One year ago this month I visited Babson and gave a lecture to a Corporate Entrepreneurship class. I told the class that I had a lot of experience converting ideas into implementations at large companies, and I divided the class into groups to do an exercise about how they would progress their ideas.
Last night I paid another visit but my lecture had a different theme. I told them that in May I had left my day-to-day software responsibilities behind to run EMC's Global Innovation Network. I gave them an outline of EMC as a company. I shared the mission to "Expand knowledge locally, transfer it globally, and leverage is strategically". I asked them one question: "What three programs would you create if you were running an innovation network at a company like EMC?".
The ideas that they came back with were outstanding (I may try and implement some of them). Many of them are listed below:
- Create an exchange program (e.g. exchange employees between our R&D facilities in order to build partnerships and share ideas).
- Distinguished Engineer and Fellow Community Virtual Speaking. I told the class that I had been organizing a lot of "virtual speaking" initiatives already, but hadn't thought to feature DEs and Fellows. Nice.
- Cross-geographic lab sharing program, in order to assimilate different acquisitions EMC has made. Similar to Innovation by Adjacency. I love it.
- Local innovation incentive program (grants, scholarship-like). I found this interesting from the standpoint that all geographies have an "innovation fund" already, but it hasn't reached the point where you could apply for it like a grant or receive it like a scholarship. Cool idea.
- Cross-functional and geographical rotations. Recently our India CTO suggested a DE-in-residence program whereby Distinguished Engineers spend at least 4 weeks per year working side-by-side with employees in India. What I liked about this suggestion was the cross-functional aspect. The geographic rotation would be characterized by working in a different functional role.
- EMC Innovation Summit. I told them that this was a great idea. A different group mentioned a local immersion 'One Day', with a celebration/award for best innovations.
- Idea sharing: create point people within each geography to communicate innovations on a regular basis. Many of our global employees already run local contests and my team is looking at ways to make it a larger part of the culture.
As usual I find these type of students energizing to be around.
Last year I walked in as the expert, this year I walked in as the student. After hearing their ideas I laid out my current vision and programs and we had a great dialogue about what might work and might not. I used the class as practice for a similar presentation I will be giving at the fall meeting for the NC State Center for Innovation Management Studies (CIMS).
To the students in the class: Thanks for all the great ideas!
Director, EMC Innovation Network