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Industrial Research Institute Meeting Report-I

| On 30, May 2011

Jack Hipple

IRI Meeting-I was priveleged to present a workshop on TRIZ problem solving at the annual IRI meeting in Philadelphia this year and was able to attend a number of very interesting presentations from senior executives from materials and service industires. I’d like to report on several of these presentations.

Joe Miller, Exectuive VP and Chief Technology Officer of Corning, discussed how Corning had dealt with two major business “earthquakes”–the bursting of the “dotcom” bubble and the recession of 2009. He shared ways of adjusting to the “new normal” and the discipline that Corning used to stick to its knitting and what it knew how to do better than anyone else. From the depth of the bubble burst in 2002 to 2010 their sales grew from $3 to 6.8 Billion, net profit after taxes from (-)400M to 3.3B and free cash flow from (-)700M to 2.8B.A key decision made was to centralize core capabilities and reduce the number of laboratories. Many other companies “globlized” R&D around the globe. While refocusing and preserving their core capabilities, they focused on tough problems where their product was a “system enabler” with demanding requirements and also requiring specialized capital with strong intellectual property and selling into critical markets with high selling prices.

Two of the products he mentioned as having been born from this focus included ClearCurve(TM) fiber and Gorilla Glass(TM) for consumer devices. The holy grain for Corning is thin, strong, damage resistant glass. He made mention of the fact that doing work at 2300C (melting point of glass) is expensive. This means that R&D is expensive, but it also means not everyone can do it.

Learnings that he passed on to his listeners:

  1. Constant balancing of the R&D portfolio if required. 5-10 years (new businesses) with “adjancencies” (2-4 years out) and support of on going businesses (1-3 years out). There will be tension. Recongize and deal with it.

  2. Very early stage R&D is expensive and risky and must be supported by corporate, not on going business, funds. Giant leaps are risky. R&D must have independence

  3. Explore multiple avenues, not just the obvious one

  4. Mistakes happen. Learn from them.

  5. Know who you are and what your recipe is.

  6. R&D is a social activity

  7. Need multipe input of ideas

  8. Involve all the functions in the process

  9. Need different talents at different stages of a project and product development

  10. R&D peole are different. Deal with it.

  11. Success requires will, patience, and guts

  12. Business silos must be minimized

Martin Apple, President of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents presented some interesting global data comparing the US in a global context.

  1. China’s generation of science degree holders is exploding while the rest of the world is nearly flat.

  2. There is no more separate “learing”. Learning is the job.

  3. We are at risk of species degradation without control of CO2 emissions

  4. WIth 6% of the world’s population, we use 25% of its energy. We have to move away from the strategy of take, make, and waste.

Dr. Jacomo Corba, Chief Scientist, Quantum Black, made some interesting observations about using communication to design organizations. He suggested using comuncation tracking within a company to see how it really functions (as opposed to what the org charts say). Visuallizing this can create an eye opening experience.