Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, has advised large corporates to invest in people with ideas within their company if they are to survive and innovate.
Speaking yesterday at Mastercard’s Connecting Tomorrow forum, Wozniak suggested that to truly open themselves up to innovation, leaders must look beyond making money and consider the future world.
Wozniak was an engineer for the multi-national technology company, Hewlett Packard, in the early seventies when he created the world’s first home computer in his spare time. Excited about the capabilities and potential of his new invention and loyal to his employer, he first took his idea to his company.
“I proposed the personal computer to [Hewlett Packard] and I got turned down for the first of five times. They just didn’t see it as a viable business,” Wozniak remembers.
Wozniak went on to launch Apple with Steve Jobs in 1976. In August this year, Apple became the first U.S. company to ever reach a $1 trillion valuation.
To avoid making the same mistake as Hewlett Packard, Wozniak proposed that companies be prepared to open themselves up to new opportunities.
“Company culture gets in the way. If you’re a large enough company (and Hewlett Packard was back then), you can set off small little projects to explore projects that might have no value at all, and might become a whole division and the revenues of the company for the next ten years.
“Here’s the problem: your job in your company is to keep the wheel spinning and make the revenues the way you know how to make them. It’s the way you’ve always done it in the past — you have to keep that going and that’s the top priority for the people that own the company. You get used to doing things a certain way — when you do market research, you’re going to the people that you’re already selling to, those that you know.”
To step outside of their comfort zone, Wozniak suggests that companies look for young, excited inventors; people who are not too tied the way things are done now and willing to explore new possibilities and see the future world for what it’s going to be.
“It’s a personality trait. An engineer knows formulas and math and how to do things. They’ve done it before because they’ve read it in the books. An inventor just gets an idea and says, 'I wonder if I can do this'.
“If you’re large enough, you can have some side invention areas. You’ve got to have a category in the company that’s looking around for people that have good ideas.
“A company could call this department, 'The Disruption Department'. The Chief Disruption Officer (CDO) should not report to the CEO because the CEO’s job is to make money for the company, with the current knowledge of how to make money. The CDO should report to the board of directors and should be very loosely attached and not really following directions; they should be independently thinking.”
Wozniak’s exclusive appearance was a highlight on day one of Mastercard’s conference to showcase the latest technologies disrupting the payments industry and the world around us.
Opening the event, Mastercard’s President for the Middle East and Africa, Raghu Malhotra, spoke of how the global company has always been and will continue to be at the forefront of digital transformation, saying, “Innovation starts with a different mindset that seeks to solve something.”
The Connecting Tomorrow forum is running for two days in the city of Barcelona.