How Can Businesses Innovate? Start with the Right Culture, Travelocity Founder Terry Jones Tells Audience at UT Dallas Event
Embracing innovation is a key to success, Jones says
Source Newsroom: University of Texas, Dallas
Newswise — Audiences expect to be asked to turn off their cellphones.
But Terry Jones, founder and former CEO of Travelocity.com, encouraged attendees to turn theirs on at the 11th annual Corporate Governance Conference at the Naveen Jindal School of Management.
Jones, keynote speaker at the Institute for Excellence in Corporate Governance event, asked the group of executives and directors to download his mobile app, which allowed users to respond to a survey. The results popped up on a screen within seconds.
The exercise summed up Jones’ point about the need for corporations to embrace innovation.
“Change is inevitable,” Jones said. “Growth is optional.”
Jones’ keynote address was part of the Max Hopper Speaker Series. Hopper, a longtime chief information officer of AMR (the parent company of American Airlines) and former chairman of the JSOM Advisory Council, was known for his groundbreaking work to develop the computerized airline reservation system SABRE. He died unexpectedly in 2010.
Jones told the audience that Hopper was a longtime mentor who taught him about creating a corporate culture that welcomes innovation. His recommendations were:
-- Don't be afraid to fail. "If you don't fail, you're not having enough at bats."
-- “Kill the project, not the person” if an idea doesn’t work.
-- Study your failures like football teams review tapes of unsuccessful plays.
-- Eliminate the “bozone layer” that stops good ideas from reaching the top. That's the layer of middle management that "stops bright ideas from moving upward" because they're not rewarded for change. Companies can break through the "bozone layer" by rewarding managers for sharing their employees’ ideas.
-- Use your own products and listen closely to customers' feedback for ideas on improvements. "The best ideas come from the bottom."
-- Know your product: "Eat your own dog food."
-- Have a diverse board of directors that can bring different talents to the company.
Jones also said to carefully weigh new ideas.
"Go with your gut but don't bet the farm on it," Jones said.
“The world is moving so fast, don’t be taken in by the ‘dopeler effect,’” said Jones, which he described as a “tendency of stupid ideas to sound smarter if they come to you rapidly.”
The sold-out event also featured speaker Raj Sisodia, co-author of the best-selling book Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business, and a panel discussion that included Steve Bartlett, former Dallas mayor and U.S. representative, about being proactive in Washington politics. Dennis McCuistion, executive director of the institute and clinical professor, served as moderator.
Sisodia encouraged leaders to take a more holistic approach to business.
“I think a fundamental disconnect exists out there. We say the leaders, the executives work for the shareholders. No, you don’t work for the shareholders,” Sisodia said. “You work for the corporation. The corporation is its own thing. It’s a legal entity and in the law it’s almost equal to a person.
“When you work for that entity, your responsibility is the triumph and flourishment of that entity,” Sisodia said. “That includes shareholders, of course, but it cannot exclude customers, employees, communities and the environment. It simply cannot. So that’s our duty; we have to get involved in the purpose of the business.”
Also at the event, Ray Hemmig, a member of the UT Dallas Development Board and the JSOM Advisory Council, led a tribute at the conference to Dr. Constantine Konstans, the institute’s founding director, who died in May. JSOM is accepting donations for a Constantine Konstans Professorship in Accounting and Governance, which Hemmig established.