Collaborating for Innovation Success

Collaborating for Innovation SuccessOne of the benefits of running an Innovation Conference at a high-tech company (EMC) is that my team and I get free access to top technologies and top technologists.

We’ve started to use both of these assets to greater understand the dynamics of our innovation culture across the world.

November 30th of this year marks the 5th anniversary of EMC’s Annual Innovation Conference and Showcase (we’re celebrating by inviting Sun co-founder Scott McNealy to give the keynote). The Conference is about socialization (gathering to discuss and compare innovation best practices), while the Showcase is about materialization (presenting and celebrating the best ideas and their resulting implementations). The chart below highlights the growth and momentum that the Conference has experienced.


The five-year anniversary has certainly been a cause for introspection, and my team has found that there is no better way to introspect than to analyze the mountains of data that we’ve generated over the years. There are many technologies that we use in this process:

  • We use our own Documentum search and index tools to catalog every single idea submitted to the Innovation Showcase from 2007 to 2011.
  • We use our own Greenplum as a database to store key research and innovation data from around the company.
  • We use EMC majority-owned VMware to virtualize our incubation environment for ideas that are “Best in Show”.

What I’d like to highlight in this post, however, is our use of the open-source “R” analytics platform to take a deep-dive into the ideas repository that holds worldwide employees ideas. In the first of several posts on this topic, I’d like to highlight a key insight that has been enabled by the use of these technologies. The chart below indicates that nearly 80% of employee ideas were submitted “solo” (only one inventor named on the idea).


A similar analysis was run describing the team sizes of those ideas that were selected as FINALISTS (71 ideas out of 1590).


The numbers indicate that less than 60% of the finalists were solo artists. Does this mean that it’s better to collaborate with somebody else if you want to submit a higher quality idea? And if so, is the data saying that the ideal team size is between 2-6 persons? For this small sample size, I would lean towards “yes”. The data caused me to pull out my slide from the original Innovation Conference many years ago and recall Objective #1:


Collaboration is rewarded by a trip to the finals!

How about the “unite employees globally” objective? We’ve analyzed the global nature of employee submissions, and I’ll highlight some of the insightful results in future posts. As a teaser, however, I’ll share one final slide which highlights the global span of Conference Locations in 2011 (16) and a breakdown of where the ideas are coming from. Enjoy!


Steve ToddSteve Todd is an EMC Intrapreneur and author of the books Innovate With Influence and Innovate With Global Influence. As an EMC Distinguished Engineer with over 180 patents filed, Steve writes about his experiences as the Director of EMC’s Global Innovation Network. and Twitter: @SteveTodd

Steve Todd




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No Comments

  1. Jelmar Starkenburg on October 16, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Dear sir/madam,

    I really like the idea of bringing together innovators from around the world. I would like to contribute to the community. Is there a chance to talk with someone from emc about this?

    I am looking forward to hear from you!

    Yours sincerely,

    Jelmar Starkenburg

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