A Gathering of Minds: Honeywell’s Tech Symposium

June 1, 2016 | Author: Islamshah Amlani

I always look forward to the Honeywell Technology Symposium. This annually held event draws the largest gathering of technology and business leaders from all businesses around the world under a common roof. The closest analogy that comes to mind is the CES show in Las Vegas, but with a scope that extends far beyond just consumer electronics.

One might mistakenly think that this inwardly focused event would get stale or monotonous over time but this could not be further from the truth. Whether it is a casual walk through the poster session, the provocative sounds emanating from the breakouts, or the inspiring talks from internal or external plenary speakers – there is plenty to convince anyone that the Honeywell Tech Symposium is special.

This event captures the rich tapestry of Honeywell technologies, products and intellectual capital, highlighting a diversity that very few other companies can muster. Especially this year, the organizing team did a fabulous job of seamlessly blending discussion on core technologies with the newly evolving.

At the beginning, Krishna Mikkilineni, the main host of the event, set the mood of this year’s symposium by highlighting what it means to be a cyber-industrial company in today’s time. In their keynotes, both the CEO, Dave Cote, and the newly appointed President and COO, Darius Adamczyk, emphasized the importance of digital transformation and the crucial role this will play for Honeywell’s breakthrough growth. It was a theme just about all the speakers touched upon in one way or another.

Speakers from Pivotal and Verizon shared their perspectives and experiences on what a company-wide digital transformation entails. The panel on Ubiquitous Digitization highlighted important contemporary topics in the area of robotics, drones, augmented reality, data governance, cybersecurity and internet of things.

Interesting to note is that none of these technologies are particularly new to Honeywell - what is perhaps new is the blinding pace at which these technologies are evolving. This observation led one of the panel participants, Michael Raynor of Deloitte, to imagine a world, not too far from today, in which information will become cheap and ubiquitous instead of scarce and expensive. What will the panorama of opportunities look like when the perspective is framed so broadly, challenged Michael. Especially in our Tech Symposium setting, this meant that the range of exploratory paths for us to consider were limitless.

Steven Johnson, the author of “Where Good Ideas Come From” talks about the importance of Liquid Networks in fostering and promoting innovation throughout history. Liquid Networks are formed when people with diverse backgrounds and experiences come together under a common roof and where small talk turns into meaningful conversations, ultimately leading to breakthrough ideas. It is not the epiphany or an AHA moment, but the Liquid Networks that create an enabling environment for ideas to “have sex”, thus procreating bigger and better ideas than each on its own, Steven argues.

The poster session at the Tech Symposium not only meets the literal definition of liquid networks (there is an abundance of hors d’oeuvres and drinks to go around) but also embodies its true essence. If a company’s capacity to innovate can be measured by its ability to create such Liquid Networks then given the success of these poster sessions, Honeywell is on its path to do some ground breaking innovation. In fact, several great ideas the company has pursued as business opportunities have germinated out of these poster session facilitated Liquid Networks.

One of my favorite parts of the Technology Symposium are short presentations by the four CTOs representing Aerospace, Transportation Systems, Automation and Control, and Performance Materials & Technologies businesses. This is a great opportunity for the attendees to see the changing business climate and emerging opportunities through the eyes of their top most technology leaders.

The guidance by Bob Smith, the CTO of Aerospace business, particularly resonated with me. With so much glamour around “Software” and the quotes such as “Software is eating the world” by Marc Andreessen, we may sometime lose the perspective that not all software is the same. The embedded software that drives avionics functions is not the same as algorithms used for condition based monitoring which is again not the same as the apps that we develop for Aero Services and Connectivity business. More importantly, each of these software types may enable a different business model. Understanding these nuances and corresponding business ramifications are key to unlocking the future growth.

Honeywell is blessed to have some of the best people in the world who genuinely care to make a difference and events such as our Tech Symposium brings out the best in them. Personally, attending the Tech Symposium is a humbling experience for me as it reminds me how lucky I am to be working with such smart folks.

One of the plenary speakers, Saeed Amidi, of Plug and Play, a technology incubator and venture from Silicon Valley, made an interesting comment in his concluding remarks. He claimed that the next billion dollar idea will not come from within Honeywell, implying that Honeywell should work with innovative startups from Silicon Valley to land the next big idea. I agree with the essence of Saeed’s comment that in today’s times a company could not exclusively rely on innovation occurring only within its four walls, but as far as the claim of Honeywell not landing on the next billion dollar opportunity within Honeywell is concerned, I think that Saeed did not get that one right. One only needs to look at the event such as the Tech Symposium to understand what I mean.

Islamshah Amlani

Islamshah Amlani

Islamshah Amlani leads the Advanced Technology Strategy team at Honeywell, Aerospace. He is responsible for global trend monitoring, strategic planning process and alignment with product roadmaps, intellectual property management process and open innovation program.

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