Day 1: Front End of Innovation in Vienna

Earlier this month we attended the 9th annual Front End of Innovation conference in Vienna (FEI EMEA). FEI is a global event brand that has become the annual meeting place of the most seasoned innovators across the globe. The conference is packed with innovative companies and thinkers, great keynote speakers, workshops and field trips.

“It’s not about ideas, it’s about moving the company in the right direction the next 10 years”
Ed Hebblethwaite, Seymourpowell

The first day started with some great keynote speakers from Google, Disney, ShellShackleton Energy and Zaptec to mention some. Two of our friends from the space & energy industry gave us a real brain stretch. Both Jim Keravala from Shackleton Energy and Brage Johansen from Zaptec were invited to speak about their missions in space.

“Every company should have a space program”
Brage Johansen, Zaptec


Jim talked about the worlds three big coming challenges: energy, fresh water and communication, and how their mission in space will help solve these problems. It is safe to say that the audience was mesmerized by his talk and perspective on the industry.

“It’s just like building an oil rig, only in space”
Shackleton Energy


Our own Christian Rangen moderated the last session of the day and we got some great presentations from Christopher Chapman, Global Creativity & Innovation Director at The Walt Disney Company, and Michele R. Weslander Quaid, Chief Innovation Evangelist at Google.

“Find your purpose”
Christopher Chapman, Global Creativity & Innovation Director at The Walt Disney Company



Christopher focused on the humane aspect of innovation. He was a great storyteller, as we would expect from a director at Disney. Michele from Google gave a great presentation where she talked about how they worked with innovation within Google. She also stated that the three biggest barriers to innovation is culture, policy and technology.

“Give people freedom, they will amaze you”
Michele R. Weslander Quaid, Chief Innovation Evangelist at Google.

Google’s Founding Principles 

  • Ideas comes from everywhere
  • Share everything you can
  • Rapid innovation, not perfection
  • Give employees a license to pursue dreams
  • Use data-based (apolitical) decision making
  • Focus on the users

The day ended with a visit to a traditional Austrian restaurant. We had an incredible innovation crew dinner with Google, Zaptec, RB, Bombardier, Phillips, Int, Innovation Dock, Holger Nils Pohl and Nordic Climate Lead.

Vienna_Dinner photo



Day 1: Front End of Innovation in Vienna

A CEO who can Dream Bigger; Larry Page

Probably the best CEO interview we’ve ever read. That was the first idea that hit us  as we read “Google’s Larry Page on Why Moon Shots Matter“, by Steven Levy at Wired.

Page, the co-founder, now CEO, at Google gives a personal, insightful interview on his leadership philosophy and innovation thinking at Google. One of the defining moments, writes Levy, ‘’As an undergrad at the University of Michigan, he found inspiration in a student leadership-training program called LeaderShape, which preached “a healthy disregard for the impossible.” According to Page, this strongly shaped his thinking that led to the Google we know today.

This is exactly the kind of  innovation thinking, the kind of program we have been developing and running over the last two years. Walt Disney said ‘’It’s kind of fun to do the impossible’’, and that’s the essence of our last book ‘’Dream Bigger’’.  It is this philosophy we believe will be required to reinvent dying industries and launch amazing strategic transformations. It’s the leadership mindset for a new breed of leaders. For innovation leaders.

Larry Page calls this “Living by the gospel of 10x. Most companies would be happy to improve a product by 10 percent’’, not Google. Instead, Larry and his team drive for ’’Thousand-percent improvement, this requires rethinking problems entirely, exploring the edges of what’s technically possible, and having a lot more fun in the process’’. This is Google thinking big, Google’s “Moon shot Philosophy”.

In “Dream Bigger” we write:

What if you could change the future of your company?

Where would you begin?

What would be your radically ambitious dreams?

What would be your mind-numbingly awesome first steps?

Through our teaching and consulting we meet thousands of people.

Too few are truly recklessly ambitious.

Too few are truly trying to achieve the impossible.

We want to change that.

Our goal is to help you and your company Dream Bigger

– and execute successfully.

Because we fundamentally believe,

“if you can dream it, you can do it”.

So let us.

But not all executives have the courage to do just this. Too few are recklessly ambitious. Too few have moon shots. Too many are stuck in an operational mindset, trying to defend their core legacy business model, rather than inventing the future.

Says Page “I worry that something has gone seriously wrong with the way we run companies. If you read the media coverage of our company or of the technology industry in general, it’s always about the competition. … That’s why most companies decay slowly over time. They tend to do approximately what they did before, with a few minor changes… But incremental improvement is guaranteed to be obsolete over time. Especially in technology, where you know there’s going to be non-incremental change”

Page’s view is reflected in the theme of the upcoming Strategic Management conference, Inside Outliers: Driving Systemic Change states “Being positively different is the goal of strategic management” That of course requires us to think differently, act differently and the courage to break out of industry norms.

‘’Why don’t we see more people with that kind of ambition?’’ (10x), asks Levy.

Page’s reply is very, very insightful: It’s not easy coming up with moon shots. And we’re not teaching people how to identify those difficult projects. Where would I go to school to learn what kind of technological programs I should work on? You’d probably need a pretty broad technical education and some knowledge about organization and entrepreneurship. There’s no degree for that. Our system trains people in specialized ways, but not to pick the right projects to make a broad technological impact’’.

To develop organizations for the future, we believe Innovation and Innovation thinking needs to become everyone’s job. We need to fundamentally rethink training, development and education. To succeed in this paradigm, leaders need to rethink their roles, master new skills, learn new tools and understand how to drive strategic innovation. They can all begin by reading Larry Page and his leadership philosophy.

Take a look at ”Dream Bigger” here.

A CEO who can Dream Bigger; Larry Page

Google has X-Lab; What have you got?

A recent NY Times article revealed some of the inner workings of Google’s X-lab. It is a fascinating read. For those of us who’s been keeping track of Google for years, it comes as no surprise. Rather it is a delightful example of how one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies stays innovative.

X-Lab is where Google’s team of dreamer s and doers develop the future. Today you’ll find work on self-driven cars, space elevators or self-ordering refrigerators. This is where Google’s top 100 moonshots happen. While some critics view this as being outside the core business, “investing in speculative projects is an important part of Google’s DNA”, states one spokeswoman. Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin is even clearer, stating“…we hope (this) will graduate to important key businesses in the future”.

Now reading about Google and X-Lab is fascinating. But the bigger question is; What have you got? When you look at the average firms’ innovation capability. When you look at the average firms’ innovation processes; how wildly creative and innovative are these? How wildly creative and innovative is your firm?

OF course, most simply aren’t. Sadly so. Most firms focus too much on what scholars Govindarajan and Trimble call “Manage the present”. While they should evenly balance what the authors call “Selectively abandon the past” and “Create the future”.

The two repeatedly state “Business organizations are not designed for innovation, they are designed for ongoing operations. And there are deep and fundamental conflicts between the two”.

Yet, Google’s X-lab shows one glimpse of how one company is organizing itself for more innovation. Google’s innovation philosophies are more complex than this, but the X-lab is one highly visible effort – and it is one most firms could – and should – copy with urgency and pride.

Google has X-Lab; What have you got?

The Great Tech War (you need to read this)

When we talk about innovation, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google tend to come up. If you want to read one article on the subject this year, this should be it.

To understand Facebook’s, Amazon’s, Google’s or Amazon’s strategic ploys; then this is the article for you. Amazing read.

Here’s just a handful of the comments on Fast Company’s site.

Chris Eckelkamp Yesterday 09:50 PM
Fantastic article! You have encompassed the single most interesting tech discussion of our time.
I just love the work put into it. Thank you so much for this piece.

Mike Hope Yesterday 08:40 AM
Great article Farhad, although I agree with Wansai… Microsoft shouldn’t be discounted! Apart from this I believe that this is an award winning article!!

David Politis 10/17/2011 06:03 PM
This is arguably the most insightful article of 2011 on what might be considered cross-border wars in the high-tech industry. Very well thought out, researched and written. A great job, Farhad. This is another example of why I continue to subscribe to Fast Company magazine and why I believe it is one of the top media properties in the world.

The Great Tech War (you need to read this)

Why Google (mobile payment)?

Four months ago, I published a brief post on our Linkedin Group. Why Google?, I asked. Why is Google, not banks, leading the move into NFC (Near Field Communication). Why is Google, not banks, leading the move into mobile payment solutions?

That was four months ago. Three days ago, on September 19th, Google launched the service in the US.

Reuters, The Guardian and Businessweek – to name a few – all covered the event. But few industry pundits have dived deep into what this means for banking – yet. It will be interesting to follow what Wired calls ‘the mobile payments arms race‘ in the next 12 – 24 months.

The BIG questions still stands: What are banks going to do about that?

The original blog post from April 2011.

Why Google?

Tomorrow Google is introducing mobile payment solutions in the US. But why Google?

Swipe your phone. Pay. No cash. No credit cards. Just your phone. It’s been a longtime coming. In parts of the developing world it’s been around for years. But tomorrow, the US. Nationwide,chains like Macy, American Eagle Outfitters and Subway are gearing up for the introduction. In the thousands of cashier points, they are already ready to serve customers paying by their smartphones. Hey, Starbucks has been doing this for a while now, through their My Starbucks Card App.

But why Google? Why is a (still) young, Internet Search company (yeah, right!!) the ones to introduce this nationwide in the US? Why are not the banks, or even the creditcard companies leading this fray? Whatever happened to Mastercard and Diners leading innovation?

The answer fits perfectly with Clayton M. Christensen’s theory on disruptive innovations. Radical innovations in any industry are not introduced by the existing industry players. Far more often than not, these innovations will come bubbling up from completely unknown and irrelevant players. Name me one single banking executive who three years ago thought Google would become a threat. Name one executive team who even thought Google would become an industry player. In banking.

Pay attention. One of the world’s most innovative companies has just blown open the door on mobile payments. While at the same time, Brett King concludes that not a single bank is to be found of the list of the world’s 250 most innovative companies.

What are banks going to do about that?

Why Google (mobile payment)?