We had been looking forward to Dell’s presentation. We were not disappointed. Dell’s Chief Innovation Officer, Jim Stikeleather, took us through Dell’s emerging architecture for innovation.
Dell’s story transcends industries. It is a remarkable learning case for all aspiring executives. Started by 19 year old Michael Dell in 1984, the company grew through its low-cost, direct sales and subsequent online sales model. Dell was a success story. Michael became the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company ever. The company was a business model innovator. It was the disruptor. Upsetting competition by radically innovating the business model.
Then, as firms grow, operations kill innovation. Dell became the world-leader in supply chain management. Mass production, efficiency, high sales, low profit margins became the new Dell. Innovation was not really an issue. (If you feel you’ve read this before, try spelling N-O-K-I-A…..).
This was the background as Jim Stikeleather opened his presentation. Stikeleather is heading up Dell Services Office of Innovation. A process that he calls “it’s early and we are still learning”. Three themes became apparent in Jim’s presentation.
1) He and his team is working hard to change the internal understanding of what is innovation. They call this first step Demystifying innovation. Trying to move innovation from an R&D perspective to innovation being part of everyone’s job. This, of course, is the first step toward building a better culture for innovation.
2) For a metric and efficiency company like Dell, innovation is naturally viewed in terms of flow-charts and processes. To balance this Jim used the IDEO view of innovation. This allowed the convergent and divergent thinking models to co-existing internally.
3) Management innovation is on the top of the agenda for Dell. Trying to delegate and speed up decision-making, trying to empower teams, trying to ‘get management to move out of the way’, are just some of the issues in Dell’s on-going innovation journey.
“We are moving from a command and control to a new organization; of innovation and creativity”, said Jim on Day one. On Day III he showed us how.