The Eye for Innovation

The Eye for Innovation: Recognizing Possibilities and Managing the Creative Enterprise

Robert Price
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    The Eye for Innovation
    Book Description:

    Innovation is synonymous with problem solving, and the basic elements of innovation apply to any business, says Robert M. Price in this essential guide for managers of organizations large or small. Distilling a set of practical principles from his forty years of experience as a pioneer in the computer industry, the author shows that innovation can be learned and practiced by everyone, that it can offer solutions to everyday problems as well as high-profile ones, and that it provides opportunities to solve business problems while meeting a variety of human needs.

    Former CEO of Control Data, Price weaves the history of this uniquely innovative company with fresh thinking about innovation itself-what it means to the people in an organization, the products, and the processes. He avoids simplistic prescriptions and clearly explains seven fundamental principles of innovation beginning with "innovators are made, not born." He illustrates these principles with fascinating real-life examples. His book offers both the practical tools and the inspiration to everyone with an interest in effective management practice and in building organizations that creatively and continuously respond to ever-changing social and market needs.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13055-3
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    William C. Norris

    We opened the doors of Control Data in 1957 in the face of what some might have seen as insurmountable odds. We were up against entrenched competitors with vastly superior resources. Yet there was in Control Data both optimism and fierce determination. That optimism was based on a core group of professionals with a proven track record of technological innovation. That determination was based on a desire, stemming from earlier disillusionment, to forge a diff erent kind of company, a company in which innovative ability could flourish. We succeeded to a remarkable degree. Control Data’s people created a company that...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    This is the story of a company, Control Data, and the lessons learned from its incubation, operation, trials, and successes, as it grew to become one of the premier corporations in the information technology world. We’ll take the lessons apart and see what fueled the innovative engine that gave employees and managers alike the excitement of participation in this decades-long event. We’ll find out how one company’s evolutionary path can be applied to any business, large or small, domestic or international. This is a story of people and the tools they used: tools that are available to everyone who has...

  7. Part One Habitats for Innovation and Their Inhabitants
    • Chapter 1 The Once and Future Company
      (pp. 13-35)

      On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first space satellite. Physically it was a rather insignificant, 183-pound orbiting sphere the size of a basketball, but its impact on global politics and economics was destined to assume colossal proportions.

      Three months earlier, on July 8, there was another launch. In the dry language of legal business documents, the “Nature of Business” statement noted above was at first glance unimpressive. But that business launch also proved to be historic and, indeed, would soon cross paths with that of U.S. space programs and the historical path of the Soviet Union....

    • Chapter 2 On the Edge of the Possible
      (pp. 36-52)

      Tom Watson, the leader of the nation’s largest computer company, was clearly frustrated. How could a small operation in the middle of nowhere outperform IBM? In his memo Watson referred to Control Data’s Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, laboratory where renowned supercomputer designer Seymour Cray worked for ten years. As a matter of historical record, the design of the Control Data 6600 was well under way before the Chippewa Falls laboratory opened. The 6600 design group led by Seymour was previously located in a far less romantic location, an old factory called the Strutwear Building near the Company’s headquarters at 501 Park...

    • Chapter 3 Meeting Vital Needs
      (pp. 53-64)

      In the previous chapter we viewed innovation from the perspective of individuals and their particular creations. To have a more complete perspective it will help to look at things the other way around, to see how individuals will creatively respond when they are made aware of important needs. These examples also will serve to illustrate innovation beyond that which results in products—hard artifacts. They are innovations that result in soft artifacts—services to meet important needs.

      Back in 1978, when most children had never seen a computer much less touched one, five-year-old Malik Edwards loved to sit at a...

    • Chapter 4 Fostering the Courage to Innovate
      (pp. 65-81)

      Bob Perkins was a marvelous innovator, as evidenced in his approach to problem after problem. When the new Control Data needed a Hollerith punched card reader for its first computers, Perk put that need together with a technology resource other computer engineers might not have considered. He later recalled: “I went down to Chicago, stuck my head into what was left of an old player piano company, and learned how to do a real cheap pneumatic reader.” Ideas and innovations arise from people’s special connections with the world around them.

      New businesses are innovative almost by definition: They come into...

    • Chapter 5 Building a Framework for Innovation
      (pp. 82-96)

      The scope and depth of innovation in Control Data was very great indeed. To a large degree, that innovation was not in the form of invention—new creations or discoveries. Rather, most innovations with known technologies worked in novel ways. There were exceptions. Jacob (Jack) Rabinow was an inventor of the first rank. A quote from his bookInventing for Fun and Profitappears at the head of this chapter. When Control Data acquired his company, Rabinow Engineering, in 1964, Jack was fifty-four years old and had already achieved wide acclaim for his patents. He was of Ukrainian descent, emigrating...

  8. Part Two Technology, Innovation, and Strategy
    • Chapter 6 Journeys in Strategic Space
      (pp. 99-119)

      The decision facing Lewis and Clark at the three forks of the Missouri is an apt metaphor for the choices available to business strategists as they seek the best path toward competitive success. It will be useful to set the stage for consideration of such strategic choices by looking at the nature of the landscape within which they are made and the nature of the obstacles facing Control Data as it came upon the scene in the first decade of the computer industry’s existence.

      First, Control Data faced a truly tough short-term obstacle: with only $600,000 in capital the company...

    • Chapter 7 The Care and Feeding of Strategy—The Technology Food Chain
      (pp. 120-128)

      The Technology Food Chain (TFC) uses the food chain metaphor to explain the role of added value know-how (technology) as one moves from basic science to products, to systems, and finally to services. A simplified technology food chain for the computer and information services industry is shown in Figure 6 . Also shown is an analogous chain for the simpler matter of fish, fishing, and eating fish. At each stage of the chain, beyond basic science, know-how is applied to preexisting technology in the form of products, processes, and tools to fashion a new class of products that meet a...

  9. Part Three Forging a Strategic Journey:: The Decision Trichotomy
    • Chapter 8 Collaborate to Compete
      (pp. 131-154)

      For the adventurer in Strategic Space, the most keenly felt issue is that of limited resources. This is particularly true for the start-up company, and even more, it is a paramount problem for an advanced technology start-up such as Control Data. The market opportunity is tantalizing. There is talent and confidence, desire and enthusiasm. The know-how that will yield competitive advantage and market demand seems clear: in Control Data’s case it was the ability throughinnovative designto extract maximum computer performance and competitive superiority. But there are all these other “must dos,” such as supporting subsystems and market access...

    • Chapter 9 The Art of Acquisition
      (pp. 155-175)

      Acquisitions are no less the fateful temptation to the voyager in Strategic Space than the Sirens and their melodious songs were to Odysseus and his crew in their ten-year travails following the Trojan War. However, few captains of industry have the good sense to stuff the ears of their fellow adventurers with wax and lash themselves to the mast, as did Odysseus. The corporate skeletons that result are no less striking and foreboding than the mythological remains that surrounded those Sirens and their enchanting melodies.

      Having experienced my full share of such tortuous adventures and the special allure of becoming...

    • Chapter 10 “Make”: Relying on Internal Resources
      (pp. 176-189)

      To appreciate the challenges of the third leg of the strategic trichotomy—“make,” or, more prosaically, “just do it yourself”—it is most useful to look at a company’s moves to develop markets outside its familiar domestic territory.

      The tug of international markets for Control Data’s high-performance computers was as strong and adventurous as that which led to the long search for the Northwest Passage. In 1803 Lewis and Clark undertook their defining journey in search of a river connection between the Atlantic and the Pacific. A century and a half later Control Data began its journey of exploration in...

    • Chapter 11 Accepting Daring and Unusual Challenges
      (pp. 190-206)

      The quote above is a stark reminder that threat of political upheaval and chaotic turmoil in government can transform government influence in Strategic Space from one that is benign and helpful to one that is personal and life threatening. The need for government to provide a reliable framework for economic activity becomes all too obvious when governments are poorly organized, inefficient, or in turmoil.

      One of the fundamental roles of government is to champion economic growth. In earlier chapters, I offered glimpses of governments acting to stimulate utilization of advanced technology, such as the U.S. space program’s role in procuring...

  10. Part Four Strategies for the Unexpected and the Unusual
    • Chapter 12 When It Hits the Fan: Perilous Journeys—Innovation in Times of Crisis
      (pp. 209-223)

      The search for stability and certainty is as integral a part of human existence as breathing. Consciously and unconsciously we strive to find those halcyon waters where gentle breezes and smooth sailing push us toward fulfillment. But for the individual and likewise for the business traveler in Strategic Space, life is rarely so kind. No matter how well we chart a course guided by the Technology Food Chain and plan for contingencies, we cannot escape unpredictable forces quite beyond our control that sweep us in unforeseen directions.

      Events that block our objectives and progress can be sources of great frustration....

    • Chapter 13 Innovating Beyond the Walls
      (pp. 224-235)

      The red glow of the flames reported in the daily papers of the Twin Cities in July 1967 could do little to warm the hearts or brighten life’s prospects for the residents of the Northside area of Minneapolis.

      In one corner of the metropolitan area of Minneapolis–St. Paul, however, those flames fueled what had already begun: the effort to bring greater economic opportunity to minorities. It was one thing to read of riots in the Watts section of Los Angeles or in the streets of Detroit or Newark. It was quite another to see the devastation in our own...

    • Chapter 14 Extraordinary Innovation, Extraordinary Collaboration
      (pp. 236-250)

      The examples in the preceding chapter illustrate some of the ways in which Control Data used its internal manufacturing and operational assets to enhance job creation in blighted urban and rural areas. Innovation in job creation, however, was not limited to that. Various new services were devised to foster small business formation and job creation in more direct ways. Each of these services required collaboration with the public sector.

      The first of three new services provided a facility where small businesses could be given the support that would help ensure their survival. A Business and Technology Center is a physical...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 251-260)

    In the legend of King Arthur, T.H. White found the inspiration to tell a story that distills the dreams and flaws of mankind.The Once and Future Kingnot only became a best seller, but later spawned the enormously successful musical “Camelot.” The wordCamelothas become part of everyday vernacular, meaning a time or place in which the better part of human nature succeeds in setting higher values in spite of all mankind’s shortcomings.

    This book began with two questions: why do businesses exist, and why, assuming there is a reason for their existence, are they relatively short lived?...

  12. Appendix 1: Control Data Timeline
    (pp. 261-264)
  13. Appendix 2: Organization Charts (1957–1986)
    (pp. 265-276)
  14. Appendix 3: Robert Price Presentation to the Control Data Corporation Board of Directors (March 14, 1985)
    (pp. 277-282)
  15. Appendix 4: Seymour Cray Letters
    (pp. 283-288)
  16. Appendix 5: Robert Price Speech to CBEMA Panel—“Microelectronics: ‘The Crude Oil of the ’80s’” (April 7, 1981)
    (pp. 289-294)
  17. Appendix 6: New York Times article: “Computer Accord Signed by Soviets”
    (pp. 295-298)
  18. Appendix 7: Memoirs of Carolyn Firouztash
    (pp. 299-302)
  19. Appendix 8: Spin-offs and Start-ups by Former Control Data Employees (partial list)
    (pp. 303-304)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 305-310)
  21. Index
    (pp. 311-329)