Innovation — It ain’t juz abt R&D & $

In Uncategorized on 13/02/2010 at 5:14 am

“Making innovation and R&D a priority, for instance, needs to go beyond pumping investments into research, to commercialise outcomes,” SM was quoted as saying after the latest ESC report called for more R&D spending.

The report repeats the wish to raise the total expenditure on R&D across various industries. The view is that the increment in expenditure on R&D should naturally increase the quality of S’pore’s exports,  giving us a reputation (like the Japanese and Germans: the Axis allies in WWII)  for good quality high tech products; and services.

If R&D expenditure goes to 3.5%, as recommended, this will be in line with the expenditures in USA, Japan and Europe.

But as this NYT article by ex-Microsotfer shows, having good R&D and $ to spend doesn’t mean much if the institutional framework or corporate culture, or both, are wrong.

More than a decade ago, Dick Brass’s team in Microsoft worked on a a tablet PC: think iPAD.  It turned out to be a dog with fleas.

He claims that Microsoft’s corporate culture killed the project. At Microsoft, internal competition created a corporate culture where ” big established groups are allowed to prey upon emerging teams, belittle their efforts, compete unfairly against them for resources, and over time hector them out of existence. It’s not an accident that almost all the executives in charge of Microsoft’s music, e-books, phone, online, search and tablet efforts over the past decade have left.”

“Internal competition is common at great companies. It can be wisely encouraged to force ideas to compete. The problem comes when the competition becomes uncontrolled and destructive.”

Another problem, “Timing has also been poor — too soon on Web TV, too late on iPods.”

I would add that Microsoft did not have the institutional check and balances to ensure that its internal corporate culture of competition did not run riot.


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