave with the Ford Fusion and how it contains over 15 million lines of code by the time it is complete and coming off the line. It is a walking data center. Also interesting was the how he positioned devOps to be more of and enterprise process and not an IT process. I think this shift will allow more of our customers outside of the traditional ALM and IT space to participate. I also heard a clear call to action with the directive to improve the speed of delivery of our offerings to map to the entire mobile paradigm and allowing customers to update at will at a very quick pace from the appStore.
Next up was Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup. First, let me say that I am not a person to read a lot of industry trade mags or books. I get my information in small bits and use a lot of online mediums. I am totally going to break my own rule, buy this book, and cart it around. I was energized. I liked how he encourages entrepreneurship and challenged us to rethink what we identify as a startup. His definition was that it is to create something new amidst uncertainty and that it can actually occur in large companies. The main issue is truly knowing what the customer wants ad treating your startup idea as an experiment and making a key decision checkpoint about whether it should indeed even be built - not that it can or cannot but that it SHOULD. You need a market for your startup.
He got a few laughs when he mentioned that being an entrepreneur requires management and accounting. Even lean startups need to understand that at some point in the cycle you need to be able to change direction and strategy without changing the vision and recognizing when you need to "pivot". Mr Ries listed this as the most important tool and the modicum of success is to be able to pivot faster and maximize your time through the loop of build, measure and learn. I really liked his idea of failure. It isn't changing direction when you realize something isn't working. It is successfully executing on a bad plan and realizing too late that if nobody wants it, it doesn't matter that you delivered on time and under budget. He concluded with a powerful example of a learning milestone where you establish the baseline, build a minimum value product (MVP) and then tune the engine and experiment. Don't be afraid of bad results or failures and pivot often and quickly without losing site of your ultimate goal. His Ghostbusters references were classic. You can't just have an idea and hope Zuul invades NY on the exact day your seeding funds are getting tight. Plus, NY may be a little touchy about the entire invasion premise.
I'll admit this is long and as I sit here typing live from the Support Cafe, I wonder if everyone will get as much value out of my words as I did the session. I decided yes and I am going to highlight a few more things. Bear with me. Martin Nally had the pleasure of hosting a panel on innovation with some key executives from IBM, General Motors and more. He led with something I found interesting. Charles de Gaulle said that there are three roads to ruin: by gambling, which is the quickest; through women (Martin changed this to "romance" so it would apply universally), which is the most pleasurable; and through taking the advice of experts, which is the most certain.
I looked up the quote to make sure I got it right and found one more by de Gaulle the panel really drove home. We may go to the moon, but that's not very far. The greatest distance we have to cover still lies within us. It was clear from all the speakers that we need to encourage a culture of innovation that allows for failures and course corrections, and I look forward to seeing what Martin himself is formulating over the next year.
Our final event was an interview with Alan Brown and Steve Wozniak. He focused on the fact that he designed things completely for himself and was "an engineer at heart". He did not always rely on existing documentation and design principles but worked to reverse engineer and improve upon them. He would offer challenges to himself to build something with less parts and that is what drove the entire simplicity model. Mr. Wosniak worked on many different projects and didn't ever discount those efforts. He also said it is not always easy to recognize innovation and what can be turned into money but that his partnership with Steve Jobs really helped there. What he brought to the table was the ability to be disruptive, and to not just learn the answers to the test but to ask thought provoking questions on a regular basis. This message resounded well with me as I see my own children often look for the answers instead of trying to figure out answers for themselves.
I encourage you to see http://www.woz.org/ for more information about Steve and his pursuit to provide education and opportunities in science and math for the next generations. I was impressed with the fact he has actually been teaching elementary school and feels his time is more valuable than money in making an impact on the student's lives. I tend to agree.
Contact me through my developerWorks profile if you want to talk more about ways to innovate in a large company. I am passionate about our ability to challenge the norms and have served on one of our patent review boards and my advice and time are free.