Buzz Aldrin on Innovation, Inventions and Velcro
Quick quiz: How many objects on your desk have roots at NASA?
Chances are you own a GPS-enabled smartphone, use a computer mouse, drink filtered water and wear comfortable tennis shoes. Each of those technologies can trace their origins back to NASA inventions or NASA funding. (Velcro, it turns out, was not invented at NASA).
Buzz Aldrin—arguably NASA’s most famous astronaut—talked innovation, inventions and space onstage this week at the Avaya Evolutions conference in Silicon Valley.
Evolutions is designed to give Avaya’s partners and customers insights on the direction of the industry and inspiration from thought leaders like Aldrin. The conference is headed to Montreal, the Dominican Republic, Chicago, New York, Argentina and Colombia.
Aldrin’s love of flight came from his father, Edwin, who took him up in an airplane as a boy. He recounted the country’s first steps toward spaceflight and the formation of NASA, amidst the backdrop of the Cold War.
While the past was interesting, Aldrin is more focused on the future: A global, collaborative space program pushing the boundaries of innovation.
“I strongly believe that we’ve got to get the world excited about space again,” Aldrin said. “…to have a pioneering spirit to reach beyond our boundaries and current capabilities.”
From his perspective, today’s children hold the key.
“What we need most is for the next generation to be motivated and seek out new innovations,” he said. “It’s the only way we can move forward. [It’s] the evolution of innovation.”
Curiosity’s landing in 2012 was one of NASA’s most widely-watched maneuvers, due to the extreme risk the agency faced on entry into the thin Martian atmosphere. (They nicknamed the landing “Seven Minutes of Terror.”)
Aldrin said he hopes the Mars rover program sparks a renewed interest in space. NASA runs a popular Twitter feed for Curiosity, which is currently approaching 1.5 million followers.
Curiosity’s older sibling, Opportunity, continues to rove the surface and grab headlines—most recently after discovering a mysterious rock on the planet’s surface.
Eventually, Aldrin would like to see humans take a manned trip to Mars.
You might be wondering: How does the space program impact innovation at Avaya?
Onstage, Aldrin argued that much of the technology baked into the foundation of so many technology companies—Avaya included—got its start at NASA. The culture of innovation at NASA has excited several generations of young scientists and inventors. His hope is that it will continue to do so into the future.
Aldrin said successful projects—from the exploration of space down to one-day sprints at the office—cannot happen without collaboration among people. Collaboration drove NASA to successfully land the Apollo 11 mission on the moon in 1969, and continues to drive the agency today.
“Apollo is the story of people doing their best, working together for the common goal,” Aldrin said. “We started with a dream and we can do these kinds of things again. With a united effort and a great team, you too can achieve great things in your business.”
Guy Kawasaki at Avaya Evolutions: Humor, Insight and Innovation
It’s not every day that you sit down to listen to a keynote address, thinking, “Hey, I really like this guy – He’s funny! I actually did laugh out loud!”
But then again, there’s something really likable and unique about Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki, who recently spoke at the Avaya Evolutions event in Toronto.
The former Apple Chief Evangelist, who leveraged his charisma to help establish Macintosh computers, is also the author of 12 books, including the recent “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions.”
So, what makes Kawasaki so engaging?
Maybe it’s his humor:
“I worked for Apple as Apple’s Software Evangelist,” says Kawasaki. “I [was in] in the Macintosh division. [It] was probably the largest collection of egomaniacs in the history of America.”
He continues, “We had a great travel policy: Any flight over two hours qualified for first class. My interpretation of that was that the two hours begins when you leave your apartment.”
…Or maybe it’s his candor:
“I’ve been in the tech business for about 30 years,” Kawasaki says, “and I’ll tell you that other than speakers from Avaya and a handful of companies, most tech speakers suck. And they not only suck, they go long, which is a bad combination.”
Thankfully, Kawasaki is neither dull nor long-winded, and he actually has some really compelling things to say, culled from his years of experience rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in tech.
Kawasaki has a knack for creating memorable, pithy maxims out of what could be bland, complex business strategies.
Let’s look at just a few.
- Decide to Make Meaning
“Decide to make meaning – as opposed to money,” he says. “In Silicon Valley, many companies start with the goal of making money, and I’ve noticed that those companies typically fail. The companies that succeed typically had a much deeper purpose – They wanted to change the world.”
He says the best motivation for innovation “is to make meaning to change the world.”
- Make a Mantra
Do you know your company’s mission statement? It’s probably 50 words long, according to Kawasaki.
He suggests making a mantra instead.
“In the United States, we focus on making ‘mission statements,’” he says. “This is the fundamental flaw of mission statements: Nobody can remember them! If you want to be innovative, make a mantra. Why does your innovation exist?”
He says it should be summed up in just two or three words.
- Don’t Worry, Be Crappy
“When you are a curve-jumper, it’s okay to have elements of crappiness,” Kawasaki says.
When the Apple Macintosh first came out, it had a number of limitations, being something new and different. It was a learning experience, Kawasaki explains, but at least they did it.
“Don’t ship crap, but if you are jumping the curve, it’s okay to have elements of crappiness to it.”
There’s a lot more good stuff where this came from. You might say Kawasaki is full of it – I think he’d get a kick out of that.
To watch Guy Kawasaki’s complete Avaya Evolutions keynote, click here.
You can also download the complete podcast here.
Q&A with Economics Guru Todd Buchholz on Innovation during Shaky Economies
Todd Buchholz is a former director of White House economics policy, the CEO of educational startup, Sproglet, and an all-around mover and shaker in the economics policy world. He is keynoting at a number of Avaya Evolutions conferences this spring, including the Avaya Evolutions San Francisco show last month. Below is a transcript of our conversation, which focused on the need for innovation in all economies, but especially today.
Photo by Andres Larranaga/Avaya
This Avaya CONNECTED Blog is also available as an MP3 Audio File
What did you talk about at your Evolutions keynote?
Buchholz: Well, let’s face it. The economy is very confusing to everyone. I think the President of the United States is probably as confused as the Federal Reserve Board Chair, as every investor, every business person. So what I try to do is kind of make sense of how to think about interest rates, where they are, the debt situation, and how Wall St. is looking at the world right now, and also to give some advice to folks on how to succeed in business even if the economy is pretty darn tricky.
I think the economy is getting better, but at a very slow pace. And there’s little reason to think things are going to pick up. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that we as business people should be despondent, because there are still huge opportunities for us and what we need to do is (a) pick the right partners to do business with and (b) differentiate ourselves. Show that we have something different to say or to sell, and that can allow us break out from the pack and create some profit margin even in a climate that isn’t very friendly to prices.
So if you’re just hanging out and doing nothing, you’re just going to wither on the vine, right? You have to make some strategic investments when times are tight.
Buchholz: You have to be hungry for innovation. You just think about it this way: if you were literally hungry during the day, you’ll go to some buffet and you’ll seek out some food and say, “Well I haven’t had that before, but I’m going to try it because I’m really hungry.”
(laughs) Not if you eat at the buffets near my house.
Buchholz: (laughs) Well I won’t be dropping by. And if you’re not hungry for innovation, it doesn’t come. There are companies called Kodak, Polaroid, and others that were on top of the hill, on top of their game, it seemed, for decades, but you can’t stay on top of your game and on top of the hill unless you’re looking to create innovation within or acquire it from others.
I think there are examples of a lot of companies that get so big they dominate a market, they dominate technology, and I think, maybe it’s just laziness. They lose their drive. They lose their energy. They lose their focus on innovation. And they get to a point and they stop.
Buchholz: That’s right. I read a book called “New Ideas from Dead CEOs”, and I talked about General Motors. I also did a more recent book called “Rush”. General Motors obviously was a great, conquering company in the United States and around the world. And then sometime in the 1970’s, they got lazy. You used to be able to distinguish a Pontiac from an Oldsmobile from a Chevrolet in the 1940’s and 50’s and 60’s. In the 1970’s and 80’s, you couldn’t tell the difference between a Buick Regal and an Oldsmobile 88, or even the Cadillac. They were basically the same steel stamping, and all they did was change the crest on the front. Well, they lost the desire to distinguish within themselves. You also need competition within an organization. If everyone is just sitting around getting along, and no one is willing to be a standout, then the company itself will not stand out.
So I’m the only guy that podcasts inside Avaya, so I have a secure job then, right? (laughs)
Buchholz: You have a secure job, (laughs) but someone may come along with smaller microphones.
(laughs) Certainly a better looking host.
Buchholz: (laughs) Well that’s why you and I both do radio and do so well at radio.
Got a face for radio, absolutely.
Avaya Evolutions arrive à Montréal!
Si vous n’êtes pas déjà au courant, Avaya est en tournée. Nous tenons des événements d’une journée appelés Avaya Evolutions. En fait, il s’agit de plus que des événements, ce sont des expériences. Nous réunissons des gens brillants, afin de discuter d’idées brillantes, engendrées par une technologie brillante. Jusqu’à maintenant, nous pouvons dire que c’est un succès.
Mais nous ne faisons que commencer. Après des arrêts au Mexique, au Chili, au Panama et à Toronto, nous ferons un arrêt incontournable dans la belle ville de Montréal.
Nous avons au programme des conférenciers incroyables, des ateliers et des discussions animées. Pour nous, l’essentiel est de découvrir les technologies de communications d’entreprise de prochaine génération, de connecter avec les collègues et les clients et de collaborer avec les experts Avaya et les chefs d’entreprises.
Voici quelques-uns des leaders que vous aurez le plaisir d’entendre:
Guy Kawasaki, cofondateur d’Alltop.com, un “kiosque de magazine virtuel” qui traite des sujets populaires sur le web, et auteur du livre « Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. » Auparavant, il était évangéliste en chef chez Apple.
Ward Chapin était responsable des technologies de VANOC. Il était à la tête de l’équipe technologique qui a implanté et géré chaque système requis pour la mise en place des Jeux olympiques et paralympiques d’hiver de Vancouver en 2010.
Nous serons ravis que vous vous joigniez à nous. Le tout se déroulera le 27 février 2014 au Palais des congrès de Montréal. Inscrivez-vous maintenant!
Rob Daleman est directeur national du Marketing chez Avaya Canada. Il a pour but de fournir une perspective typiquement canadienne aux tendances émergentes de télécommunications, en voulant toujours aider les chefs de petites et moyennes entreprises à mieux comprendre technologies actuelles favorisant la productivité. Avant de se joindre à Avaya, Rob était à la tête des stratégies pour les entreprises de taille moyenne pour Dell Canada.Il est surtout intéressé par la direction et la cadence des convergences technologiques lorsqu’elle se rapporte à la mobilité, la téléphonie, l’ordinateur et les applications nuagiques. Rob détient une maîtrise en administration des affaires de la Schulich School of Business.