LOUISVILLE — IBM had Think Pads long before the invention of the laptop computer that now goes by that name. The original Think Pads were leather-bound pads of paper that IBM employees were given by management, beginning in 1923, to record their ideas and inspirations.
David Barnes, an IBM executive whose official title is "technology evangelist," used the example to explain that innovation isn't so much about a company's technology as it is about its attitude. He spoke Friday at the Idea Festival about how to create and foster business innovation.
Too many companies are unwilling to trust employees enough to give them time and flexibility to think creatively — or to support innovation and new ideas when they come out of the rank and file.
"Too many companies are looking quarter to quarter; they are not looking long-term," Barnes said. "They pretend they're interested in innovation, but they're not."
Also talking about innovation was Heather Howell of Rooibee Red Tea, a Louisville-based organic tea company. The keys to her company's success: "Get to know your customer. Be passionate."
Howell said creating an innovative company is possible only if you trust employees and give them the freedom to innovate.
"Give them the leash to be creative," she said. "The best thing I ever did was to not follow the rules."