Last Wednesday, I had the privilege of attending the EMC Innovation Conference. It was EMC's third, my second, and the first to offer an Environmental Sustainability Innovation Award.
The conference itself was inspiring for a host of reasons explored better than I can by fellow bloggers Polly, Stu, Dave, Steve, and others. But what particularly captivated me was not just the creativity in the submissions for the Environmental Sustainability award, but the extent to which the teams embodied the underlying principles we need to move forward.
- It's a global issue. The submissions came from all over the world. In fact, the member of the two winning teams alone came from three different continents.
- Innovation happens at the intersection of diverse experience. Just look at the two winners - team members came from RSA, Ionix, Global Services, Global Manufacturing, IT, and the CTO's office!
- Collaboration is going to be fundamental. Not only were most of the submissions the work of multiple people from many continents and all different functions and business, but one of the winners was actually the result of the two teams recognizing that they had more to offer together than apart and deciding to pool their talent. This team also won 2nd place overall.
- It's a systems problem. That's why we ended up splitting the award between two submissions. Though they used distinctly different underlying technologies, had different audiences and use cases, and had different business drivers, they are both part of the same bigger picture.
- It's not just the lunatic fringe. 11% of the total 1422 submissions were identified as "green" or "sustainability"; 12% of the semifinalists were, and 13% of the finalists. A non-trivial number of people are really thinking about this in their day-to-day jobs.
- Innovation is not just about product or technology. Nor is Sustainability. Not only were a goodly percentage of the entries recommendations for process changes, there were more than a few that were about behavioral changes. Not just "the company should do xyz", but "WE - the EMCers - should do xyz".
- For employees, it's about the opportunity to make a difference. We couldn't give awards to every submission, but we have been reviewing every entry to harvest the many great ideas that we can and should implement now. We've been in touch with a few of the submitters already to follow up, and their response is uniformly tremendous excitement at the opportunity to contribute. They may not have won the award, but I, for one, could detect no less enthusiasm in their responses than in those of the winners.
The winners, since you'll ask, were teams that had seen some very creative possibilities for existing technologies to address in one case a data center's energy management and in the other, businesses' carbon liability.
Each year, the Innovation Conference has garnered more entries, from more places, and a greater diversity of roles in the company. I have no doubt the same will happen with the Environmental Sustainability Award.
Will we offer it again next year? For sure, though it's my hope to broaden it to "sustainability" overall. And the year after that? Probably. Until we're at the point where it isn't 13% of the finalists but 93% of the finalists, and a high rating in "sustainability" becomes simply a criterion for success, just as it will be for the business overall.