Is controversy good when it comes to innovating? Today’s guest is passionate about creating breakthroughs and states ‘If it isn’t controversial, it’s not a good idea’. Scott McNealy knows a few things about changing the game by challenging the status quo, disrupting platforms, products and services. Focusing on continually challenging an idea, model, platform, technology and service leads to disruptive breakthroughs and advances society. This week on Killer Innovations, Scott McNealy joins us to discuss a number of topics in the quest for future advances.
Lessons from the Trenches
Seeking to make an impact by looking at things from a different lens has always been Scott’s game if it’s technology, golf, education, marketing, politics or social issues. His open source view permeates his approaches and has led to positive impacts. Scott has had opportunities to learn from his pioneering and early mover days with Sun Microsystems to recent ventures in marketing and education platforms. There are many takeaways in the battles he and his teams engaged with over three decades of incredible growth and technology advances that made significant contributions to the boom of the PC and Internet. So what does it take to continue to innovate and grow. Scott has some key thoughts from disrupting markets, managing and leading in fast growth times to developing breakthrough products and services.
- A Good Idea has to be Controversial – crazy and controversial ideas have to be correct or you look foolish—controversial and correct, not controversial and stupid. No controversy, no chance to survive, if it isn’t controversial then everyone does it and no differentiation or pricing power.
- First to Market is Great when You’re Right on Timing and Team – having been on the leading edge as well as the refiner of technologies and markets, the most important aspect is ensuring you have architected a well-rounded team that will challenge the status quo, be willing to admit failure and adjust, while also being patient for timing to present itself. Sun had many ideas and technologies that were too early for the market, so it took leadership sensitive to timing and execution to seize the right opportunities at the right time.
- Most Products and Technologies aren’t Original but Evolving and Require Pivoting – it is rare you will have something brand new, but innovating current products, business models and industries can create breakthroughs when you forge forward and are willing to adjust and pivot with what the market is presenting.
- Observe, Analyze, Adjust and Execute Fast – A customer in China was using Sun’s Route D (routing software) technology differently and if Sun had spent more time in observation, assessed the implications and potential opportunities they would have been the router king before CISCO. It’s important to pay attention to not just how YOU view your product’s use, but how your customers are using it. Your customers can create new markets beyond your imagination.
- If you Miss an Opportunity, Leave it Behind and Move Fast Forward – we all have ideas and innovations we worked on and didn’t execute on that someone else succeeded in. Forget about it and keep innovating and working the execution. The secret to success is always leaving the past as the past and pressing ahead with what’s next.
- Capital Doesn’t Solve Problems – Capital Infusion Creates Confusion – many times more capital infusion creates more confusion and less focus on disrupting, ideating and coming up with that next innovation. More capital can get you compulsive, complacent and distracted. You can’t beat technology with more capital, you need cleverness and leadership.
Augmenting Education Now and the Future
We need education advancement more than ever before. Today’s tools and platform don’t provide the best we can do as a society for our students, teachers and parents. Scott started Curriki to focus on augmenting the education experience and creating a new digital era in our education. A catalyst for Scott’s desire to challenge and create value in education was the rising cost of educational material and his open source mentality. The desire is to have no student, no teacher and no parent left behind. To fulfill that we need to continue Innovating around the facilitation of key learnings and interdisciplinary skills like critical thinking, communication, teamwork and civility along with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Curriki’s free and open source exchange platform with a new age of curriculum, is all about a virtual and classroom experience that:
- Focuses on the Student’s Personal Training Needs – opening up educating for differences in aptitude and providing an adequate education at your speed and pace. Not all kids learn the same or need to learn the same material. One on one personal attention and access to custom services meet at the point of need.
- Challenges with Interactive, Fun and Exciting Tools – bringing the binge mentality into education—like FORTNITE in gaming or Netflix entertainment has done. Why not have the same desire and demand for learning, as there is for playing and entertainment.
- Provides a Collaborative and Transparent Community Forum – a personal dashboard with collaboration and visibility for all engaged in the life cycle of educating from student, teacher and parent.
Scott believes this is a group effort by society regardless of your views and he is looking for people who are passionate and interested in supporting the augmentation of our education system. Everyone can help create our future of education.
Making an Impact with Issues of Today
Tackling issues in society are important, however, the forum and approach you use can be effective or destructive. Finding commonality to break the divide and divisions in business and politics helps progress us forward and strengthen the future. Scott has a lot to say on challenging ideas and having healthy conversations around them. For companies being A-political and getting involved in policies that impact your business, investors and shareholders should be the focus, but not alienating substantial fractions of your customer base. Is Government’s job to promote or regulate business? Government is not the answer to innovation, or all the challenges and problems we have in society. Financial freedoms and liberties give people and business the abilities to make a difference. Scott is in the early ideation stages of a digital issue-based platform to provide a forum for healthy discussions around the challenges we face. This digital town hall approach would give everyone with different views the opportunity to make an impact and cross the aisle to find commonality and bridge the divide and solve problems. He doesn’t believe today’s social media platforms provide the best channels to get things done in a civil and breaking the divide fashion to progress forward.
Future Advances and Taking Responsibility
The future is full of many possibilities when it comes to disruptive technology. Autonomous everything will be one of the most impactful to our society. Where do you play in it and filter through the possibilities as an entrepreneur and innovator? Any area within a technology space can be the best or worst, but it is really about the execution. Some areas people have pinpointed as the unfruitful path have turned out to be the most successful. So do your research and analysis, then dive in, adjust and be nimble on your journey—don’t wait, fire away. Scott has challenged many leading companies from Microsoft, IBM and Apple taking on their ideas, products and business model—challenge the idea, not the people. Controversy leads to the next innovation breakthrough. Most importantly we need to have more responsibility and accountability with our generation on how we manage our own lives and not rely on others or Government to take care of our actions and needs.
About Our Guest
Scott McNealy is the co-founder and CEO of Sun Microsystems which pioneered its way in computing technologies from hardware, operating systems to software, including the JAVA language. He was with Sun from its start in 1982, IPO in 1987 to sale to Oracle in 2010. Scott also is on many Boards and advises Fortune 500 to entrepreneurial startups. He co-founded social media intelligence company Wayin, which was recently acquired and founded Curriki the non-profit free education service. Scott is looking for help with Curriki and you can connect with him on Twitter.
Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or you can go to Philmckinney.com and drop me a note there. If you are looking to develop a Loonshot, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.
To learn about creating correct crazy and controversial ideas, listen to this week's show: Scott McNealy on Controversy Generates Good Ideas.