Thursday, January 11, 2007

Hewlett-Packard, Part 1: A Holistic Innovation Culture

On Jan 10th, I (Kevin Desouza) visited HP Labs (see http://www.hpl.hp.com/) in Palo Alto, California. The purpose of the visit was to listen to HP executives about their innovation processes. The meeting was hosted in the Executive Conference Room, which is adjacent to the original offices of the founders of HP, W.R. Hewlett and D. Packard. Amazingly, the HP folks have preserved the original offices and the original conference room. Being able to see these amazing old offices is worth the trip. During the visit, I learnt about the many processes that HP has put in place to foster innovation across their enterprise.

The single most important enabler of innovation at HP is their history and culture of innovation. From the days of Hewlett and Packard, HP is a company that recognized the value of innovation throughout the organization. HP focuses on all aspects of innovation: product and service innovation; innovation in business models; cultural and organizational innovation. Throughout the meetings, I kept hearing the phrase - "managing the innovation portfolio." Using a portfolio approach, HP is able to balance out its investment in innovation efforts across the enterprise, and also across various types of projects (core, emerging, and new). The portfolio approach is a top-down management approach and gauges the efforts of senior managers and executives, and their respective units.

HP is a highly collaborative company. Collaboration is the way work gets done in HP. Like much of HP's current culture and behaviors, this attitude goes back to the days of its founders. Employees can seek for help and input on ideas across the enterprise, and more importantly they can reward people who help them. Managers have eAwards that they can give to other units who help them. An employee, with authorization from a Manager, can also provide these eAwards to other employees.

HP also has fairly mature stage-gate processes to screen ideas and innovations. Ideas are screened at multiple levels, and across the enterprise. For example, at HP Labs ideas are put through project reviews. During these reviews, the manager presents his/her view on the idea, and then almost all members of the technical team chime in and share their views as well. These meetings are open to all who are interested, and normally draw in folks who are working in allied areas. Comments and feedback shared at these meetings are used to improve ideas and develop more robust research projects.

1 comment:

KumarGaurav said...

sir this is quite a knowledgeable fact about innovation and HP....