“Manufacturing Execs Need to Encourage a Culture of Innovation”: Google’s Michael Walton

The head of manufacturing for Google at Work said at a recent conference that manufacturers need to establish a "culture of innovation" to sustain it over time.

GettyImages-181659273-compressorMichael Walton, manufacturing and IT consultant and global head of Manufacturing Industry for Google at Work, gave a keynote address at the IndustryWeek Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo in Cleveland, Ohio, in early-May. Walton said in a corresponding article that innovation is “the DNA of manufacturing” and that executives need to enable not only their lieutenants but all of their personnel with techniques and tools to “think big.” Walton said creating that culture of innovation is what can lead to incremental and big improvements in technologies and manufacturing.

“Challenge yourself to think differently about the way your organization is doing business and what it can do.”

Walton offered a number of tips for sustaining innovation. They included spending time on big “moonshot” innovations; to keep listening to feedback on their products; to engage in sharing and collaboration; hiring the right people; and empowering employees to look for ideas everywhere. He also recommended that executives take just one week and devote 10% of their time simply to thinking big. “Challenge yourself to think differently about the way your organization is doing business and what it can do,” said Walton.

It’s critical that executives don’t overlook their potential for innovation within their organizations, even down to their lowest-level workers. Researchers Daniel Araya and Christopher Sulavik said at The Brown Center Chalkboard at the Brookings Institute that there is a new wave of innovation coming from hobbyists, DIY makers and, those in the startup realm. “We’re seeing a rising wave of innovation that has the capacity to transform existing markets and value networks…In fact, some of the world’s largest firms are already aggressively campaigning to lure this talent into their ranks,” said the researchers.

Walton also said in the IndustryWeek article that CIOs can be some of the biggest “innovation blockers” because they have technology they believe is working on their behalf and performing well. He said CIOs need to take more chances with “those down below” and encourage innovation by giving them “more opportunity to fail.”

“Companies are started all the time by people frustrated in the companies they work for. They get frustrated because they can’t get their voice heard. They can’t get their ideas up the chain,” said Walton.


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