5. Context for Innovation

Context for Innovation

Authors: Peter Manos

The context for innovation consists of three things: Thinking / Impact / Believes, Business need / Demand, and Resource availability.


Peter Levinson SVP of Product Development from LifeLock told us that the way they go about spurring innovation within their company is: having dedicated innovation teams of people that are rotated from different part of their company, by considering emailed product ideas, regularly hosting company-wide hackathons, and weekly company-wide meetings. Ross Mistry Sr. MTC Director from Microsoft shared with us that they promote innovation through their Reactor program. The Microsoft Reactor program creates permanent physical spaces in San Francisco that serve as a hub of activity where developers can experience Microsoft Cloud, device and platform innovation. Jane Macfarlane Chief Scientist & Head of Research from HERE told us that the best way to foster innovation is through: cross-trained teams, breaking down the structures of science, and stacking platforms on top of each other to leverage efficiency. Jane also shared with us that for innovation to take place executive leadership has to be pushing innovation and create a culture of innovation were innovators can get the attention of decision makers. Lastly, Jane stressed that the biggest deterrent of innovation is a lack of communication between consumers and providers.

Nick Ionita Chief Product Officer at Joyus told us that they don’t employ any innovation process that “businesses have to innovate or die” a common theme in Silicon Valley. Nick also stressed that a common innovation problem that business have is that people outside the product and development teams typically have a hard time employing their innovative ideas. David Kopf Co-Founder and VP of Growth at Remind told us that Parkinson’s Law plays a major role in innovation. Those of you not familiar with the law it states “work expands to fill the time available for its completion,” and that a sufficiently large bureaucracy will generate enough internal work to keep itself ‘busy’ and so justify its continued existence without commensurate output. Meaning that people need to feel pressured to innovate for innovation to occur. David also stressed communicating with your users is essential to innovation as many times they have brought problems that we are unaware of to light, and sometimes even have solutions to these problems but don’t how to implement them. Lastly, Remind encourages its employees to innovate by allowing them to own their impact.

Travis Katz Co-Founder and CEO of Gogobot told us that they spur innovation by keeping development teams small. Travis stated that small teams are faster and more innovative because developers feel as though they’re under more pressure when they believe they don’t have enough resources to complete a task and that is when innovation happens. Travis also told us that they encourage innovation by allowing employees to own their ideas and manage their development as long as their metric-backed and quantifiable by high-level management. Steven R. Boal CEO at Quotient Technology Inc. told us that they promote innovation by giving all their employees a voice through quarterly and weekly all-hands meetings, and an idea scale portal.  Additionally, Steven shared with us that most of their innovations come from a small group of people or employees that have many opportunities to speak with customers; which follows the principle of factor sparsity also known as the 80 / 20 rule. For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, it states that for many events roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Lastly. Steven expressed that a lot of their new ideas come from startups they acquire to leverage technology and expertise.

Raj Arasu a software engineer at Google told us they take a systematic approach to innovation by improving upon industry market products. Additionally, Raj stated that Google incentivizes its employees to innovate by offering them spot bonuses for their successful innovations in a few cases up to five figures. Scott Ringwelski Co-Founder of Handshake shared with us that most of their innovation comes from within the company often after listening to customer problems. Scott also shared with us that they promote innovation by hosting company hackathons. Additionally, Scott told us that engineers can spend their own time on innovative ideas they feel strongly about and present them to the product team to be vetted and if approved put into production. Alik Eliashberg Director of Engineering at LinkedIn told us that they promote innovation through quarterly hackathons and simplicity – “if you can’t easily explain what you’re doing you’re going to fail”. Additionally, Alik communicated that they incentivize innovation through promotions, internal recognition, a bravo system and at the highest level $100,000 in RSU. In conclusion, Alik shared with us that any engineer only has to get one other person to review their code before they can push it to production this truly spurs innovation because it allows engineers to implement their vetted innovations without being held back by bureaucracy while also allowing them to own their impact.