Innovation keeps the world moving forward. Every new technology we take for granted today – in both our personal and professional lives – began as a simple idea in the mind of an innovator. And with everything in today’s rapidly changing business world hinging on continuous improvement, we made “The Future of Collaboration” the theme of this year’s Innovation Day on May 7.
Because innovation occurs all year long at Mitel, Innovation Day recognizes its importance to the future of the company. At the same time, it provides an opportunity for employees in all divisions to see what the Mitel engineering teams have been working on, including both roadmap and conceptual ideas.
The day will feature presentations of those ideas from Mitel innovators around the globe—all in front of a Shark Tank-style panel of judges. The top ten to twelve teams or individuals will then have a chance to enhance their presentations before facing additional rounds of competition after Innovation Day, with only one emerging as the winner.
With the big day fast approaching, five judges share their thoughts on the meaning of innovation, how they’ll prepare for Innovation Day, what they would invent if anything were possible and much more.
What does innovation mean to you?
Muni Madhdhipatla, VP of Cloud Engineering and On-site Product & Solution Development: Innovation is using new technology to solve real-world problems. I don’t get fascinated by technology for the sake of it. It might be the coolest thing on the planet, but if it doesn’t solve a real-world problem, to me it means nothing.
Al Hurren, Senior VP of Product & Development: In short, innovation means change. It was Charles Darwin who said, “it’s not the strongest or most intelligent species that survive; it’s the ones most adaptive to change.”
Tom Quan, Senior Director of Cloud Technology Services: Innovation is applying creative, out-of-the-box thinking to problems, but they have to be useful and impactful. That second part is important. You can have a lot of creativity, but if it’s not useful and impactful it’s not necessarily innovation.
What comes to mind when you think of Mitel and innovation?
Pascal Crausaz, VP of Software Engineering: Many people at Mitel are passionate about what they do, but it’s important to not be so focused on everyday work that we don’t have time for innovation. That’s why Innovation Day and our patent program are essential to bringing the innovation that happens all year long into a more concrete form. Innovation is not something you do between 4 and 5 pm; it’s something you do every moment of your day.
Al Hurren: Mitel is over 45 years old and has a long history of innovation. Through that period, especially in the industries we’re in, that’s an impressive track record. It’s because the company has reinvented itself many times over. So, when I think of Mitel I think of that history and the obligation to carry that forward and innovate, setting ourselves and our customers up for future success.
Muni Madhdhipatla: As the market continues to shift and new modes of communication come out, Mitel is best positioned to leverage its reputation and expertise in the market to solve problems for our customers. We don’t have to start from scratch; we just need to build on our experience.
What would you invent if anything were possible?
Martin Bitzinger, Vice President of Products & Solutions: I would invent a better way of storing energy, so basically a better battery. And that’s just out of pure selfishness because that means my cell phone would last longer.
Tom Quan: You know how in comic books you can see the cloud above people’s heads that says what they’re thinking? Imagine if you had augmented reality glasses that enabled that. And another invention – for my more hedonistic side – is a 3D printer that allows you to pick a meal out of any 3-star restaurant, print it off and have it at home.
Pascal Crausaz: I remember reading a long time ago one of the Ender’s Game books from Orson Scott Card. In that book, enders have the ability to travel any distance, and I think having that ability would be tremendous. Now, of course, I love coffee ice cream, so if I could invent something else it would be a device that makes a nice coffee ice cream appear out of thin air.
What key criteria will you use to assess the Mitel contestants?
Al Hurren: Definitely novelty. Is it unique and new? Would it bring sustained differentiation for Mitel? Also, there needs to be commercial value, meaning the potential value in the market. And the last thing we look at is how well the individuals and teams prepared and presented their ideas.
Pascal Crausaz: It’s the quality and business angle of the invention. For example, take my invention about materializing coffee ice cream out of thin air. I’m sure it will make me rich, but it has very little benefit to Mitel’s business. What I’d also like to see is some concrete proof of concept associated with the innovation; I think it’s absolutely essential for any new invention.
Martin Bitzinger: I will look for new ideas and assess whether they’re relevant to a broader audience and applicable to as many different customers as possible. And I’ll also look at whether they’re executable. The best prototype is not going to do much for any customers unless they can get a new product or update from it.
How will you prepare for Innovation Day?
Muni Madhdhipatla: I’ll probably have to rest well the previous night because it’s going to be a long day. People have put in a lot of hours and energy into this, so it would be unfair to not give one hundred percent.
Martin Bitzinger: I will actually not prepare at all. I will just try to go in there unprejudiced and with a very open mind and see what the teams come up with.
Tom Quan: I’m going to prepare for it like running a marathon. I’ll do some carb loading before, probably in the form of micro-brewery beers. And there will be lots of coffee throughout the day.
With over 100 new patents in 2018 and more than 1300 patents overall, Mitel continues to drive innovation and foster transformative ideas. And with Innovation Day just around the corner, there’s a whole new set of ideas to look forward to. Some may even transform the future of communications and collaboration as we know it.