Mission Driven Innovation

Innovation that is related to a particular mission, can be even more powerful than that which is simply responding to solving a problem or driven by the desire to simply make money. Innovation is difficult in the best of circumstances, which is why it is usually accomplished by individuals who are driven. And not just driven to please their boss in the drive to get promoted, but driven by a mission.

What is the difference between ambition, problem solving and pursuing a mission or a vision? Missions and visions are bigger than individuals and organizations. They may be related to a philosophy which can sometimes be expressed as a tag line, such as “Bicycles for the Mind” which was Apple’s tagline early on when I attended Apple Developer University and was emblazoned on the large three ring binder of materials we were all given. I mention this as I would have never know this was Apple’s philosophy had they not disseminated it in this manner, as it did not show up elsewhere.

At the early Apple providing the “Bicycles for the Mind” mission enabled them to engage 30,000 developers creating software applications none of whom were on Apple’s payroll. By the way, Apple thirty years later, now has 1,000,000 registered developers a big part of the reason they can stay ahead of their competition. I am pointing this out not to glorify Apple, but to show having a terrific mission which can be expressed as a tagline that is an encapsulation of a larger meaningful philosophy, can be a powerful motivator for innovation. Apple is not the most valuable company in the world only because of design and ambition, but because that design and ambition were subordinated to a vision / mission. In contrast I would characterize Microsoft’s mission during its early years as “Deliver business capability”.

In short the missions of the two companies although each powerful were very different. Microsoft, founded April 1975 in Albuquerque, NM cared more about business than individuals.

Apple founded a year later April 1976 in Cupertino, CA was completely focused on empowering individual end users.  Now Microsoft’s market cap in early July of 2015 is $358.53B and Apple’s market cap more than double at $726.7B.  Of course there are multiple reasons for this besides mission, but mission contributed and still contributes in a nonlinear manner.

Another personal example from academia. Stanford University, a private institution founded in 1885, currently has over 16,000 students and the fourth largest endowment of $21.4 billion, just ahead of Princeton with $20B. Cogswell Polytechnical College also a private institution founded in 1887, and has 462 students and an endowment of $2M.  One significant reason Stanford’s endowment is 10,000 times greater than Cogswell, with a student body only 40 times greater, is their founders stated very different missions. I am paraphrasing here because Cogswell has changed its mission and is now on a serious upswing. Henry Cogswell, a successful dentist and inventor of dental technology, wanted to provide “a technical education to working people” and Leland Stanford a tycoon, industrialist and politician wanted to provide; “learning …. of the highest grade”.

Both schools were both founded in the mid 1880’s, Cogswell in San Francisco and Stanford just a little south, with roughly the same $1M endowment but very different missions. The pursuit of turning out employable graduates vs. the pursuit of excellence, certainly influenced the current reality that Stanford’s endowment is now $1.25M per student and Cogswell’s is $4,330!

Having an excellent mission is incredibly important to any entity seeking to provide value to the world.

Founder Dropouts. A case for Innovation Leadership.

Lets face it many gifted, creative, exceptional people generally have issues with authority.  The act of innovation, generally requires one to take a stance that rejects the way things are, in favor of the way things could be. Do you see this pattern in yourself? Many of our greatest founders are dropouts. In a conversation, I had with Craig Venter the father of the Human Genome Project, he told me he had to quit working for the NIH ,where he was unable to get adequate support for the project to proceed and was forced to become an entrepreneur. I asked him if great change or breakthroughs ever came from within giant organizations, and he said something like “Never, you have to drop out of the mainstream to make anything big happen”. He was of course spectacularly successful and listed on Time magazine’s 2007 and 2008 Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world. In 2010, the British magazine New Statesman listed Craig Venter at 14th in the list of The World’s 50 Most Influential Figures 2010.

We all know stories like this including Apple, Google and FaceBook to name a few of the smaller companies on the planet. Of course there are probably 10,000 failures for each of these successes. Dropping out is certainly no guarantee of getting anywhere and usually does not. But if you have a great idea, perform due diligence to reality test it, use your critical thinking skills and work hard to accumulate enough evidence that you may be right while the rest of the world may be wrong, you eventually have to go for it even in the face of hidden pitfalls.

Here is one of them. Innovation has become a buzzword mantra in spite of most professional business people trying to eliminate risk as they are duty bound to pursue. A logical stance is “well we have to mange these people and this situation”. As the founder chairman of SVII for ten years I have been asked, initially to my amazement, hundreds of times “what is the algorithm for innovation?” Managing innovation is incredibly difficult because managing innovators is pretty much impossible.  In the case of incremental, it can be done but in disruptive innovation where juicy exciting projects live, it is somewhat oxymoronic.

On the other hand, another word for some of us who are regarded as unmanageable, and that word is leader. It may be a mostly impossible dream to manage breakthrough innovation, but at times the person with insight, also has both enough passion and enough discipline to lead it. Lets face it, one person size dreams may work well for some of the creative community, including artists, musicians, writers and coders of computer applications as well. After we hit it out of the park successfully manifesting our one person size dream, our dreams tend to grow larger and soon we realize we need help, a lot of help. Then because we may have had a hard time accepting authority, we may be reluctant to wield it to the dismay of the people who are trying to follow us.

Leadership is a service profession. You have to take care of all of your stakeholders including your followers. The bigger the dream, the more you generally need help. Sorry, you do not have a choice, as soon as you have a terrific insight that is going to require significant help, you are going to have to lead.

Being an innovation leader is extremely rewarding, as well as extremely frustrating, because you know what was said earlier about gifted, creative, exceptional people who generally have issues with authority. However you have a secret weapon, you are them! You know what they need and how they need to be treated. There is no one more qualified to lead innovation, than an innovator. And this is when the dropout becomes a drop-in.

OCT 1st 2014: Getting More Done With Less Work

Avoid the unrecognized costs of technology innovation culture.

This discussion led by Dr. Greg Marcus is on whether long work hours are necessary for a better end product and if the longer hours are desirable. While working longer hours people often make more mistakes as their minds are not in top form due to fatigue. This workshop hopes to help business owners and workers alike create a healthier work environment.

The Paradox of Silicon Valley: The very culture that spawned some of the greatest technological innovations in history has come at an unrecognized human cost. Many of the people powering the engine of innovation have developed a single-minded focus on their work, leading to long hours, strained relationships/alienation from people closest to them, health issues, spiritual angst…On the business side, there is introvertible evidence that overworked people have lower creativity, make more mistakes, and have more health issues, and a higher turnover rate.

The October roundtable discussion will examine whether long hours are necessary or desirable when attempting to achieve spectacular results. 

High performance requires both inernal and external balance.  Balance is best achieved through integration, not just juggling incoming requests, and integration presumes some proficiency at context management. Are you the one managing your context or are you allowing some other party with perhaps different priorities than yours to manage your context? The speed of Silicon Valley can cascade complexities more rapidly than individuals can process; Having some complexity processing skills can help.

SVII is returning to Angelica’s in Redwood City for this highly interactive session. Angelica’s extensive renovation has taken this already excellent venue up several notches to provide a very classy place for compelling dialog to occur accompanied by fine food and drinks. Join us for the first program of SVII’s fall season.

Event will take place October 1 at 6:30 PM (1st Wednesday) at: 

Angelica’s Restaurant 

863 Main Street

Redwood City CA

Appetizers will be provided; No host dinner and drinks will be available (and encouraged!)

Pre-Registration Tickets ($15)  – On SALE Now!



Dr. Greg is a recovering workaholic who helps the chronically overworked work fewer hours while thriving in their career.  In the process, he transforms stressed out people ready to jump ship into highly productive leaders who want to stay.

Dr. Greg has a Ph.D. in biology from MIT, and worked for ten years as a successful marketer in Silicon Valley. At one point, he was working 90 hours a week, which impacted his health, family relationships, and job performance. Then, he made a discovery that allowed him to cut his hours by a third without changing jobs. The secret? He started putting people first.
Dr. Greg is the author of Busting Your Corporate Idol: Self-Help for the Chronically Overworked and the founder of the Idolbuster Coaching Institute.


Chairman SVII and CEO Clear Capital Management

Howard Lieberman is a global innovation guide, executive consultant and popular speaker addressing innovation audiences around the world. He has been the chairman of SVII, the Silicon Valley Innovation Institute, a 501c(3) California Corporation since 2005.

Howard and his team have been solving innovation problems, initiating and guiding execution of innovation-critical initiatives, and crossing internal and external resource boundaries in order to accelerate scalable innovation and unleash innovation potential for decades.

Mr. Lieberman exercised his innovation chops through 20 years at Bose, Apple and DARPA, all top-of-their-field, world-class innovation cultures. As a physicist and electrical engineer he founded several technology-based entrepreneurial enterprises, and as the Dean of Cogswell Polytechnical College he created their innovation management program in 2000. Developing that program lead to the formation of SVII five years later, and also Cogswell’s current MBA program in Innovation Entrepreneurship. SVII has presented over 100 innovation programs covering a very wide variety of topics, and has offices in Massachusetts, New York and Silicon Valley. He is also the CEO of Clear Capital Management whose proprietary algorithms changed the curve relating ROI and Risk to outperform the market while simultaneously protecting assets through far greater due diligence rigor.

As an involuntary innovator and energetic multi-instrumentalist, Howard has also found the time to perform over 1000 times in the last 30 years as a jazz artist. And as an electro-acoustician Howard has also managed to professionally combine music and technology to pioneer multi-billion dollar markets.


Extensive R&D experience in academia and industry: algorithm designer at large, with many specialties. Exploring systems with users (front), deep domains (back), challenging computations (middle). To keep getting better at it and have fun along the way.

Specialties:Designing and implementing fast algorithms to solve problems in real-time systems, search, graphs, optimization, media processing, professional audio editing, auditory modeling, tracking and source separation, dynamic probabilistic networks, media indexing, search engines.

After he graduated from Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, France, Bernard Mont-Reynaud did research at INRIA, then left for Stanford University where he obtained a Ph.D. in Computer Science; his advisor was Prof. Don Knuth. He taught CS at UC Berkeley, until called to join research in music analysis at CCRMA. The analysis, visualization and perception of music and audio have been major themes of his work over the years, along with image processing, real-time systems and advanced UI design. Places he has worked include Lucasfilm, TDW, Xerox PARC, Studer Editech and FXPAL. He was also the Chief Software Architect at Sony’s “Super Audio Project” R&D facility in San Francisco. Dr. Mt-Reynaud is also an accomplished painter and musician.


Independent Documentary Filmmaker and Photographer

I am a lover of documentary film. I love telling stories and learning about the world through them. 

My work has generally focused on social issues, broadly speaking. My first film, My Mountain, was about rural Haiti, where I spent 5 summers and first discovered documentary film and photography. I have since been learning how to use these media for social causes via short form and long form film, non-profit and commercial work.

I also enjoy using film and photography as a means of expressing love. In that vein, I have made short films and photo montages for weddings, birthdays, bar mitzvahs, family reunions and the like. 



Darius is fascinated by technology that shapes our world, and by the connections it enables between people as they create and learn. He has a strong business foundation in international operations and management, product and service definition, and global business development as well as deep technical knowledge in internet technologies and across the hardware and software of computing systems from supercomputers to mobile devices.

Darius is a mentor to startup teams and an advisor to startup incubators, universities, growing companies and large enterprises around the world. He leads workshops on Customer-Focused Product Definition and Development, Innovation Management, the [LUXr method](http://luxr.co) for [Lean Startups](http://theleanstartup.com/), Business Model Analysis and Strategy using variations of the [Business Model Canvas](http://businessmodelgeneration.com), Innovation in Service Operations, Innovation in the Enterprise, as well as custom-developed programs.

Pre-Registration Tickets ($15)  – On SALE Now!

MAR 5th 2014: How Are Trade Shows Relevant to Innovators?

Are trade shows being overshadowed by the internet? Or do they still hold some value in networking?  Trade shows are important to industries because of the interactions that take place within them, not only connecting people to a product, but to networks as well.

Some industry watchers  and writers have suggested that the trade show is dead. The notable absence of industry titans like Apple, Google, Microsoft and HP at this year’s CES would seem to support this. In a world where the convenience, ease and cost savings of the Internet increasingly dominate purchasing, and even professional associations, of what use are trade shows and industry conventions?

The bottom line is innovators still have to live in reality, in order to activate their insights. Although virtual reality can be exciting, informative and entertaining, it is still a second hand augmented view of business reality. Tradeshows are the ultimate batch processing of reality, where a less varnished view of the truth can be poked at in person and in real time. Reality can be interactively tested using all of your senses.

 Perhaps this is why this year’s CES saw record attendance and volume of exhibit space, and venues like the Moscone Center are booked nearly every week with some industry event. In the case of CES, over 160,000 people committed some portion or all of a week of their time and excess of $1000.00 to explore close to 2 million square feet of exhibition space.

As innovators, you need to understand your product, customers, market, industry, competition, customers, colleagues, collaborators  and the relationships between all of these in addition to your insight or technology. It takes all of your energy and senses to do this accurately and you also need practice transmitting this understanding in-person to be credible. A trade show is a rapid calibration forum where an in-person interactive demo allows you to ask questions, try things out and observe the facial expressions of those around you to use your judgement about what is real, what is almost real and what is just plain false. In addition, it can be very valuable to witness CEOs’ keynotes and presentations.

On Wednesday, March 5th, the SVII Society meeting will explore the significance and future of trade shows and industry conventions as well as how to get the most out of how to attend them if you are an innovator. Plan to join us for an evening of lively, potent dialogue.

This event will take place at 7PM at:

Hangen Szechuan Restaurant (2nd Fl), 134 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

Dinner will be served!

Pre-Registration Tickets ($20)  – On SALE Now!


Janet Rae-Dupree
Science, Technology and Innovation Writer

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for her part in coverage of the Los Angeles riots, Janet Rae-Dupree has covered innovation, science and emerging technologies since 1993. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, BusinessWeek, the San Jose Mercury News. Author of “The Anatomy & Physiology Workbook for Dummies,” Rae-Dupree excels at explaining complex subjects to lay audiences.

As a Stanford Knight Fellow in 2006, she studied innovation and how the process of moving a new concept from development into the marketplace alters that innovation’s future roles. That study led to development of a monthly New York Times Sunday Business column, “Unboxed,” addressing innovation and creativity in corporate America. Her columns were frequently among the top-ranked reads on the Times’ site for weeks after initial publication. A passion for all things sci-tech has led to articles about everything from nanotechnology and biotechnology to clean energy and medical devices. Lately she has been focusing on virtual education and how technology is transforming what we can accomplish with our minds and bodies.

Principal, Technolution

Max Sims has had an extensive career in design, business and computer graphics. Originally a car designer at GM and Renault in Europe, he applied his industrial design skills to work on movie special effects for the films Beetlejuice and Masters of the Universe. He began his computer aided industrial design software career at Alias Research, and later became software product manager  at  think3. He has worked as the Director of 3D Production at Luuluu.com. Max was the lead writer on “Inside Maya 5”, a definitive 900-page book on short filmmaking, while simultaneously designing theNatus Algo 3i. The Natus medical device won industry awards for Medical excellence and branding. Sims has been an executive producer for virtual worlds in Spain, where he was also an Invited Professor at the University of Salamanca. Since earning his MFA in Design at California College of the Arts, he consults in design strategy in the field of electronic automotive user interfaces and branded design fiction experiences.

Robert Sloan
Chief Innovation Officer, Vevity

As a life-long innovator, Robert has served in positions as diverse as chief innovation officer, mobile system architect, innovation architect, digital systems architect, and system designer at flagship companies and startups alike. Companies have included Sun Microsystems, Compression Labs, Phillips, Luma, Scanadu and Vevity, producing products and services ranging from wireless medical devices, mobile medical monitoring and creating illuminating design. His most recent venture, Vevity, is focused on helping people live healthier longer.

He has served as a liaison between Philips Research and Philips Medical, helping launch ideas into market products. As a system architect he has designed and built the audio encoders for DirecTV, designed the audio/telephony subsystem for the SparcStation 1, and defined an audio chip which was built by Crystal Semiconductors and Analog Devices that is used in many multimedia applications.

A pragmatic thinker, Robert has in-depth knowledge of multimedia platforms and industry and maintains hands-on experience with hardware and software.

Consultant, Deloitte Consulting, Positivity Inc. 

A born entrepreneur, Cody founded his first company with 7 employees from his parents’ garage at the age of 16. A relentlessly optimistic strategic thinker, he is deeply passionate about helping organizations and individuals discover their unique set of core strengths and learn how to use them. He is relentlessly curious and has a genuine love for exploring the world’s perspectives by getting to know new people. Since obtaining his masters, he has consulted for Deloitte for four years, the first first two years of which were spent traveling around the world helping clients understand better their risk of licensing intellectual property to the global marketplace. He considers this international growth experience to have altered his life in an extremely positive and open-minded way.

He is a believer in the transformative power of actively listening to others, and most recently served on the executive team of startup that orchestrated corporate culture transformations by providing life/relationship coaching to everyone as an employee benefit.

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche