Felipe Ortega, MBA '95

Occupation: R&D Operations Manager, Hewlett-Packard Networking, where he oversees software testing for HP’s wire-to-wireless networking, and wire to wireless networking
First Job: Delivering newspapers

I have a big interest in innovation because it involves human behavior. How do you create an environment that will invite or allow ideas to happen and how do you protect those ideas so they can see the light and not be shot down by naysayers?

Here are the seven ways that a manager/leader can create an environment for maximizing innovation:

  • State the objective or desired outcome, not how to do it. Ask “Can you make it better for the customer” rather than “Move this” or “Change that.” Give them the freedom to figure it out for themselves.
  • Encourage different starting points and thinking sequences when solving a problem. People can get into a rhythm of solving the next problem the same way they solved the last one.
  • Be prepared to run into walls. Sooner or later you’ll get to a solution. And a mistake in the pursuit of one problem can be the solution to another.
  • Manage the people that want to kill an idea right after it has come to light. There is a time to look at an idea from a devil’s advocate’s point of view, but not early on.
  • Create a sense of urgency, need or limits. This sharpens the focus on innovation.
  • Celebrate every innovation. What gets positively recognized gets repeated and others see it is valued. Those who see innovation being rewarded will also have an incentive to support and see ideas through.
  • Make innovations an expectation of all team members. A lot of people think innovation only applies to creating a product that never existed. But improvements to an existing product—making it faster or more cost-effective—can also result from innovation.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2014 edition of Sac State Magazine.