How To Get From A Great Idea To Actual Innovation

Editor’s note: PARC contributed these answers to Fast Company’s questionsYou can see the original post + comments here.

What’s the formula for moving from a great idea to actual implementation? “You’d think we’d have a really complex answer for this one, given that PARC is in the business of breakthroughs,” says Stephen Hoover, CEO of PARC, a Xerox company. “But for me, it’s really simple and can even be captured in one phrase: ‘Inventions with impact.’ As in impact on people, our clients’ businesses, and the world. In whatever forms it takes.”

Fast Company sat down with Hoover, who is speaking at our Innovation Uncensored event on Wednesday, April 18 in New York City, to ask him how innovation works at PARC.

FAST COMPANY: What can a big company learn from a startup?

STEPHEN HOOVER: 

Compared to big companies, startups have the advantage of no “legacy,” which means you don’t have to worry about disrupting your own business model or changing skillsets. So when big companies can–and some do–create the space for new opportunities that challenge the legacy, they can do incredible things!

Furthermore, there’s a place in the innovation landscape for big companies and startups and others, such as government and universities. While big companies tend to focus on core innovations and startups can pivot rapidly, all of us need to work together when the problems are too big or complex for any one entity to solve alone.

FAST COMPANY: How do you create a culture of innovation?

STEPHEN HOOVER: 

From both the bottom up and top down. Most organizations tend to focus on one or the other. One of the things we did at PARC is to create a portfolio management framework–and associated review processes–that balance localized autonomy for our researchers with a comprehensive, proactive approach to managing our innovation investments. 

Creating a true culture of innovation is very difficult. So we often recommend you start by trying to shift mindsets first. For example, mindsets such as embracing failure (not just fail fast but fail in order to learn), real options for metering and growing innovation investments (as opposed to net present value), and much, much more.

FAST COMPANY: Shifting gears a little here, but we want to know how you found your last great idea.

STEPHEN HOOVER: 

So this is an interesting question, because it seems to put the focus on ideas–and I think there’s a tendency for all of us to glorify the ideation process when in fact it’s the reduction to practice that’s perhaps more important. And what we’ve found at PARC is that the best way to move from ideation to implementation is to focus on the intersection of these three things:

  1. Technology expertise and trends beyond trendspotting
  2. New models for business
  3. Human-centered context, as in ethnography, to discover what people actually do and want and need, not just what they say they do.

One of these alone may give you good ideas and incremental innovations, but you need all three for innovation with impact.

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For more about Steve’s Fast Company Innovation Uncensored talk, see this event page. For an at-a-glance overview of PARC, including clients and work today, download our fact sheet