This week I was in Dublin, Ireland to attend ITAC Europe (EMC's Industry Technical Advisory Council). During the meeting the CTO of EMC shared his thoughts on the technology direction of the company. Each year the same set of customers spends a couple of days advising us on his vision.
At dinner after the first day we had some discussions on employee innovation, inspiration, and motivation. We talked of corporate politics, the daily slog, bureaucracy, and other de-motivating factors that significantly discourage any form of individual creativity.
The dialogue caused me to wonder how I've managed to stay so excited about working for the same company year after year. Certainly I've experienced corporate politics, daily work that I don't care for, and processes that seem to take forever. After listening to these guys, I started to think, and I decided to create this blog post.
The customer meeting this week was awesome. The CTO of EMC talked for 3.5 hours with a dozen customers. I did nothing but listen. I was blown away by the investment EMC has made in certain cloud inter-networking companies. I learned the reasons behind certain acquisitions. I listened to customers validate the rationale behind the purchases. And then I thought to myself: "How come more people don't know this"? So I've decided to create a few blog posts that lay out the rationale and direction. I hope to start publishing them next week.
I'm excited to create these blog posts because I'm going have to reach out to a variety of people I haven't met before, ask some questions, listen, and think yet again.
Last week I attended a poster session in the EMC cafeteria. There were several dozen technologists presenting advanced development and research projects that they have been working on in their division. I was highly engaged as I listened to one particular idea. It has a potentially significant overlap with the Data Value research I am involved with. They gave me a handout and I went back to my office to think about their research a little bit more. The handout led me to an internal website containing more information on the project. I have some ideas that I want to propose to the team.
I'm excited to meet with these guys next Friday. We're going to create a proposal. I'm sure of it.
One week prior I visited UC Berkeley to meet with Professor David Culler to hear about some of the work that Amplab has been doing with IoT. I listened to him for an hour straight without asking any questions at all. I was just trying to soak in everything and looking to find the diamond in the rough.
When he was done I said to him "so you've got a database that was specifically designed to handle the analytic use case of time-series IoT"? He said "Yup, we just wrote a paper".
I asked him to send it to me. I can't wait to read it and think some more.
I'm confident it will lead to some further explorations and creativity with my colleagues at EMC.
Earlier this year I went to an all-hands meeting. My boss stood up on stage and said "I want to encourage everybody in my organization to submit ideas to the Innovation Roadmap contest". I listened and thought to myself that my participation had dwindled in previous years (because I used to run the contest). I looked through a list of 25 corporate challenges and thought about which problems I'd like to solve. I picked six of them. Then I thought about who I could collaborate with on those problems and I contacted them.
I ended up on six different teams and we created six different ideas.
Four of them were selected as finalists. Each team created a different elevator pitch video. Some of them were hilarious.
I literally can't wait to go to work over the next couple of weeks and find out if we won.
Do you see the pattern here? Listen - think - create.
One might argue: "If I spent my time travelling to visit customers, going to Berkeley, and attending fun poster sessions, I'd be more creative too".
Well, that certainly helps. But..... I spent the first 25 years of my career sitting in a cubicle working on software. For the most part I really didn't really travel anywhere. But I had the discipline to find ways to regularly leave my day job behind and listen, think, and create. I'm not sure it mattered too much to me if what I was trying to create ended up materializing.
If you struggle with the concept I believe I have a few thoughts to help you out. these thoughts all pertain to the process of trying to influence people in a large organization.
- Review the seven habits of intrapreneurship.
- Go invisible.
- Get what you want from executives.
- Learn how to barter.
- Figure out the higher purpose.
- Cede authority.
- Use videos to sell ideas.
- Stop playing chess, start playing risk.
- Get some innovation mentoring.
If you are interested in this topic, then please do me a favor.
Listen to what I'm saying.
Think about how that applies to your creativity level.
Create a comment below to share your thoughts.