PARC Fires Back at New Yorker, Claiming Old Apple Legend Misses Point of How Innovation Works Today

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open innovation, helping its clients capitalize on their own technologies and seasoning them with concepts homegrown at PARC.

Chokshi, Lee, and Pirolli point out the PARC of today takes a “portfolio” approach to innovation, encouraging some risky projects while at the same time investing in others that are more likely to pan out (a theme Lee covered in an earlier Xconomy guest post). They say you have to invent lots of things (like the Alto) before you find a profitable one (like the laser printer); “the number of successful ideas that emerge is a function of the volume of failed ones,” they write.

They also argue that PARC is a good partner today because it has internalized many of the concepts that Gladwell wrote about, such as the need to impose limits to turn ideas into innovations: “As Gladwell observes, Apple wanted to build a popular vs. a personal computer. So Steve Jobs pushed his designer by adding constraints to the mouse such as low price and high reliability. We’ve found that you don’t have to ‘turn the &*^%$;# tap’ of creativity off—but you can focus the tap by imposing constraints (in our case, these often come from our clients reflecting their product or service strategy).”

If Jobs visited PARC today, the PARC authors conclude, the result would probably be an open collaboration rather than simple leakage of PARC’s ideas. “There would be a much better understanding of his goals, our goals, and what we would want to accomplish—together—through open innovation,” they write. The bottom line: PARC sees itself as a very different place today from the one depicted in the Apple legend, and it’s taking advantage of its moment in the New Yorker’s spotlight to make sure the outside world understands the difference too.

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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