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Kevin Johnson of Juniper Networks on Disruptive Innovation

In this session from Techonomy 2011 in Tuscon, Ariz., Kevin Johnson, CEO of Juniper Networks, talks about how his company fosters ‘disruptive innovation.’ Also appearing in this video: Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick.

Johnson: Is innovation driven tops-down or is it driven bottoms-up from individual empowerment?

Kirkpatrick: Or both?

Johnson: Or both. And I think about two types of innovation. There’s incremental innovation, where teams are improving products and shaping things based on the feedback, and there is disruptive innovation. At the core of our company is disruptive innovation. Disruptive innovation comes, in my view, when you reconfigure different pockets of expertise. That’s how the company was founded. Two individuals that had different expertise that applied and came up with a very unique and creative way to go build the world’s biggest, fastest routers, and that’s how the company was born. Now we’re a company of over 9000 employees. Over half of them are engineers; 4500 engineers across four major R&D centers: Boston, Silicon Valley, Beijing and Bangalore.  So one of the key things internally is how do we continue to foster this concept of disruptive innovation across multiple geographies where people can’t just walk down the hall and perhaps reconfigure and connect with another colleague? They can certainly do that with the colleagues that are on their on their floor or that they work with, but how do you create that on a global basis that spans continents? That’s where I think some of these social networking tools can be useful and helpful. We’re doing a pilot with Chatter, figuring out how to enable that to make better connections.

Kirkpatrick: To take advantage of the empowerment of the employee.

Johnson: That’s right. We just finished a study with a professor from the University of Virginia, Rob Cross, who does some analytics through some surveys and can determine where the informal networks are within an organization. Basically, how does work get done? It has absolutely nothing to do with the hierarchical organization of a company. It has everything to do with how people connect with one another. Through this research we started to identify who were the hubs of people that were basically at the center of many of the connections, and are those connections just in their geography or across geography? Who are the bridges from perhaps one boundary to another boundary within the organization? And so now we’re trying to apply technology to help us do a better job of matching and reconfiguring expertise in ways that lead to what we think of as disruptive innovation.

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