Insights into Innovation
By Wilson Farrar
ASK Silicon Valley
This is the third installment in a series of Insights into Innovation featuring interviews with some of HP’s top creative thinkers. Among them are Senior Vice President of Research, and Director of HP Labs Prith Banerjee, HP Senior Fellow Chandrakant Patel, Director of the Social Computing labs Bernardo Huberman, Director of New Business Initiatives at Hewlett-Packard Andrew Bolwell, Vice President and CTO for Hewlett-Packard’s Personal Systems Group Phil McKinney and CTO of HP’s EDS Division Russ Daniels.
This conversation is with Andrew Bolwell,Director of New Business Initiatives at Hewlett-Packard. The previous installments were with Senior Vice President of Research, and Director of HP Labs Prith Banerjee and Vice President and CTO for Hewlett-Packard’s Personal Systems Group Phil McKinney.
Innovation is an iterative process, with the right people (and mistakes are part of the process)
Andrew Bolwell, Director
New Business Initiatives at
Innovation by definition is, “the act of introducing something new”. If that’s the case, it makes sense that the process of innovation would be different too. It’s not following a set of directions out of a box. Instead, it’s a much more iterative, “learn as you go”, process.
Andrew Bolwell, Director of New Business Initiatives at Hewlett-Packard, knows all about that process. As a 22-year HP veteran, Andrew helps marry and create technology innovations with the business model innovations that bring new products to market.
“Innovation is part art and part science”, describes Bolwell. “You need to start with the right people. The right people are passionate and they ask a lot of questions like, ‘Why can’t this be done?’ They push the boundaries of what is possible and they look for new things. They notice what is around them. What are the problems that people face, and they recognize the solutions to these problems. Innovating is in their DNA. It’s what they do. They get up every day and do it.”
But innovation at HP is more than the people. It’s teams of people, “with a common cause and a common passion, and it’s a million tiny steps. It’s a gated process, with a series of milestones.
“Innovation is not about putting all eggs into one basket, or spending all the money up front,” explains Bolwell. Instead, you start with an idea, and sometimes you reinvent. You follow a thread and course correct as you go. In that sense, Bolwell says, “Innovation requires faith: faith that the people will iterate”.
He adds that, “Part of the idea is to take an idea and learn through doing. The only way to learn about new markets is to dip a toe, leg, whole self in. Do it iteratively.
“You can’t provide a fully baked business plan. How big is the market? You really don’t know. You can go through the process, but you have to iterate. Instead Bolwell recommends that you start with a use case and ask the following questions:
What is the problem that you are solving?
How are you going to solve it?
How many people do you imagine have this problem?
How much are they going to pay for it?
“Then creating the market is just finding all of the people that have that same problem. You start in incubation mode.”
When I asked about mistakes Bolwell explains that, “Mistakes are part of the process. Finding out what doesn’t work is just as valuable as finding out what does. A large part of an innovative culture is a feeling that you can take risks, and that you are empowered to take risks.”
In the case of MagCloud, HP started with an idea: making print more dynamic like the web, and allowing people to mash-up their content into a custom print magazine. Then a seemingly simple question was asked, what happens if anyone could publish a magazine? This is where it became BIG.
As part of the iterative process, they created an open platform and then watched how customers and partners innovated on top of the original idea. HP couldn’t have imagined all of the use cases nor could they predict the success of MagCloud without actually launching it. But they trusted their people, and they allowed for the iterative process of innovation to occur.
For more insight on Andrew Bolwell and the process of innovation, watch the following clip.