HP TouchPad Guru Phil McKinney Lays Down "7 Immutable Laws Of Innovation"; Do They Apply to HP?

Phil McKinney is the president and CTO of HP's personal systems group, the group that oversaw the TouchPad's creation and the group the company just said it will be spinning off from HP and possibly selling. He's behind HP's strategy to control both the software and hardware of its smartphones and tablets--a strategy that has paid off well for Apple, but a strategy HP CEO Leo Apotheker said he was no longer committed to.

Today, McKinney took to his personal blog to lay down the "7 immutable laws of innovation--follow them or risk the consequences," a guide to his thoughts on the ins-and-outs of innovation--how innovation works and how it thrives. "I have the scars from the school of hard knocks to validate that these are the set of laws that are critical for innovation success," McKinney writes. "If you violate any one of them, the consequences can be disastrous." In the context of HP's axing of the TouchPad, however, it's hard not to read the "immutable laws of innovation" in a larger context--to read between the lines, and figure out which of these hard-learned rules HP overlooked.

McKinney begins with his "law of leadership," a law that says everyone at the executive level must be committed to innovation for innovation to succeed. "Leadership means talking-the-talk AND walking-the-walk," he writes. Did McKinney face this problem at HP? In the company's recent earnings call, it became quite apparent that the company was less committed to the TouchPad's unified-software-hardware approach, pulling the plug on the hardware end after only a month on the market. "How much time does the executive team as a group and individually spend working on innovation?" McKinney asks. "Listening to status reports from others doesn’t count." 

Other important laws, McKinney writes, are the laws of resources and patience--especially applicable in HP's circumstance. As he points out, innovation not only takes a commitment to resources (people, money, equipment), it also takes a serious commitment to time. Given that HP axed the TouchPad after only weeks on the market, it's hard to see how HP committed either enough resources or time for innovation, according to McKinney's rulebook. "The organization must take the long view on innovation and avoid the temptation and resist the pressure for short-term adjustments," he argues. That's a sentiment he echoed to me only a few months ago, when he stressed that despite the iPad's success, "we're still in the top of the first inning."

"The law of process," is yet another applicable rule for HP. McKinney argues that in order for innovation to succeed, a process must be set up that works "within their organization and culture." That means "establishing and tracking a set of metrics that measures the success and areas of improvement within the innovation program." The metrics that Apotheker and CFO Catherine Lesjak made clear during the recent earnings call were surrounding sales figures, short-term milestones that the TouchPad did not hit. The one simple metric determined an entire program's success (or failure, in this instance).

The other laws (the law of BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal, and the laws of culture and execution) are clearly relevant here as well. But it's difficult to relate them to HP or McKinney's feelings about HP without postulating too much.

What do you think of McKinney's rules of innovation? Agree? Disagree? Did HP follow or not follow them?

Read more of McKinney's rules on his blog

[Image: Flickr user Diffendale]

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7 Comments

  • Packet Guy

    What do I think? I'm glad you asked.

    The loser behind a third-rate, "also ran" copycat product tells the world he has seven "immutable" laws of successful innovation? And the laws sound just like the theories of other self-appointed experts of business poppycock? And the "laws" have indefinable names such as "the law of culture?"

    Does Fast Company really fall for this crap?

  • Michael Brown

    You sir, have obviously never used WebOS.  So why don't you take note from some Apple fanboys and girls who have in recent weeks and come to see why the TouchPad is not the "third-rate" product you claim it to be.  "Copycat", yes, but only in form. 

    True multi-tasking.  Flash.  Synergy of any and all email accounts.  Hands down the BEST Facebook app for a tablet on the planet, 'Just Type' uber search that, as you type, searches not only the devices address book, email content, notes, calendar and app catalog, but also gives you the option of instantly locating your search topic via Hulu, Google, Wikipedia, IMDB, etc., etc, etc. at the tap of a button, oh, and let's not forget about descrete notifications that don't screech ones productivity to a halt whatever it is an email, text or event alarm comes popping up... 

    TouchPad doesn't need "an app for that".  These features ship standard out the box.  No need for "jailbreaking" a WebOS device, either.  The software's not on lockdown to begin with. 

    WebOS has an incredibly active developer base.  Do we have half-a-million apps?  No, but what we do have is are thousands of 'patches' that allow users to tweak their devices to run exactly the way they want them to run WITHOUT having to jailbreak them.  One such patch allows me to overclock my Palm Pre to double it's original processor operating speed - at zero expense to the processor.  Been running it at 1GHz for over a year now.  I'm running my 1.2GHz TouchPad at 1.7GHz.  No overheating.  No glitches.  All without 'jailbreaking'.  If I want my time and date to display differently than ho HP set it up, there a patch for that.  Oh, and shhhhhhh.....patches are all FREE.

    'Third-rate'.  Indeed, sir...  Indeed...  In this case, ignorance is not bliss.

    Read on:  http://www.amazon.com/HP-Touch...

  • Johan Smith

    "You sir, have obviously never used WebOS."
    I have, I got a fire-sale touchpad so I'll talk to you as someone who has also used the product."come to see why the TouchPad is not the "third-rate" product you claim it to be."I wouldn't say third-rate but it's certainly a generation behind and not quite there yet."Hands down the BEST Facebook app for a tablet on the planet"Where's the chat? "oh, and let's not forget about discrete notifications that don't screech ones productivity to a halt whatever it is an email, text or event alarm comes popping up..."No idea what this is a dig at, I have an android phone and notifications don't screech one's productivity to a half. Not sure why you even raise the issue of productivity as the Touchpad as shipped as no native document editing (I'm sure it's 'coming soon') and the PDF reader is absolutely awful, it doesn't even allow bookmarks, very slow to load and generally just not fit for business. "TouchPad doesn't need "an app for that". "Actually it does - for one simply reason - the browser is absolutely dire - on many sites it fails to load, on others they simply endlessness reload so they are unreadable. On many forums, if you make a post, the only way to then see your post is to go into the settings and clear the cache. The font selection is woeful and it is a common problem for pages to display with jagged or broken fonts. There are a number of other problems (many acknowledged by WebOS developers) - one of the main ones being that the sound will simply quit at random requiring the user to reboot the device to get it back or use a terminal to quit and restart pulseaudio (and if you have to use a terminal on a tablet to fix something...)Moreover, there are other key things missing - yes synergy is nice and dandy but it doesn't link to key services such as Picasa and without that support for mainstream services is worthless.Clearly you've been a user of WebOS for a long-time, I'm going at it cold and my view is that it's simply not finished - the unified GUI is nice, the cards metaphor is nice but large elements of the actual functionality are other unfinished or simply missing. All of the problems I have described have been noted by many other people so they cannot be ascribed to my machine or my set-up.  I am happy with the device as a cheap fire-sale device but anyone who paid full-price for this got taken. 

  • Packet Guy

    I disagree with all McKinney's laws. They have little to do with innovation and for McKinney to call them "immutable" is simply unbridled pomposity.

    Look at Apple's Macintosh, which was created with no corporate leadership, by an impatient dictator, in a rogue development lab that had to steal resources from other organizations. The Mac _created_ a new culture within Apple, the culture wasn't "established and nurtured" by management.I doubt that there are any "laws" for innovation, other than to innovate. I do know that most attempts to deliberately create an innovative environment have failed. Google may be an exceoptionThe killer for me is that FastCompany seemingly accepts McKinney's theory without question. This is not journalism. This is advertising.