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The Future of Product Innovation

The Future of Product Innovation
February 04, 2019

This year, the four days of the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos have been a transformative experience across multiple avenues. Discussions ranged from the progress made by public-private partnerships in addressing critical sociopolitical and socioeconomic issues to WTO negotiations and efforts to secure global health. However, deliberations on the impact of technology and business on the stable growth trajectory of the world garnered a lot of attention and responses. These tech discussions were of utmost value especially to HCL because of their alignment with HCL’s vision 2030. 

As a Strategic Partner to the World Economic Forum, HCL has worked closely to offer attendees a glimpse into what the future of technology and human innovation might look like. In pursuit of this goal, ‘HCL 2030’ explores how the future of technology can be innovated today. With a focus on a human-centered future, HCL strives to bridge the human-machine divide by showcasing how emerging technologies can empower humans instead of replacing them.

On the second day of the forum, HCL hosted a panel discussion titled ‘The Future of Product Innovation,’ exploring how ideas and solutions converge in today’s globally connected world. The panel was moderated by Saikat Chaudhuri, Executive Director, Mack Institute of Innovation, Wharton School – who led the discussion on what impact this convergence will have on customer experiences and outcomes in the coming years. Saikat was joined by business leaders from some of the world’s most innovative companies. The panel comprised of Murray Rode, CEO – TIBCO, Rajen Sheth, Senior Director of Product Management – Google Cloud AI, Sanjay Poonen, Chief Operating Officer – VMware, and Sanjay Varma, Co-Founder – Kalido, and Senior Entrepreneur.

Business leaders who have adhered to design thinking principles have been able to react quickly to customer needs and been better positioned in the market over time. Get more insights from the panel discussion here.

The panel and moderator was introduced by Howard Cheng, EVP, Corporate Development, HCL Technologies who pointed out the significant contribution product innovation, research and development now play in global economic growth and their importance in shaping the future. With nearly 3% of American GDP being dedicated to R&D, companies like Amazon and Google are leading the way. On a global scale, investments in R&D are over USD 1.7 trillion with no end in sight.

Here are three key takeaways from the discussion:

Customer Centric and Design Drive

Product development, especially in the technology, has radically changed in the last 10 years. The shift towards services has seen new leaders emerge such as VMware in the cloud virtualization market. The shift from data centers to cloud has been a paradigm shift, largely driven by the demands of the market. This evolution in product innovation has allowed companies like VMware and Google to capitalize and lead the charge, with a focus on customer centric product development. This shift has only been possible in the age of agile where cloud platforms enable innovators to iterate and react to customers need in nearly real-time. The focus here has been the underlying understanding of design thinking within product development teams. Engineers and business leaders who have adhered to design thinking principles have been able to react quickly to customer needs and been better positioned in the market over time. The philosophy of such an approach was best described by Sanjay Varma, as his company Kalido works to empower users to solve their problems. This approach works for product innovation as it places the end-customer needs front and center, and helps developers direct their efforts towards problems that customers care about.

Strategic Partnership Ecosystems

The technology marketplace has always been filled with fierce competition. The traditional beliefs have always been antagonistic and oppositional, especially in reaction to new start-ups that threaten to change the status quo. However, this focus towards conflict deprives energy and resources from true product innovation. The panel deftly agreed on that mission driven companies follow a clear strategic vision, are more capable of avoiding this trap. For long term sustainability and consistent product innovation, companies need to assess their operational marketplace and work towards strategic partnerships. Sanjay Poonen pointed out how VMware remains a neutral company in the marketplace. This is mainly because since day one, VMware has cut across the marketplace to create partnerships on both sides of the business as an enabler of their value rather than a competition. This has allowed the company to focus on core product innovation that keeps their value undiluted and unshaken in the face of new competition. This approach allows companies to retain focus on their larger objectives and work with partners in collaboration to create an ecosystem that allows for greater internal product innovation.

Organic Innovation Comes First

Attempts of constant product innovation are usually sidelined by concerns and limitations of the marketplace. From limited resources to limited talent, most companies worry about maintaining their internal capabilities. And while a reasonable way to mitigate this is through inorganic innovation such as acquiring a promising start-up for new capabilities, this may not always work out. The panel referred to veiled examples of major companies who have invested billions in acquiring innovation, only to have the organic minds underlying it leave. The real means to project product innovation tendencies in any organization is to build capabilities that unleash organic innovation. This requires catering to their product development and innovation workforce in more meaningful ways. Google’s Rajen Sheth pointed out the innovation value system at the search engine giant that attracts the best talent mainly due to the search engine’s overall mission – “to organize the world’s data”. Murray Rode of TIBCO was first to point the way, stating that diversity of talent is sorely needed for the future in order to improve product innovation. The greater the inclusivity, the greater cross section of ideas and problem solving perspectives can be leveraged. This requires that companies nurture talent with a culture of constant learning, inculcating and rewarding passion, and investing in upskilling their talents. Companies would be well advised to adopt a 70/30 investment split between organic and inorganic innovation if they want to retain good talent and ensure their own relevance for the future.

Watch the full lively discussion between the top minds in product innovation here

If you wish to know more about our Davos dialogues, check out #FCDavosDialogues and #HCLatDavos