VEGAS—Innovation, the topic of today’s Power Panel session at 2012
International CES, is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the wireless
industry. All three executives on the panel – Ursala Burns (Xerox CEO), Alan
Mulally (Ford Motor Company CEO) and John Stratton (Verizon president of Enterprise
Solutions) – unanimously agreed that innovation is the core foundation of their
generally understood that innovation is the catalyst or driving force behind
the creation of new products and services, and yet it remains a vague term that
seems to point to some sort of magic, perhaps the kind of magic that Steve Jobs
referred to in his famous keynotes. Today’s keynote tried to get to the bottom
of how leadership, namely the high-level executives on today’s panel, manage to
keep their companies innovative for the long term.
the panelists are from very different industries, each came up with at least
one line that related to some of the dramas playing out in the wireless space
instance, Stratton talked about Verizon’s acquisition of Terremark and how the
carrier has tried to allow the cloud services company to exist outside the main
call this reverse assimilation,” Stratton said. “We don’t want them to be
ground into the huge business that is Verizon. We don’t even want them to
necessarily think the way they do.” The point is fostering, instead of stifling,
unique and innovative ideas.
relate that to current events in the wireless industry, Stratton could be describing
what sounds an awful lot like what Google is doing with Motorola Mobility.
While the Internet giant is no doubt working closely with its newly acquired
OEM, it doesn’t sound like Larry Page has any interest in calling the shots,
which in turn allows Motorola to continue on its trajectory of developing
differentiated high-end smartphones.
panel also touched on the tricky act of balancing innovation with the pressures
of reporting profits to investors. When does a large company hit a point where
a product might not be perfect but is good enough? Burns said it happens all
the time, noting that innovation has to be tempered with reasonable expectation
and a sense of when a product is as good as it’s going to get for the time
wireless terms, the industry saw this when Research In Motion (RIM) decided it
couldn’t wait on the BlackBerry PlayBook anymore. While the half-baked OS
wasn’t perfect, it was obvious the company needed a major product unveil. The
public has seen glimpses of the QNX-based PlayBook 2.0 operating system over
the past few months and it looks like things are improving from the initial
release. So was the early release of an imperfect product a failure?
said the word “failure” is never heard inside Ford Motor Company; rather, mistakes
are part of the evolution of any product. It’s usually those times when his
company has taken risks and in turn made mistakes that true innovation has
offers so many examples of innovation, as well as glimpses of companies
struggling to get their creative juices flowing. As was pointed out in today’s
panel, leadership can often times make or break a company’s growth. Look no
further than Nokia for a company that saw innovation stall only to be restarted
again in the wake of a leaderships change. CEO Stephen Elop appears to have
been the catalyst for the kind of change needed to turn the creativity back on
in Finland, as the company’s Windows Phone 7 (WP7) Lumia smartphones have
received favorable reviews from a number of media outlets.
this year the wireless industry also saw what can happen when arguably one of
the most innovative companies in the world loses its long-time leader. Apple’s
stock took a major hit in light of the Jobs’ passing, and investors are still
trying to decide whether successor Tim Cook can continue the iTradition.
of leadership, the wireless industry will continue to grow, change and yes,
innovate in 2012. Major next-generation networks are rolling out, platform wars
continue, device announcements await and new applications and services will
emerge as if from the clouds. While not all of them will succeed, it’s a sure
bet that by next year at this time when the successes and failures are tallied,
the sum inevitably will be… innovation.
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