Optimizing Innovation – Francois Ragnet of Xerox

by Braden Kelley

Francois Ragnet of XeroxWe are happy to bring you some of the key points and insights from Francois Ragnet’s talk at the Optimizing Innovation Conference, which was held October 21-22, 2009 in New York City.

Francois Ragnet, Managing Principal, Technology Innovation at Xerox spoke about technology transfer and the paper-free office. Xerox generated 940 patents in 2008 and has 8,000 active patents and invests $884 million in R&D (5.2% of revenue). 5,000 world-class scientists & engineers are generating more than 2 patents a day for Xerox. They recently started an Innovation Hub in India where they will try to leverage open innovation.

From Francois’ perspective, part of the difficulties in innovating in the services space is to create something that is repeatable and differentiated. Innovation in services relies on learning from failure.

“We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.” – Samuel Smiles

“We can believe that we know where the world should go. But unless we’re in touch with our customers, our model of the world can diverge from reality. There’s no substitute for innovation, of course, but innovation is no substitute for being in touch, either.” – Steve Ballmer

Xerox has an initiative called “customer-led innovation”:

  • We have technology showcase centers where we show people technology not products (researchers and customers coming together)
  • We also do a lot of work practice studies (ethnography)
    • Tthe naturalistic study and recording of human behavior
    • Naturally occuring behavior, habitats, etc.

In designing our service solutions we also use ethnographic studies to make automated processes more intelligent and human.

While the paperless office has not become a reality, Xerox is still seeking ways to make this happen.

Xerox has an agile innovation pipeline that they use (FUNNEL top to bottom below):

  1. Research (called Innovation)
  2. Readiness
  3. Productization
  4. Integration
  5. Operation

The traditional innovation funnel is very limiting and the handoffs from one stage to the next involve groups with different timescales and sometimes knowledge is lost in the handoffs between groups. The traditional innovation funnel approach is very much like a waterfall approach to software. But, that approach is very limiting, so we have tried to make this a more agile approach and create a group that goes across all of the innovation pipeline (to provide consistency and negotiate between the different stages and also to drive bi-drectional communication that involves passing potential research ideas back from the operations people to the research people).

“Too much process kills the process.”

Key Xerox Innovation Criteria:

  • ROI/Reusability
  • Differentiation
  • Cost
  • etc.

Finally, there was a question from the audience about managing the necessary cannibalization of Xerox’s existing business, and the response was as follows:

  • We see services as a key part of the future of our company (documents and workflow)
  • We don’t see one replacing the other overnight

Optimizing Innovation Conference


Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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