An interview with Mr. Victor Garcia, Chief Technology Officer, HP

An interview with Mr. Victor Garcia, Chief Technology Officer, HP.A message for  CEOs on collaboration, strategy and operationalizing innovation. An interview with Mr. Victor Garcia, Chief Technology Officer, HP.


Mr. Garcia is HP Canada’s Chief Technology Officer, with responsibility for strategy and innovation.  He provides vision and leadership in cross-industry emerging technologies, leveraging HP’s capabilities as a Worldwide IT Innovations and Solutions company.  Mr. Garcia joined HP in October of 1999 as Director of Professional Services for Central Canada and has led several initiatives assisting public and private sector organizations with the strategic application of information technology.


Over the past 28 years, Mr. Garcia has gained international recognition in the Innovation, Management Consulting and IT fields, holding executive management and trusted advisor positions and leading complex projects in the Aerospace, Energy, Automotive, Telecommunications, Financial, Healthcare and Government sectors.  His career has included senior management roles with firms such as Magna International Inc., Cachet Carrington Limited, Wintec Energy Corporation and Olivetti.  He is HP Canada’s spoke person on emerging technologies and a Senior advisor to Aerospace, Aviation, Energy, Telecommunications, Financial, Healthcare and Public Sector customers.


Mr. Garcia is considered a business and technology visionary and is a frequent speaker at leading industry and business events around the world, presenting on topics such as Intellectual Property Protection, Anti-counterfeiting, Privacy, Business/IT Alignment, RFID/Sensing Technologies, Aerospace and Aviation Solutions, Quantum Computing, Mobility, Knowledge Management, Business Intelligence, Environmental Technologies and Sustainable Development.


Mr. Garcia says the real benefits come from technical innovation, more so than the managerial, investment or accounting side. This is where the improvement in corporate performance is really going to take place.


What does it take to innovate? The majority of executives say it involves achieving technological leadership, global presence and a comprehensive portfolio of various patents.  These patents will then enable the company to help define major trends regarding products, systems and services and even offer customers important added value. They say such steps reduce costs, increase sales and achieve higher earnings. But how does one come up with new solutions, and can innovations really be part of a strategy plan? Arcus’s multi-industry survey of senior executives found that of all the challenges companies face in this area, the biggest challenge is finding ways to create a “climate for innovation”.


As Arcus research indicates, creating this climate means that you need to be surrounded by highly talented people.  It also means finding a way to transmit your passion to these people, so that they will buy into your vision of the future, perform at the highest possible levels, and come up with innovative solutions to the challenges faced in order to achieve this vision. No surprise then, that the topic of innovation has been gaining ground as CEOs seek to incorporate concepts like “a culture of innovation” into their assessments of a company’s long-term value.


As Arcus research indicates, doing so means that you need to be surrounded by highly talented people.  It also means finding a way to transmit your passion to them, so they will buy into your vision of the future, perform at the highest possible levels, and come up with innovative solutions to the challenges of achieving the vision. No surprise, then, that the topic of innovation has been gaining ground as CEOs seek to incorporate concepts like “a culture of innovation” into their assessments of a company’s long-term value.


An interview with Mr. Victor Garcia, Chief Technology Officer, HP


Arcus: Where is Canada in the Innovation continuum?


MR. GARCIA: We live in one of the most innovative countries of the world. Canada has the legacy of innovation, going back many years. Over the past hundred years, more than one million inventions have come out of Canada; some of the best known ones  include the telephone, the car alarm and the Blackberry phone. Some of the lesser-known ones are the light bulb, which most people, when asked would say was invented in the US by Thomas Edison. In truth, Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans invented and patented it but then sold the patent, and Edison commercialized it. The same thing is true with many other inventions, ranging from the zipper to the caulking gun.


Arcus: Is innovation and invention the same thing?


MR. GARCIA: It’s interesting how we sometimes confuse innovation with invention. They are two very different things. When we invent things, they are solutions to a problem, and sometimes we discover a way to fix this problem and we patent it to protect it. For an invention to become an innovation, it must have a beneficial change for what we do. It must affect an improvement in a process.


That is how I have looked at it personally; an idea or patent has to be   commercialized for it to have an impact on our lives. Canada has the opportunity to become an innovative Country. This country has been the source of many inventions, but it has not been an innovator; we have to explore new paths and commercial ventures. Canada is an excellent incubator; we have a multicultural environment, many languages and time zones. We also have an experienced and educated work force and we are accepted globally, which is very important because innovation comes through interaction.


Arcus: Is innovation about commercializing inventions?


MR. GARCIA: In a way, yes because, if you don’t know what the problems are, you can’t invent new things to fix them. But innovation is not solely commercialization; there are many aspects to it. It is about solving problems. Innovation does not only have to have positive effect but either a positive or negative effect. Innovation can change the way we do things, but it is supposed to improve a situation by introducing something new. That introduction, more times than not, has to do with commercialization. I personally have learned that the most effective way to innovate is to be in touch with the recipient of innovation. Often we have ideas but, these ideas are most effective when we can talk to someone who could use them…so ultimately the user is the judge of whether something is innovative or not.


Arcus: Is operationalizing innovation one of our biggest challenges?


MR. GARCIA:  It has to do with the side that typically speaks the research and development language. It happens either at a government entity, a university or a private sector company; the first two don’t have a commercial incentive. It is often said that in a government environment, all you have to prove is that you have a good idea; not necessarily in a format that can be commercialized. Unfortunately, R&D in academia is based on faculties or researchers being judged by their published papers and not by commercialization of their ideas. Unless the professor or the researcher happens to have an entrepreneurial instinct, there’s no real impetus to commercialize ideas. The key is to create an environment which connects inventors and researchers with entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs could be small or large companies. Typically companies that are highly innovative are also highly entrepreneurial. HP is an example: We are a highly entrepreneurial company. There a clear correlation between entrepreneurship and innovation.


Arcus: What are the other drivers of innovation?


MR. GARCIA: Cultural legacy is one. There are companies that are nourished by their core innovations. They are focused and they understand their culture, just like there are companies in the distribution business who buy somebody else’s product, so they excel in the commercial aspect of marketing an invention of product. There are companies whose primary core is invention and innovation so yes, cultural legacy is definitely one aspect.


The second driver is good leadership. You could have a highly entrepreneurial and innovative company, however, if you lack an innovative management team, you are likely to fail. Management must continue leading with the vision to translate the culture and promote innovation. It starts at the top. It is said that a company is a reflection of its president; this is similar to how the president of a country is a reflection of its people. Leadership is very important.


The third aspect is collaboration, as well as effective internal and external communication. Collaboration can mean many different things. First of all, it requires a degree of humility. Often people ask me what humility has to do with innovation…think about it. If we say we know everything, we are not being as innovative as we could be, since innovation comes from collaboration, from talking to people up, down, and sideways. For example, customers of a company may have a problem that triggers the process of inventing a solution to solve the problem. Our inventors at HP may have invented something that at first may not seem viable, but when we show it to a prospective customer, they might see new applications for the invention. That is collaboration. We feel that the enterprise, the inventing side, must collaborate with management, marketing with sales and customers and so on. There has to be external collaboration as well. No matter how capable or how big we are, it’s unlikely we will have answers to all the questions. There are always people out there who may have new ideas.


Arcus: Does the exchange of ideas drive the innovation process?


MR. GARCIA: The exchange of ideas drives productivity. You have to know with whom to collaborate effectively.  It has been proven that effective collaboration also drives innovation. Networks of innovation, especially now with social media, have thrust us into an era of crowd-sourcing. It has given us a tool that never existed before. Over fifty percent of all investments and assets are related to IT. As we progress into a knowledge-based society, we can start leveraging information and communication technology to solve some key problems. Technology is the key to working more efficiently and productively.


Arcus: What are the building blocks of the knowledge based economy?


MR. GARCIA: HP is focused on four elements called the technology building blocks. We are pooling investments and focusing our resources to increase collaboration. We are also creating the next generation data centers for monitoring of devices, television networks and software. In the next generation data center, we will create an environment where everything is a service, essentially serving billions of users. Today only about 1.6 billion out of 6.6 billion people worldwide are connected. With the right security and privacy to operate, create and enjoy a new series of affordable experiences, these users would generate several petabytes of data. That includes recreation, entertainment, collaboration again, personal identification, music, video, gaming and chatting. We are going to see more virtual travel and more informed tourists because they’ve been exposed to a dynamic encyclopedia where they can research any location, decide exactly what they want to see, learn, and can interact and collaborate with other people.


Arcus: You touch upon dramatic changes in human behavior. What are the big drivers of this phenomenon?


MR. GARCIA: Access to information is key. We are seeing an explosion of information, so access to information and a way to catalog and manage the explosive growth of information is a big challenge. The ability to connect and collaborate on a global basis is a trend that we have never seen before.  For example, the ability to experience places and interact with people at these locations will be a dramatic change in the way we experience travel. I think technology will let us convert those experiences at touch-points with access to information. The two big trends are increased access to information and globalization.  The two are connected with travel, trade, interaction and learning on a global scale. The trend is about exchange of information on a global scale. And thirdly, environmental sustainability is major area.


Arcus: But there are still a lot of skeptics out there.


MR. GARCIA: There were skeptics before, about plagues that killed millions of people. Clearly our industrial machinery, ever since the industrial revolution, has had an effect and we now have tools to fix that. Suddenly, over a ten-month period, we’re seeing an emergence in new potential ways for innovation, the whole focus on electric cars. We are working on the next generation of grids to distribute energy more effectively. Changing the paradigm, creating energy from one point, putting it into the point and having it going one way, into a new paradigm that has distributed processing all over the place. We cannot automatically pump electricity in or out of the grid.  So until a smart grid, in a way. It doesn’t exist, which is an interesting topic. Today there is nothing like that anywhere in the world.


Arcus: So when you say from in and out, do you mean co-generation, like houses generates electricity with solar panels or windmills?


MR. GARCIA: Our system today is based on power generation plants, electric or nuclear or coal or gas. Some wind power as well. It’s all generated at one place and pumped into the grid, which is a one-way highway. A smart grid is a two-way highway, where you will still have hydro, nuclear and wind but you would also have micro generation, so your house in fact would have solar panels for micro generation turbines. You use power when you need it, and whatever you don’t need we can inject it into the grid. Distributive generation as opposed to centralized.


Arcus: You think energy production is one big area of innovation?


MR. GARCIA: Yes, it is a future area of innovation. It’s going to happen because of sustainability becoming a big issue because of sustainability and because of the fact that we cannot continue to use technology that was invented in the 1900s. So there’s a whole paradigm of new technology and how it’s used that will not be built on what was made in the 19th century. Because new methods, especially these legacy supply chains of electricity and products.


Arcus: Can you give me two other examples of distributed generation? What would be two examples that would clearly break from 19th century industry?


MR. GARCIA: One other area that has to do with sustainable IT is the ecosystem. Today, the entire ecosystem that creates and uses energy is based on over-provisioning. Basically we build it for two or three times what we need, and we never really know the entire life cycle effect of anything we do; it’d be very difficult for us to know. When we were making cars or computers or fridges, nobody was concerned about what was going to happen with those cars or computer or fridges at the end of their lives when you have to recycle them. It was very difficult to see the true life cycle. So what you are going to see, and in fact are already starting to see, is highly sophisticated modeling software that allows us to analyze what the course of the environmental impact will be, after creating anything. All the way from mining the materials, which are converted into the primary metals, or plastics that go into a computer, finding the oil that powers the ships which transport materials from other places into our country.  Then there’s the actual cost of storing, selling, and using the power that we have to provide to power all the products, clean them, and then the effort that goes into taking them out of circulation, disassembling them, and recycling them back into the original components. So there’s a whole life cycle of energy that needs to be redefined. Energy and environmental impact are critical. Two things we have created allow us to do that in a virtual environment, so before we actually create anything, we can estimate quite accurately what the impact would be. Before we create it…this allows us to make better decisions.


Arcus: It’s like the lifetime carbon footprint – that initiative.


MR. GARCIA: You’ve got it. For example, if I knew that by making computers in China and then bringing them into Canada would then carry higher costs in terms of environmental taxes or recycling costs, I may decide it is better to mine the materials in Canada and assemble them in Canada, because I can compare both options before I make the decision. Before, we didn’t have that option. Before that, essentially every part of the ecosystem basically lived in its own silo. Somebody would manufacture the stats for us – and some of the stats would be distorted. So somebody manufactures something, somebody transports, somebody imports, all of them had their own life cycles to worry about. So we decided, we need to develop tools to allow us to estimate or calculate those factors and therefore make better decisions.


Arcus: So do you think governments will force all these changes with carbon taxes? What’s going to drive all this change? There are always government initiatives aiming to drive these changes, unless companies or industries make money off of it, right?


MR. GARCIA:  I think that it’s going to be a combination of government-enforced guidelines and humans becoming more selective; there is a market for green technologies. People that have choice will select whether they want a product that is green or not.


Arcus: So you think consumers will drive the change too?


MR. GARCIA: They will drive the change, but the government also has a role to play. Think of it: in some jurisdictions, in some cities, drivers of electric vehicles park for free. Or drivers of electric vehicles can go through a carpool lane, where you would normally need two or more people. So it’s these incentives that say “I can get downtown faster now, with the benefits of carpooling, because I am driving an electric car.” Some free parking for hybrids or electric cars, the use of carpooling lanes…things like that will make people think it makes sense and are perhaps what is needed to get them to understand.


Arcus: I want to talk about a few examples from an HP perspective. Can you give me two or three great examples of innovation, maybe from an HP perspective and in general, in other industries or in your industry?


MR. GARCIA: I’ll give you one that is recent. We just announced this at a conference last week, and it happens to be my project; something that at first doesn’t seem very innovative, but actually is. We just created something called “cloud print”. Cloud print was created as a way to simplify how people print, where people with a Blackberry device, without having to download a driver or connecting directly to a printer, can find a printer and print. So – do you use a Blackberry?


Imagine that you are looking at an e-mail with an attachment, and that attachment has a PowerPoint presentation or a contract or a document. Now you’re in downtown Toronto going to a meeting, and you say “I need that document printed.” You pull up your Blackberry, and now when you click your button there’s an option that says “Print”. Click on Print, and the GPS radio will tell you that two blocks away there is a Kinko’s that can print for you. So you click print and that document is automatically sent to a server in the cloud where the rendering is done, and it is printed at that printing shop.  Then you just walk in, pay them whatever the print cost is, twenty-five cents or whatever, and your document is printed out.


Arcus: I see. So there’s no physical exchange of a disk or something like that, it’s totally wireless.


MR. GARCIA: It’s wireless. There’s nothing in your Blackberry other than this print button, that connects your Blackberry to the cloud, and there is a cloud service that is essentially running, waiting for people to push that button, waiting to connect people that want to print with people that have printers. It’s not compartmentalized, it’s the whole principle of cloud computing. It’s cloud computing, but for something that we do every day, that we take for granted. If you have that situation and didn’t have a cloud service, how would you print? You cannot print from your Blackberry without it. That’s one example of creating a mobile environment, freeing people from their desks. In three years, research shows that 75% of employees will be mobile 75% of the time.


Arcus:  So it’s like a sales person who doesn’t have a fixed desk.


MR. GARCIA: Right. On the road, seeing customers, doing repairs, doing training, away from your desk. Imagine that. Three out of every four employees will be away from the office three out of every four days. So if we don’t create an ecosystem to allow these people to connect securely, to access these applications, then we have failed. That would be highly unproductive.


Arcus: The idea there is that you’re freeing people up and literally making them free to access information at any time, anywhere, securely.


MR. GARCIA: You’ve got it. There have been lots of developments in that area, just continuing to enhance the networks, the privacy protection security, in order to provide ecosystems. One other area that I’m working on and specialize in, is anti-counterfeiting and ID protection. Protecting things – products and etc. – is very, very difficult. The counterfeiting industry is huge. Billions of dollars around the world. One of the problems in protecting identity is that often the cost of the solution is higher than the cost of the problem. For example, take something like drugs, food items, wines, there’s a big distance in counterfeit wine. You can buy an ice wine in China for a fraction of the cost here. But it’s not really ice wine. That happens because people trust labels.


Arcus: Do you think it’s our society that’s going to change all that?


MR. GARCIA: No. Society cannot change that because our society is too expensive. To print a label for a bottle of wine costs less than seven cents. Less than that. If you add in an ID chip to that, it would be around five cents so already, you’ve doubled the cost of the label. Doesn’t work. So we at HP are inventing a technology that allows us to print unique labels using color. It’s called a Model Label; it uses tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of variations of color, and every label is unique. Like a currency note, where each is different, all printed at the same time, for the same cost as printing a normal label. You read it by using a device that takes a photograph. The web service is called up, connecting to the cloud data center, which decrypts the color back into the key. To print each label we use a unique key. Like a password for each label. So once you know that password, you can decrypt and confirm whether it’s authentic or not. Now the person who is trying to protect his brand prints this new type of label, for maybe a penny more. There’s no change in the process except that our software injects this key into each label. Our product uses our software to print the label, but each is different.


Arcus: So it’s the software that does it, or do you sell printers that do it?


MR. GARCIA: We sell printers to do it, the same printers that are being used today: Digital printers. As we print the labels, we register each key in a database. Those are the types of innovations where we change the paradigm using innovative methods. Like a key or bar code that’s read by mobile phones now. But this is color. This is color. Bar codes are all the same. If I photocopied them, they would still work. This one cannot be photocopied.


Arcus: Give me five applications for something like that…or three or four. You talked about labels. Are there other applications for something like that?


MR. GARCIA: Protecting pharmaceutical items, triggering information from a magazine, like embedding into a color. So you could order something off the net just by scanning it. All the instructions are embedded into the color. It’s all driven by color. it’s a new area. That particular technology is one example of a technology we’re looking at incubating and commercializing in Canada. Because one of the things that we have realized is that Canada has the right environment, the right people, the right place to incubate new technologies.


Arcus: It goes back to Canada being a good place to innovate.


MR. GARCIA: Exactly. And that is where I think the federal government and provincial governments have an opportunity to show leadership, to promote that type of environment. To help more and more companies look at Canada as an incubation and commercialization lab. It’s a place where we not only take things that we invented in Canada, but we take from other parts of the world and bring it all to Canada. We have a safe environment, the right people, commercial links to different countries. The world wants to buy Canadian products. We have open channels. When we sell something to the world, we do not attach ideology to it. All the other countries will do business with you if you also take the ideology. This is about commercialism. It’s cleaner and more focused on the product itself. This allows us to talk more openly with more people. The more we talk openly, the more we collaborate; the more we collaborate the better the solutions we can bring.


Arcus: In closing, if there’s one thing you would tell a CEO to drive their innovation and the pace of change around innovation, what would it be?


MR. GARCIA: I would tell them to look at some of the areas where we are failing – the use of technology, for example. Canadian companies have been slower to adopt technology to help improve these processes.  Look at how technology can help you innovate. The innovation in that case would be the use of technology to improve a process. The innovation doesn’t have to be a product, but an improvement to a process. A means to an end. RFID may not be the solution for protecting products, but it’s clear to me, it is a magnificent technology to help us improve productivity. It’s a means to an end to improve productivity and cost-savings and so on. The core of the advice to a CEO would be to look at how the use of these new innovative technologies could help them become more productive.


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