I spent the day yesterday with a room filled with 200-300 really smart people. Not just a little smart, but truly fabulously smart. There were finalists from our global innovation idea contest, distinguished engineers (our elite force), a fellow (turbo-elite), a few authors, a couple of CEOs, and in total, hand-selected, innovation-minded representatives from every major functional area at the company.
If that wasn't intimidating enough, I was asked to present. It was all fine and good until the morning of the event when I told my 8th grader why I was rushing off so early. "My goodness," I thought to myself, "what have I done?!"
In my last blog, I shared a bit of what I discussed. The fun part of the presentation, for me, was when others joined me on the stage to share a story of something they witnessed at the company by way of an innovation. I asked them to highlight the ingredients that came after someone having "a great idea" -- the "Passion" and working toward "Success" parts.
Sometimes you have to be a bit of a Pest
The first story to be shared came from a non-engineer, Tom Broderick, a Director at EMC, involved with Business strategy and our global Centers of Excellence. His story was about a radically new pricing strategy for EMC in 2003 (think depth of recession.) He said the team presenting this idea was shot down 2 or 3 times by the executive committee at the company. Each time, they tweaked the plan, build their network of supporters, and essentially, refused to give up. Their conviction, passion, and yes, smart work sold the strategy. The result? It transformed the industry pricing model and, looking at EMC's dramatic rise in revenue from 2003 - 2008 (roughly $6 billion to $15 Billion!), I'd say it had an impact on the company, too.
Sometimes you have to be Master Networker
The second story to be shared came from EMC technology strategist, Barry Burke. He couldn't list just one innovation idea he witnessed. He recited a long list of mainstream products at EMC which would never would have seen the light of day had it not been for .... "the idea generator forgetting it was his/her idea and making it the idea and passion of others." He said it was the network of believers that drove those ideas over the finish line and into the giant product success circle that they live in today.
Sometimes you have to put yourself out on a limb in the interest of making it great
A third story came from an engineer/manager, Dave Spencer, about a work in process. He told of an engineering team working on a stealth product. One of the members of the team suspected that something wasn't quite right and could be better. He confided in a senior member of an engineering team not associated the project. This senior person had a full plate, and was on an aggressive schedule managing another product release. But, in true EMC fashion, he listened, thought about it, and he, too, suspected there could be a better way. Tireless work began to unfold in parallel. The work is still in play. We don't know how it will end. One definition of success for sure is the opinion of the senior engineer. He said he hasn't had this much fun at work in years!!
---------- Oh that Feeling When Someone Connects -------
A highlight for me was when a senior engineer and finalist of the global innovation idea contest quoted my presentation during he panel he sat on. He said we need more of the culture I discussed -- one filled with passion and connections. As a global and wide-reaching company it is more important than ever that we support one another, know what one another is working on to move FASTER! He also pointed to the opportunity to eliminate waste from projects that get done, that others don't know about and ultimately get under-utilized.
----------------------- A surprise! -----------------------
Another highlight was meeting EMCer David Elmes, who works in API support for our eRoom product. He told me he was an English major and we started talking about EMC ONE, our internal collaboration network, and how we found some photographers there recently. Ends up he, too, is a professional photographer. He asked if he could take some photos. Ends up, he took the one at the top of this blog and many more amazing shots. He took this one of me too ...
An amazing day. Lots of connections and inspiration, and family building. At the cocktail hour that followed the day there was even more!
... Check out Stu Miniman's blog for a great recap and a video of the conversations at the bar!
------------------- Talk Back ---------------------------
Personal connections, uber smart people/engineers. Do they mix?
Is more needed, or is everything just fine thank you?