Tag Archive: Palo Alto

Innovation in Large Companies

The model for organisationally separate development units was Lockheed’s Skunk Works – a product development team established in Burbank, California during WWII to develop innovative new military aircrafts. Today, Lockheed Martin’s Center for Innovation is known as the ‘Lighthouse’ because of the iconic 40 foot recreation of a 19th Century Lighthouse located inside the Center’s expansive atrium. The Lighthouse draws upon the maritime history of Hampton Roads and is a daily reminder that the Center serves as a beacon for explorers on the pathway to innovation.

The Lockheed A-12 was a reconnaissance aircraft built for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by Lockheed’s ‘Skunk Works’. The aircraft was designated A-12, the 12th in a series of internal design efforts for ‘Archangel’, the aircraft’s internal code name. Since the Skunk Works program, a number of companies have used advanced development programs in satellite units in order to develop new organisational capabilites:

  • IBM developed its PC at a new unit led by Bill Lowe and located in Florida, a thousand miles from IBM’s headquarters in New York.
  • Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) pioneered many of the technologies that formed the basis of the microcomputer revolution of the 1980’s and 1990’s. However, these were put on the road to success much easier by nearby competitors, such as HP, Apple, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems than it was to be absorbed by Xerox’s east coast establishment.