I recently finished a second book project on an interesting topic: How can multi-national corporations reverse their global culture?
The question stems from the corporate practice of farming out high-tech product implementation to countries that are some distance from corporate headquarters. In the case of EMC, U.S.-based idea implementations are often pushed to areas such as Shanghai, Bangalore, and St. Petersburg, Russia.
This model is now a recipe for disaster. Why? Because the fastest growth in the high-tech sector will occur in many of these regions. Innovators in the U.S. (like myself) can't innovate as effectively for those locales. We're just too far away (and in some cases too culturally different) to fully understand the customer needs.
This point was clearly made at EMC's recent Innovation Showcase. EMC's Sanjay Mirchandani put up the following slide.
This slide emphasizes the geographic areas that are positioned for growth. If you believe the slide, the U.S. GDP will grow at a slower pace than other geographies. Multi-nationals that want to succeed had better figure out how to stimulate local innovation by the employees in those regions. Professor Vijay Govindarajan calls this phenomena reverse innovation. (VG was kind enough to write the foreword to the book).
As an intrapreneur at a large corporation, I have a platform (this blog) that allows me to describe my own innovative process, all the way from customer need to product delivery and beyond.
I wondered if this process was practiced in global locations. I started looking for global intrapreneurs within my own company.
And I found them.
And I wrote down their stories:
- In Shanghai, China, an idea from a second-year programmer triggered millions of dollars in product sales.
- A software developer in Tel Aviv, Israel, traveled the world to insert his creation into hundreds of new high-tech devices.
- A field engineer in Cork, Ireland, delivered an electronic shredding solution to businesses paralyzed by the complex maze of governmental legislation.
- A technologist in Bangalore, India, created breakthrough security software to protect data centers from hundreds of cyber-threats.
- A Russian intrapreneur delivered critical information capture software eighteen months ahead of schedule.
- Beijing researchers created groundbreaking new search algorithms that protect the privacy concerns associated with personal data.
This book describes the process that they all used, which are all remarkably similar. They became experts in their own area of technology. They listened to customer needs. And then they leveraged the one asset that absolutely cannot be found at a start-up: a massive technology portfolio accompanied by the experts that built it all.
In all cases, these inventors stepped outside geographic boundaries to collaborate around the portfolio. Their influence became global.
I can't tell you how many times I've proofread this book, and I've yet to tire of reading these stories. Thanks to my co-workers for the education and the assistance. The first few chapters are available online.
I hope to gather more stories over time. I only focused on the facilities that have the title of "Center of Excellence", and as such I missed out on hearing a lot more stories. I'm interested to hear stories from other multi-national corporations that are facing the same issues. Send them my way. Or better yet, post them yourself and send me a link.
The business of innovation has gone global.
Enjoy the stories!