Innovation Insights: A Q&A with PIPELINE 2013 Speaker Terry Jones

Leading up to the PIPELINE 2013 Online Mini Conference, Intelligent HQ had the opportunity to interview Terry Jones, Chairman of Kayak.com and Founder /Former CEO of Travelocity.com.

Terry Jones founded Travelocity.com and he led the company as President and was Chief Executive Officer from its founding until May 2002. Previously, Jones served as Chief Information Officer at Sabre Inc. In his 24 years at Sabre, Jones held various executive positions including President of Computer Services, Vice President of Applications Development and Vice President of Product Development.

Jones is managing principal of Essential Ideas, a consultancy he co-founded to help companies in their transition to the digital economy. He serves as Chairman of the Board of Kayak.com, and is on the boards of Smart Destinations, Inc., Luxury Link and Rearden Commerce. He is a special venture partner with General Catalyst Partners of Boston. Jones also is Chairman of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival and serves on the national Information Technology committee of the Boy Scouts of America.

As the keynote speaker for the conference and author of ON Innovation (Turning On Innovation in Your Culture, Teams and Organization), Terry was happy to share insights on the keys to successful innovation.

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Q. What are the critical components of an environment that fosters innovation that works? Are there specific organizations that come to mind who exemplify these characteristics?
A. You have to create a culture where experimentation is the norm and failure is expected. Sports teams do this all the time; they try new plays and they don’t win every game and they watch the game films to learn from failure and success. Companies have a harder time with this. At Kayak.com 20% of what you see on our website every day is an experiment (and most of them don’t work) and yet we keep at it!

Q. What strategies related to innovation were crucial in your organization’s success or for the success of the businesses you advise?
A. Building sensors into our systems to listen to our customers’ complaints and suggestions. As a leader making sure that I listened to our employees at the bottom of the organization who were closest to the customer and to product creation. Hiring a diverse group of people who engendered debate with me and created great new ideas. Failing fast when things didn’t work and continuing to move very quickly in a hyper competitive market.

Q. What are the common challenges of innovation you see within organizations?
A. Lip service to the idea of innovation but no leadership commitment to making it happen. Not changing the culture so people are rewarded for taking risks even if they fail. Not listening to customers and employees (who have great ideas). Not building a team of rock stars focused on the future. Hanging onto the past and being afraid of the future.

Q. Given those challenge and with this year’s PIPELINE Conference theme of “Change the Game with Innovation that Works” in mind, what tangible steps can product developers take to effectively use innovation to drive meaningful change that can increase market share? (be it organizational change, product change, or market change)
A. Having been in product development for 30 years, I have watched us move from focus groups to usability labs to today’s ability to simply call something a “BETA” and watch what the customer does with it. I think that creating a culture of fast prototyping, rigorous measurement and learning from both success and failure can drive the creating of new products that really move share.

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To gain more insights from Terry Jones, you can view his PIPELINE 2013 presentation on demand, or participate in the Online Mini Conference on June 19th where he will offer a live Q&A session. Visit www.PIPELINEconference.com for more information.

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