You usually hear about the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in the context of Apple stealing the company’s best ideas. It’s true – while PARC managed to earn millions of dollars for Xerox, in many cases they didn’t manage to monetize their creativity properly.
But being stolen from is the purest form of compliment. PARC has been among the pioneers of modern computing, responsible for inventing almost everything you love about your home computer. The company has been an illustration of what can happen if a group of extremely talented engineers are given limitless time and resources to experiment with what they find to be the most interesting idea at the time.
So, what is the secret behind PARC innovations? According to my reading of the definitive biography of PARC, “Dealers of Lightning” by Michael Hiltzik, it’s three things.
First, it’s talent. PARC hired a diverse talent pool of the best people in the field.
Second, it’s organizational culture of freedom, experimentation and passion.
Finally, it’s… resources. Money, and even more importantly, time.
Can you use these insights in your own company? I believe you can. The path might not be easy, but it’s relatively simple.
It’s about getting the most talented people, giving them freedom, meaningful tasks, and time.