Fox School of Business alumni help big-name companies change their approaches to innovation.
Story by Christopher Wink, CLA ’08
Running has long been defined as a solitary sport, but it does not have to be.
So says Ci&T, the growing, mid-sized, Brazilian-based IT consulting firm that recently released a smartphone application called Runens. Launched as an iPhone tool, Runens allows users to share their running habits and miles while following others nearby and around the world.
That small mobile tool might serve as the perfect example of a movement among more established companies to open up, adapt and lead the next charge of innovation worldwide. Naturally, alumni of the Fox School of Business are in the midst of the zeitgeist.
“In the past, it’s almost always been the client that has led the process,” says Ci&T Vice President of International Business Leonardo Mattiazzi, SBM ’09. “In this case, we’re leading the innovation ourselves.”
Ci&T operates in the background for dozens of recognized brands. Most Americans might not immediately think of Ci&T when the word “innovation” comes to mind — they might be more likely to think of the 20-something web entrepreneur, the tiny startup or the hobbyist tinkerer in a garage, toiling late at night to create the next great process, tool or piece of technology.
But a funny thing is afoot, says Munir Mandviwalla, founding chair of the Department of Management Information Systems in the Fox School of Business. Large companies, which often have played a secondary role in bringing innovation to market, are examining how to generate that innovation in house.
“The small company often is the driver of what’s new because the risk for trying something completely different is low,” Mandviwalla says. “In the past, we’ve seen big companies gobble up smaller ones. But today, a lot of companies have realized that that party is over: The free money available to do expensive acquisitions is gone, so organizations are looking internally for quicker, more cost-effective, more inclusive ways to uncover innovation.”
Ci&T is a company that larger firms, such as Johnson & Johnson and Coca-Cola, turn to for application development. But Mattiazzi notes that the company is opening its doors as a way to take hold of what is new. In 2010, Ci&T started welcoming submissions for product ideas from anyone: employees at any level or outside thinkers. Ci&T’s experiment with open innovation then evolved into the entrepreneurship program that originated Runens. That product is a great example, he says, since an employee who happened to be a passionate runner noted that there was a real shortage of strong social mobile apps for marathoners and their ilk. Months later, the project was completed.
Mattiazzi adds that Temple and the Fox School of Business prepared him to help lead the project.
“I had had a lot of practical learning before I attended Fox, but I needed the theoretical foundation for my work,” he says, having worked at Ci&T for a decade before attending Temple to earn his MBA. “Fox offers a lot of both.”
Open to Innovation
With tightened financing since the recession and the ever-quickening appetite for what is cutting edge, Mandviwalla says it is making more sense for big companies to focus on their own innovation. That’s something Mattiazzi sees on the ground.
“In the past, if you weren’t buying another, smaller company, your research and development team would be responsible for [fresh ideas], and you would spend a lot of money to make that happen,” says Mattiazzi, who moved from Brazil to Philadelphia in 2006 to establish Ci&T’s North American offices. “Now, there is less research and development in many large companies, so the most successful models count on external ideas from all employees, customers and others. That’s open innovation.”
Leonardo Mattiazzi (left), SBM ´09, is vice president of international business at CiT, an international IT firm. Edward Quinn, SBM ´86, is vice president of application management at Hewlett-Packard. Photos courtesy Joseph V. Labolito.
A wall of ideas is used in a class called Designing Innovations in an iPod World, taught by James Moustafellos, assistant professor of management information systems and associate director of the Center for Design + Innovation.
To follow suit, the Fox School of Business has opened the new Center for Design+Innovation. It is an interdisciplinary design, technology and management program that fosters a focus on new technology solutions. The center is pursuing interdisciplinary research projects while drawing on the power of faculty throughout Temple, including those in business, computer and information sciences, design, electrical engineering, biology and urban geography.
“Design is all about creating options—and opportunity. The Center for Design+Innovation is an opportunity for our students to reshape their thinking, learn new skills and distinguish themselves in their careers,” says Fox School of Business Dean M. Moshe Porat, SBM ’81.
In the Department of Management Information Systems, a business process analysis class has been replaced with digital design and innovation, Mandviwalla notes. And in a leading-edge move of its own, the Fox School of Business is the first major business school in the nation to add design as an element of its master in business administration curriculum.
“We are not looking for the lone genius who is completely creative,” says Youngjin Yoo, director of the center and associate professor of management information systems. “We are looking for a group of ordinary people who can harness each individual’s ability in the process of creating something new.”
Large companies with household names, including Procter & Gamble and GE, also are encouraging meaningful ideas from outsiders, Mattiazzi says. And more are taking up the practice every day.
It sounds similar to the decades-old open-source movement that small web startups have popularized in the past decade. Smaller, more agile startup businesses, particularly in the technology field, have shared and built on the ideas of their peers and, at times, of their competitors.
“Big companies rely on evolutionary innovation, not revolution, so they’re always enhancing and tweaking what they already have,” Mattiazzi says. “They were very protective and private about it all. Small companies are working on that one product that is going to be disruptive, that will change everything, and they often are building it together.”
In Their Own Backyards
Big companies are starting to realize the fundamental strengths they have to bring innovation to market, when standardization can no longer focus on a region, but needs to think globally. Forward-thinking companies know that innovation might be even more important than the bottom line.
“If you look at large companies in the past quarter century or so, the CEO would define strategy and the IT department would implement it, which was the traditional role of the CIO,” Mandviwalla says. “A lot of companies that are struggling are still following that pattern, while the most successful big companies today are letting IT drive business strategy.”
He points to Merck, a leader in pharmaceuticals, and Campbell’s Soup Co. as large companies that are letting new ideas come first and allowing the direction to follow.
Many big companies are making similar shifts. For example, after shuffling CEOs in 2010, Hewlett-Packard (HP) has made moves toward bettering its global innovation footprint.
“HP was once two guys in a garage, but we lack the risk-reward model of the kids in the garage today,” says Vice President of Application Management Edward Quinn, SBM ’86. “Still, while a few guys can get something started in the garage, they usually need help to take it much further.”
Facing tightened budgets and needing stronger focus, a multinational IT giant like HP can blossom with a little creativity, he says, noting how Temple prepared him to solve practical, real-world problems.
“Fox was an important start to how I see and understand business,” Quinn says. “It was a well-rounded beginning.”
Quinn’s team is developing new ways to be more versatile in how HP delivers application services to its clients. He adds that the origin of an idea matters less than it did in the past, as long as the idea works.
“Acquisition will always be used to grow, and we’re always going to invest in research and development,” Quinn says. “But as budgets get cut, you do start to see a shift toward finding innovation elsewhere, from within and even from customers. Ideas travel faster than they did in the past. When you open the door, it’s a much more dynamic type of innovation. We want to be a part of that.”
Christopher Wink, CLA ’08, is co-founder of the consulting firm Technically Media and its technology news site, Technically Philly.
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