Intellectual Ventures President Adriane Brown on Global Impact, Benefits of Being Uncomfortable, and “Positive Change Through People”

5/12/10Follow @gthuang

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where you can’t predict what’s going to happen. When I joined AlliedSignal, I knew I would be put under pressure. From AlliedSignal to Honeywell, I spent five years in the aerospace industry. It was very different from the electronics and automotive industry at Corning. I dealt with brand new experiences.

X: How does that translate to your goals at Intellectual Ventures (IV)?

AB: In terms of big-impact businesses, I was really drawn to IV. When I received my offer letter from Nathan [Myhrvold] and the founders, it included a list of goals for 2010. I was very pleased, but I admit I didn’t take it on its face. I needed context. So I made an additional trip to Bellevue to talk to the founders about the objectives—what was it I really needed to do. After that, I met with the senior leaders of the company and had the same discussion with them, to make sure I was clear on what was important. I was thrilled that when I started on January 1, I had a 100-day plan in place. Part of that was to begin to deploy our focus and alignment. To make sure we have the people, the process, and the communications to deliver on a fantastic 2010.

My goals break down into four areas, which tie into where IV is and its whole evolution. “People” was one category—to continue to mature our processes and capabilities to make this a fantastic place to be for our employees. Second, I wanted to strengthen our teamwork—to bring all of the might of IV to the marketplace. Third was communications and brand—to make sure we’re communicating proactively. And fourth, with each of our leaders, we have defined [metrics for evaluating performance]. So it’s people, teamwork, communications, and results.

X: What are your observations of Intellectual Ventures, coming from the outside, and what changes will you make?

AB: As an outsider, one of the things I had to reconcile was to make sure I didn’t bring large-cap processes to a company the size and scope of IV. Bring the essence, but leaner-cleaner. One thing was to define the ongoing processes and meetings we have, and pull together with them what I call my “management operating system.” For me, I’d want more of that than what a company like IV does. I look at how to grow at scale, and allow for more planning. I look at it in the short term, and also look at it on a longer-term scale.

Another observation is that I wasn’t used to as much e-mail! I get a lot of e-mail, but I’ve made the adjustment. E-mail is the preferred method of communication.

X: Talk about your leadership and management philosophy.

AB: Fundamental in who I am as a leader is a person who believes in possibility. I expect the team to trust themselves, and to push through when they don’t get the outcomes they want. You have to get out of your comfort zone. I am a pusher. I expect a lot from my team. It’s not about giving people tough goals they can’t accomplish. I believe in positive change through people.

X: What’s an example of this from your experience?

AB: When I was in the aerospace industry, the first business unit I took on was … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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