Experts Share Thoughts on Innovation

Randal Charlton

Corp! magazine honored several well-deserving companies at the annual DiSciTech Awards event Feb. 22 at the Michigan State University Management Education Center. The awards are presented to companies and organizations that are leading the way in science, technology and digital initiatives through innovation, research and applied science.

In addition to the awards presentation, an expert panel discussed the many aspects of the business of science, technology and digital in the world today. Moderated by Randal Charlton, executive director of TechTown, the panelists included Tim Giacoletti, principal with Rehmann Robson; Charles Pooley, president and founder of Workfolio; and Matt Parsons, vice president of sales for ADP.

Charlton kicked off the panel by stating he had just returned from a trip to Washington D.C. and noting that the four terms he heard the most were “innovation, exports, jobs and clean energy.”

Charlton asked the panel about how each of their businesses has tried to be more innovative.

Tim Giacoletti

“Of course the difference between innovation and ideas is just the execution,” said Pooley of Workfolio. He went on to describe how his company was just an idea at one point and took a lot of initiative and prototype development to actually get the business started.

Pooley also mentioned “what you don’t do is just as important as what you do with your products or services.”

Parsons, whose experience includes providing services to car dealerships, spoke about two different perspectives on innovation: the revolutionary way and a more evolutionary approach. “ADP takes an interesting approach to innovation. We are an ultra conservative company,” he explained. “We went back and looked at where our clients spent their money and saw that ADP only had 15 to 20 percent of that. We started to align products and services to every dollar being spent by car dealers.”

Charles Pooley

One way ADP accomplished innovation and gained more client spending was to acquire other successful firms. “We are very judicious of what we decide to invest in; we look for a trend to begin. We like to purchase something that has a marketing presence and success so we can take it to the next level of activity,” said Parsons.

Giacoletti discussed the importance of innovation on a consistent basis, all the while dealing with the four major constraints of time, finances, technology and resources. However, it is important to find a comfortable medium between all of these constraints when attempting to become more innovative.

Advice was given to the audience about how important it is to stay up with the upcoming technologies such as social media and using social marketing to a company’s advantage. Parsons said ADP worked with Arizona State University’s students and alumni to provide the help with their social media marketing plans.

The panel also admitted that at times companies dealing in new technologies or scientific approaches may stumble upon other ideas or opportunities that may transform their business.

“You have to keep your eyes and ears open when you’re stumbling (into a business opportunity). You might stumble across something that needs evolution,” Giacoletti told the audience.