Good afternoon. Pardon me, I’m just getting over a little bit of a tickle in the throat, so hopefully I get through this OK. So, API stands for innovation. First of all, this is me. This is how you can find me. This is me on GitHub and LinkedIn and Twitter, and I would love to connect with you and love to hear about what you’re doing. I’m going to sneak in a little ad here. I work for a group called the API Academy, which is sponsored by CA, and we just announced that we’re going to release a micro service architecture book.

I think it’s going to be in April. There’s an event in New York called The Software Architecture Convention, and it’ll be released there. I’m very, very excited about this. We’ve been working on this project for about half a year. I’m very excited that it will be coming out soon, and we’ll make sure that we send some copies specifically here to Australia as well.

You know, I’ve been to Australia a couple of times. I think this is my third time in Melbourne. I just love the city. I love the views, the mixture of the modern and the on the old. I used to read Bunyip stories to my children as kids. Now I actually get to see what one looks like in real life.

This is really amazing to me. This is out in front of the library in the city. And of course, the contemporary. This building is really awesome. It’s really beautiful. And it reminds me that there are all sorts of changes, all sorts of innovations, in all sorts of places everywhere.

One of the things that really got me was this ship, the Polly Woodside. It’s just outside the building here. It was built in 1885. It’s an iron ship that was a merchant ship that plied the waters. It was built in Belfast, came down here, and it’s rather beautiful.

One of the reasons it touches me is because it reminds me of this ship. This is a wooden ship — The Fram — that was built in 1893, and it was built specifically to do polar exploration. One of its captains was that bowler headed gentleman in the center there, who was a distant cousin of mine, Roald Amundsen, and he came here and launched his trip to the South Pole from Melbourne in 1912.

And in fact, it took two years, but he was the first to reach the South Pole. This is a picture of his team. He had a team of five people that made it to the Pole in December of 1911. He couldn’t actually report the information back until 1912, because that’s what communication was like back then.

He was actually worried to death that not only was he going to be the first, but he wouldn’t be the first to tell anyone, and that he would miss the opportunity. That’s what communication was like. So, Melbourne kind of has this special spot for me because it reminds me of so many things. This is Amundsen innovating. One of the things Amundsen did is he used Inuit clothing and sled dogs in his trip.

This was considered a terrible idea. This was not modern. This was not using the latest that Europe had to offer. But he knew that he could combine things from other places and create success. I thought that was really fascinating.

This was one of the last known pictures of Amundsen next to his plane. He was also an aviator. He was the first to fly over the North Pole. He left on this trip to go find an Italian friend of his, Umberto Nobile, who had been lost in the ice in the Arctic. He never came back. We never found his plane. Nobile eventually was found. His team was found and rescued.

So when I visit, I always sort of think of this part of my heritage. I actually visited the ship, the Fram is in Norway, in Oslo. You can visit it in a museum. It has nice, little comfortable chairs in it now. That’s a slight innovation, I guess. I don’t think it was like that when he was on board.

So when I look at the ship, it sort of reminds me and it’s a part of me that would love to travel. There’s a part of me that would love to have been a seafarer. I’m a bit of a chicken. I get to fly, which is just fine. I don’t need to go to the South Pole yet, but maybe someday I can do that. I had this hope that maybe I could maybe step in the same spot where my ancestor had lived as well.

So anyway, when I’m here in this beautiful city, I realize that there’s all sorts of innovation that’s going on here, all sorts of change, that innovation is actually everywhere around us. We don’t really think about it. We think about all that’s changed in some way or it’s better or it’s worse. We sort of have little value judgments about it.

But innovation is incredibly important right now. People talk about it a lot. This is a U.K. Science Office report from, I think, 2014, where they point out that it’s really important to think about things. For example, there are twice as many mobiles on the African continent than there is in the U.S. That’s a huge amount of opportunity for innovation. We now have more than 2.5 billion people connected to the Internet, where 20 years ago, it was really only about 3 million.

All of this technological change represents an opportunity. All of these changes, all of these innovations are really based on the notion of opportunity. API’s are just one of these kinds of ways that we can enable this innovation. Australia even has a special website just for innovation, to promote and talk about the innovation that we have. So, innovation is interesting and incredibly powerful.

I was doing some research. Joseph Schumpeter, the economist from Europe, Austrian economist, had this idea. He said that innovation is the critical dimension of economic change. The critical dimension for him, this idea of innovation is how we change our lives. We have an opportunity with APIs to change our lives, to change everyone’s lives, to drive the economy in this way.

The word is interesting. It has sort of a Latin meaning. It means new and to make new. Ino means from inside or within. So, we really start to see this word used around the mid 16th century. Innovator, innovation, innovate. But it’s not quite the way we would think of it.

And in fact, in a very famous case about a theologian, Henry Burton, in the 16th century, in England, he accused the church. He got crosswise with the Anglican Church and with the new King Charles. He accused them of being innovators, of changing the liturgy, of changing the services for Charles’s best interest. Charles was so devious, says Burton, that he was actually co-opting the church, the beautiful church.

He was accusing them of innovators. It was an epithet. It was the worst kind of thing you could be called in the 16th century. So, there’s Henry Burton, the little rabble-rouser, the little stirrer, the little person that’s causing all sorts of trouble. And what happens in organizations that people cause lots of trouble?

You can only guess. He’s called up to the star chamber court in Westminster and accused of being what? Yes? What? An innovator, yes. He is accused of such crimes, of changing things. And what happens to him? He eventually gets put in fleet prison, which later becomes a famous debtors prison in England. And not even that, they cut off his ears.

He and two others were accused of sedition. He was the innovator. He was accused of the crime of sedition, imprisoned, and he lost his ears. Now, it could have been worse. But 10 years later, Charles lost his head. He was an innovator, too. I’m at this thing here about being an innovator maybe is not such a good idea. Maybe we should rethink this a little bit. By the way, this story of Henry Burton and innovation is written up in a wonderful paper by Ben Wong Ledean.

This is a quote, I think, from the Bible: "Meddle not with them that are given to change." This is a warning, innovation as evil. So I think those of us who have worked on the notion of change from within, of innovating, have probably experienced a little bit of this. Hopefully, no one’s in prison and we have our ears. But often we have difficulties, often we get rebuffed, often we get ignored.

Sometimes innovative employees leave because the elders are not interested. So that’s a different way of thinking about innovators, but I think it has a tiny little bit of thread of truth in it. How organizations have a difficult time with the people who are the rabble-rousers, who want to think differently, who want to change what’s going on.

So, yes, we know the Latin definition of it. Here’s a definition that I like a little bit better. This is a more modern definition. "Make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products. Make changes in something established." In fact, most of us, our greatest opportunity is going to make change in something that’s already established. Some of us will have the opportunity to help others make changes in something that’s already established.

We can foster innovation. We can ennoble it, we can nurture it inside our organizations. And what would that be like? What is it like to be working in an innovative organization, an organization that values those kinds of rabble-rousers instead of imprisoning them?

Well, it turns out it does not look like a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, innovation is not this careful chugging along of something predictable. In fact, it looks more like, according to some research, ant colonies. Ant colonies, that’s an interesting idea. The thing about ant colonies is no single ant is predictable, but the colony is. It’s a fascinating area.

So, this idea of your innovation should not run like a well-oiled machine comes from a Harvard Business Review paper, by two gentlemen, Ashkenas and Spiegel. They put it simply: "Managers of the most effective teams encouraged adaptive colony behavior. The less effective teams expected people to abide by rules and procedures. Rules and procedures can be an enemy to innovation."

Here’s a good example. If you have to apply to get permission to innovate in your group, it’s not going to happen. I have customers that do this. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but you’re really just slowing things down.

So, this idea about ants is actually just a really interesting notion. I dug into it a little bit more. I’ve been doing some other research on groups and organizations, and leadership and things like that, and there’s a wonderful writer, Deborah Gordon, she’s actually been studying ant colonies for 30 years. She’s got some wonderful observations.

In an ant colony, there is no management. We sort of have this belief in ant colonies that the queen exists and the queen represents this role of authority in our society. So we think the queen is telling everyone what to do. And that’s not even close. Queen’s got more than enough things to do on her own.

And in fact, it’s been shown that no one issues commands inside an ant colony. No one tells someone else what to do. Ant colonies have been existing for hundreds of millions of years. And they’re actually quite varied. The ant colonies in Africa behave differently than the ant colonies in South America, in North American, in Europe, and Asia, all these other things. They have their own adaptations.

The thing is, this notion of being able to function when no one’s in charge is really creeping humans out. We don’t like this. We can’t figure…this cannot be so. This cannot be right. This is so difficult for us to think about. And that’s one of the reasons I love what Gordon’s work does.

She’s got some TED talks. You should definitely check her out. The books that I’ve shown here are really, really interesting. There are lots of other examples of the way we try to change leadership inside organizations to be a little bit more like ant colonies.

So, that makes me think. That makes me think about what are the ways that we can effectively foster innovation? I can’t get the world to be a bunch of ant colonies. I don’t think that’s really a good idea anyway. But what are some things that we can do to foster some of that same creativity and not lock up those innovators?

So there are four things I want to talk about. I want to talk about the notion of a strong central mission and a loose central structure, the idea of sharing, of maximizing learning inside a group, the notion of what creativity really looks like, what experimentation really looks like, and the ability to look beyond today, the ability to just take a minute and say, "What about five years from now? What about ten years from now?" These are the things that you can foster inside your group, inside your team, in your organization, to help create more innovative thinking and come up with more innovative results.

So let’s talk about the first one, a powerful central mission and a loose central structure. That’s very much the way the ant colony works. It has a mission to survive, to feed, to recreate. They have colonies. They colonize other areas of the same route. They can actually follow the way they grew up over time. But it’s a very loose structure. It’s a very, very loose structure.

I’m sure everyone’s seen a photo of this before. Who knows what this is? The internet. This is what the internet looks like. The internet does not look like there’s a thing at the top and then there’s lots of trees that go down. No, that’s not how the internet looks. The internet is all these connected things. There is no central command. It’s a loose structure, but it has an incredible mission.

As a matter of fact, Ted Nelson, who gives us the idea of the link, of the hyperlink, has this great line. "If the internet is the wave of the future," he said this back in the '80s, "then computers are the surfboard." In fact, it’s because of this quote in the '80s that we today surf the web, because of the wave of the future and the surfboards. And I think this is a brilliant idea. Ted Nelson, bless his heart, is still alive and kicking. He’s still coming with all sorts of great ideas.

Here’s another one that I think of. I love this. I’m going to paraphrase a quote from him that he said before. The way he thinks about the way the internet, the web should work is that anyone anywhere should be able to write anything about everything, without having to ask for permission. This is the central mission of the web. That I can say anything I want, anytime I want. I can tweet, I can blog, I can post, I can create an app, I can create a server, I can do whatever I want to do, and I don’t have to ask you for permission.

This is a central way that we can start to organize our own companies, our own organizations. This is the way Amazon works. Amazon allows anyone to start any project anytime, without asking anyone’s permission, and gives them a budget of a handful of EZ2’s [SP] to use how they see fit. And even give them all sorts of infrastructure to do that.

This is how Netflix puts it. Netflix teaches their team leaders basically this notion: I have neither the place, the time, nor the desire to micromanage or make technical decisions for my group." At Netflix, leadership’s job is not to tell people what to do. It’s to put boundaries around, give them context, and say, "How should we go about doing this? What do you think? How can we empower you?" This is a central mission for Netflix.

So, the web is an incredible power that’s affecting the way we think about the way we do our work, the way we do our organization. We can be remote because of the web. We can decentralize all sorts of things because of the web. Another one that we see time and time again when I talk to companies and I read about this stuff, is maximizing learning, more interactions, more connections. There are all sorts of companies that try to bring people together from all sorts of places, in all sorts of new ways, just to maximize the learning, because it’s the sharing that we do that makes a difference.

It turns out, just like so many other things, your knowledge is worthless if you hold onto it. It’s only valuable when you share it, when you maximize it in some kind of way. There’s this great book called "The Fifth Discipline," and I swear to you I cannot remember what the first four are, but the fifth one is learning. Apparently, the fifth one is not memory. But I love Peter Senge’s quote: "The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition." Learning faster. Not even learning more, by the way, just learning faster.

And one of the greatest examples, one of the best means for learning faster inside organizations, is this mean of fail fast. This notion, what does it really mean? It doesn’t mean be another failure. It means do it quickly so we can move on, so we can learn from the experience.

At Netflix, one of the admonitions over and over again in sharing, is it’s called a sharing culture. You have a shared responsibility to share your mistakes. We’re actually not too interested in your successes; everybody’s got them. It’s the mistakes that are going to make a difference for us. It’s the mistakes that I can now not repeat because you’ve taught me.

So, maximizing learning is incredibly important. Continuous delivery, continuous integration, all these things about speeding up the process of going to production is so you can maximize learning. Every event is important. [inaudible 00:18:49] says, "In continuous delivery when you’re doing a building release, if it’s painful, if it’s complicated, if it’s hard, if it’s scary, do more of it. Do it until it’s not painful. Maximize learning in all sorts of ways."

Deborah Bull of King’s College London has this great, great quote. If everything we do succeeds, then we are actually failing because that means we’re not taking enough risk. And risk is also something that’s credibly difficult for some organizations to accept. That idea that I might make a mistake, sometimes it means, even in my own organization, I will be penalized for making these mistakes. "That Mike, he never seems to do it right. Again and again and again, he’s making mistakes." "Yeah, but he had that one thing." "Yeah, but it doesn’t matter, all those mistakes."

So we have to think about that carefully. Here’s somebody who’s pretty good at mistakes: Elon Musk. He’s going to make a rocket ship land by itself automatically. He’s going to put it on TV, and every time he does, it blows up. And he’s not worried a bit. It turns out that those are really spectacular explosions, spectacular videos. You can see them everywhere.

He finally got it to land just recently, I think it was at the end of this last year, and it turned out to be incredibly unspectacular. Just quietly landed and shut off, and that was that. It’s kind of not so romantic. When you finally see it working, it’s like, "Yeah, okay."

But he has this great quote, just like Deborah Bull: failure is an option here. You’re not innovating enough. And he’s willing to put it on international TV, put it on YouTube, put it everywhere. I love this guy. I love this guy.

The mean that we have in the U.S., we often talk about Babe Ruth like the home run king. We have this baseball home run king. He was also, by the way, the strikeout king. He was working the odds just like anybody else. And the more times you try, the more likely you are to win. But of course, you’re always going to have more failures.

So here’s another one, another one that I just love so much. Constant experimentation we see time and time again when we talk to companies and we read about companies that do this well. They’re constantly experimenting. And the thing is, experimenting is messy. Experimenting is not a straight line.

We don’t say, "Hey, we’re going to get over there and then just go straight there." There’s a rock, there’s a tree, there’s a river, there’s a chasm. There’s all sorts of things we have to deal with while we get there. And it turns out like, "Oh crap, I forgot some stuff. I gotta go back. Hold on. We’ll do it again." And over and over and over. It looks messy. You never go in a straight line.

There’s a great book called "The Chaos Imperative." The environment in which we operate is more chaotic, so we’ve got to introduce chaos into the system. Actually introducing chaos into the system is really effective. The classic way to introduce chaos into the system, to sort of force people to think creatively, force people to start thinking about it in a different way, is to create arbitrary deadlines, random deadlines.

Bezos has been known to do this. He just comes in and says, "No, it’s got to be done by Friday." "Like, holy crap, we’re not going to be able to do it the way we used to do it," and suddenly somebody comes up with a creative way to do it. So there’s a lot in Ori Brafman’s book. I like his book a lot. One of the stories he tells about the value of chaos, the value of the wild cards, is just some simple poker math. The joker, the wild card, the Henry Burton if you will, of the deck of cards.

When you’re looking for a straight flush, there are 40 possible ways to get one. Want to increase your odds? Add a wild card. Now you’ve got over 180. Four of a kind, 624 possible ways to get four of a kind. You add a wild card, that’s over 3,100 ways to win, to get a good hand. Wild cards are often your secret to success. Somebody in your organization, many, many people in your organization are wild cards.

In poker, a very limited system that’s very predictable and mathematical, it’ll quadruple your chance of getting a powerful hand. Everybody knows a joker in your office. Everybody has wild cards in the group, oddballs, people who think differently. "Boy, she dresses differently," "Boy, he plays with the wrong kind of stuff," "He has a weird sport," all these other kinds of things. These often, these jokers, may be the people who actually have the next great idea for you.

It’s important to think about them, nurture them, give them an opportunity. I have a great version of this story. Years and years ago, I was working at a bank, and I was quite sure, along with being quite young, it kind of goes together, that I had solved an important problem for the bank. So I made my little presentation, I went up to the senior VP and I trot through this whole thing. She’s quiet through the whole thing, and she says, "You know, Mike, I really admire your enthusiasm. I don’t share it, but I admire it. So, go ahead."

And of course, I was wrong. It was terrible. But this senior vice president understood that it was actually more valuable to allow me an attempt than to simply tell me no. She could also understand that I wasn’t going to risk the entire company on this idea. I wasn’t going to drill a hole at the bottom of the boat. So, it’s really important to nurture these jokers.

Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein and several other great works: "Invention does not consist of creating out of void but out of chaos." When things get messed up, things get messy, somebody suddenly says, "Oh look, I didn’t realize you could do that." All of a sudden you have a new opportunity.

Okay, fourth: The freedom to look to the next horizon. This is a tough one because it’s sort of a mix of being able to just daydream and also really pay attention to what’s happening in the world. Looking to the next horizon is something that characterizes companies that are really good at innovation as a cultural feature, as a way we do things every day. And giving people a chance to think about those things or actually even encourage them thinking about those things is incredibly important.

One of the reasons Google has this series where they bring in lecturers, they bring in people from the outside to talk for an hour, they have these guest lecturers, is to get people to think about things that have nothing to do with work, to just go outside themselves and think about "What it might be like, what it could be like, at some other point, at some other time?"

Google’s 20%. They used to have this notion where 20% of your time is to do whatever you like. It’s to encourage people to think about what it could be like. That’s how they got Gmail. That’s how they got Google Glass. That’s how they got all sorts of things. That’s how they got the car. By just thinking about "What would it be like in the future?"

And in fact, there’s sort of a pattern to this. We all know that there’s a technological pattern where you’re on a current technology and it starts to pick up and it starts to ramp off, and you’ve got lots of opportunity. People want to make a lot of this sort of high-ramping period. But it turns out, while that technology is already in high speed, there’s one behind it just coming up. And maybe you’ve even heard about it but it’s so inefficient and so ineffective I really should ignore it.

I’m really more interested in this one over here. But pretty soon that one that used to be way behind the curve suddenly clicks, suddenly takes off, and suddenly that’s the new technology. And it actually overtakes the one that you’re riding. These are called S curves. And it turns out, companies that are really good at this keep riding each curve. They pay attention to the one that’s behind them. They invest in things that seem like goofy ideas and they get ready to do what’s called jump the curve, jumping the S curve.

And in fact, yes, there’s a book about jumping the S curve, from Paul Nunes. I love his quote: "These high performers, these companies that do this, they’ll use all kinds of means and methods to do this, in an apparent chaotic way." So this is more like these ant colonies. I have no idea what’s going on at this company. Everybody’s doing all sorts of crazy things. I can’t make heads or tails of it. But the company itself has this mission, has this moving forward, has this direction.

One of the great places where chaotic things went on was Xerox PARC. All of the people that actually thought up all of the notions about the way we use personal computers today came out of this chaotic place that Xerox built. The irony is that Xerox got all these great thinkers together to figure out if their copying business was going to go in the tubes. They’re like, "Is this screen thing going to screw up printing and paper and all that? Because we got a real good deal going here."

It turns out that Xerox looked at it and said, "You know, we’re going to be able to sell copiers for a long time. That’s fine. Thanks, guys, anyway. We’re going to ignore what you did. Thank you very much." Apple shows up, takes a few things along, and we still get the computer revolution.

So, chaos is incredibly important. However, no big bets. This is a big thing that when we talk to our customers, and we see all sorts of examples of this, it’s incredibly important that you not mistake innovation for betting your company on one idea. We all recognize this kind of thing. "We’re going to be totally X (fill in the feature or technology) in one year or in six months."

I linked to a thing the other day. A manager says he wants a much more relaxed and efficient office, and he wants it by Friday. Every once in a while you watch companies make this huge bet that could sink the entire company, and the odds are simply against you. They’re against you every time. You romanticize about the times that it works. There are all these stories about startups, especially the Silicon Valley startups of the '80s when people knew nothing and they sold their last dime, and they were in the basement and they thought they were going to be dead. And suddenly the phone rang and they got an order for a million copies.

We love that story, but that’s not how life really works. That isolated story is a great romance, but it’s not reality. Reality is the strikeout king. So it’s really important for us to recognize the risk in selecting some of these ideas. We have to build a place where we say it’s safe to be creative, where it’s safe to build something because I’m not going to run into traffic, I’m not running with scissors, I’m not causing some serious damage to myself, my team, my company.

So, often innovation looks like this inside an organization. There is some step-wise changes. As a matter of fact, it’s a whole category of study, and it’s called incremental innovation, small improvements made to a company’s existing products or services. And we recognize this. A lot of companies kind of fall into this sort of incrementalism. It’s like, "No, we’re just going to make some changes to the one that we have."

And that’s fine. It’s fine especially when you’re on the curve up. Because when you’re on the curve up, it’s the incrementalism, it’s the tiny little innovations that keep you leading the market. They keep you ahead of your competitors. That keep you going, that keeps your customers interested in. And especially in the virtual realm with APIs and the app economy, this kind of incrementalism is cheap, because I don’t have to reship and repackage and re-box and redistribute a bunch of shelf products. I just change some code, change some APIs, add some features.

This incrementalism is incredibly powerful. But you have to remember, there’s a point at which that growth driven by incrementalism stops. And suddenly what’s happened is, the rest of the world is starting to jump that curve. And you want to hold on to this incremental change. You want to hold on to even though you’re leveling off, if you just add one more feature, everybody’s going to come back to us. It’s going to be great, right? We can just keep up with that. It’s not going to happen.

Now, a lot of us are in organizations where we’ve been at this for decades and decades and decades. And you know what? We’re on the top part of that curve that’s fine. But that’s not the only thing that our company can do. That’s not the only thing that we can define ourselves by. We can jump the curve. We can find other related things. A lot of what you’re hearing about today is this notion of figuring out how I can unlock the value inside my company with APIs. And usually, that means you’re jumping a curve.

You’re starting some other kind of business, you’re starting some other kind of partnership. You’re moving on past this incrementalism phase to the next phase. I love this quote from Marc Jacobs, a fashion designer: "It’s not necessary to be radical all the time." This is incredibly true. This is incredibly true. So, you can establish a safe zone, a laboratory, a place where people can work safely. Sometimes, a safe zone is simply a vagrant instance or an EZ2. It’s a safe zone. I can do anything here.

Amazon hands them out like candy. PayPal has a similar kind of thing. I just need an opportunity to try something out where it’s not going to hurt anybody and then I can kill it. And it’s gone and it’s no worries. It’s no problem. Because you want to enable unplanned innovation. I love that San Martino today talked about this idea of permission. And we heard Ted Nelson talk about this idea of permission early on. If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.

More importantly, stop making your team members, your players, ask for permission. "Is it okay if I try this idea out?" "Are you kidding? Of course it’s okay. Here’s a couple of instances, here’s some code. Do what you need to do." Creating a culture where I don’t have to ask for permission, like Ted Nelson had talked about, is incredibly important. Because if I have to ask, some people won’t even ask. They’ll just say, "It’s a little too complicated. I’m not going to do it."

Other people will ask in some really odd bizarre sort of way, some really jargony thing, and then people will go like, "That sounds terrible. No." Because we just can’t penetrate it, we just can’t get through it. It’s better to just stop that and say, "Go ahead. Don’t jump off a cliff, don’t drag me with you, but go ahead." Setting up these safe places to be creative is incredibly important.

So, just to talk a little bit in summary. Central mission, loose structure. What is your mission? What is your company’s mission? What is your team’s mission? Sometimes, your mission is to simply make it a great experience for customers. That’s a fantastic mission. The way you structure that should be entirely up to you. Sometimes, your organization has a mission, and that mission is to make people healthier, make people work together more, to collaborate.

There’s all sorts of great missions. The key is to not have this rigid structure, and not make it difficult for people to do something. You want to maximize learning. Encourage the notion of sharing one’s mistakes. The more you can share mistakes, the more everyone can learn. Everyone can learn from my mistakes. I can learn from yours. It’s best not to keep them.

Constant experimentation. You never know when the right one’s going to work. There’s the old classic romantic story about inventing a light bulb. Edison was working on inventing a light bulb. They said it took him 10,000 different designs or 10,000 attempts, and he said, "I wasn’t failing 9,999 times. I was just figuring out 9,999 ways you didn’t invent one. That’s fine. I just had to do one more, and one more, and one more." So, constant experimentation is incredibly important.

And looking for the next horizon, being willing to start thinking about "What would it be like if I didn’t have to write code anymore? What would it be like if people didn’t have to ask permission to use an API? What if they didn’t even have to read documentation? What if they could just drag and drop things together? What if the editors would do all of this for me? What if the descriptions would actually just talk to each other?" There’s all sorts of things that we can think about when we want to innovate our surfboards of the future. APIs are our surfboards of the future.

These are just four possibilities, four ways of starting to think about how we can make APIs engines for innovation. Like Schumpeter says, "Innovation was the engine for the economy," we can use APIs to do that.

There’s one of these principles that I didn’t find documented anywhere. But I want to add it anyway because it was really for me. Inspiration. Often, when I’ve had some of the best experiences of working on new projects or an innovative group, it’s because someone’s inspired me. The team leaders inspired me in a way that I didn’t think she could or I hadn’t even thought before, or something I’ve read has inspired me to say, "Hey, you know, I just read this article. Maybe we can do something like that."

Inspiration is often incredibly important. Increasing the opportunity for inspiration is really, really valuable insight in an organization. That’s why Google has all these lectures and so on and so forth. I want to mention one other person. Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I’m probably not pronouncing his French name correctly. I’ll say Antoine for now. This is Antoine in 1933. He was a pilot and a pioneer aviator, a romanticist, a typical French and author, a thinker, an incredible person.

You probably know the book "The Little Prince," that he wrote. This is another book that I read, next to the Bunyip stories, was "The Little Prince." He wrote this. He also wrote a book called "The Aviator" and several others. This is a picture of him in 1944. This is one of the last known pictures of Antoine.

He was flying a mission early in the war over France and was lost in a plane, just like my distant cousin. Not long after that, the only thing that was found was his name bracelet. It had washed up on the shore in France. No one ever found the plane. No one ever knew what happened to him. He’s like a hero to a lot of people in France.

The way the U.S. think of Amelia Earhart, who disappeared at the same time, that’s the way they think about Antoine. It turns out, I think 2008, 2009, they found his plane at the bottom of the sea off of Provence in France. This was an incredible moment for the French. They had discovered him all over again, because he had inspired them in so many ways.

Now, why do I mention him? Because Netflix mentions him. Netflix teaches their team leaders the story of Antoine de Saint-Exupery. And in fact, they use a special quote for their team leaders to help remind their teams what their real role is in the organization: "If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to gather wood, ask them to do work, assign tasks. But rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." That’s an incredibly powerful idea, "to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

To get people to think about what would it be like if those APIs did that. What would it be like if the documentation was like that? I want to see what that would be like. I want to use my 20% time. I want to use my EZ2s to try this out and see what’s possible. I want to collaborate with my friends around the world and see if we can actually build that kind of thing. Because we all have those notions, those things that we think, "I might like to do that. I might like to walk in the foot steps of my cousin one day." Because that’s a possibility. And that’s inspirational, and that’s why the I stands for innovation. Thank you very much.

Q and A Session


We have time for a few questions scratching here. Two questions here. Ladies first.


Thank you. Wow. I don’t know what to say because I just want to go "Wow." Thank you. Thank you so much for…


These are all things I’ve learned from lots of others. These are not our inventions. They exist in all sorts of places.


So, my challenge is I’m trying to bring all of this to government.


Yeah, yeah.


I think I need to be committed to an asylum. You know, really, I’ve really felt mad until I joined this community, honestly. So, that evil bit about how they persecuted innovators, just really blows me away because it really is not an easy journey, and most people don’t get it.


And having had that experience gives you all sorts of ammunition for making sure others don’t experience that. You know what it’s like. You will know what it’s like to be the joker. And to make it possible for any citizen anywhere to build an app without asking permission, using data from your API, from open government, to making things better for people, what an incredible way to effect change. You have such a great set of opportunities, and all the people you work with. It’s not just you, right? It’s like hundreds and thousands of government workers all have this opportunity.


I’m no longer a government worker. I thought it was better to [inaudible 00:41:29] from the outside.


So you’re like talking at them from the outside. That’s fine. That’s great. Thanks.


Hi. Firstly, thanks for the presentation. That was amazing. I wanted to get your thoughts on what you’re talking about, being free to innovate loose process. And all of that is fantastic. What are your thoughts on being able to implement that culture when realistically you’re going to need funds and money to innovate?


So, the question has to do with, inside an organization, often you need some kind of resources in order to innovate. It turns out you don’t need resources to innovate, but you do need resources to survive while you innovate. Innovation itself is just ideas. But the ability to have the time, to have a day a week, or to have a couple of weeks to do a sprint, that’s incredibly difficult to get out of an organization oftentimes I learned a long time ago.

I was told by a supervisor once that inside some organizations, you have to have a bit of larceny in you. So you have a budget that says, "It’s going to take us X plus one to do this. And we’re going to add a month to it." And then you go back to your group and say, "You got 30 days."

So, sometimes, inside your organizations, you have to be the instigator of change. Sometimes one of the roles inside organizations is for you to protect your team from the crazy, which is the rest of the organization. You have to sometimes do this sort of [inaudible 00:43:06], and that’s a risk that you have to deal with.

Sometimes, you can help institutionalize some of that. You can make that possible. You can create things like sharing sessions or hackathons or all sorts of other things. Spotify has these things they call guilds where they get together in evenings and so on and so forth, where a lot of that innovation can happen in some other ways.


But outside all the resources, [inaudible 00:43:30 to 00:43:35].


Yeah. Sometimes you do, and that means you’ve got to figure out how to get it somehow. Suddenly the budget looks a little different, there’s four of them instead of three, and you can buy a new editor. That’s all I can tell you, man. Sometimes you actually get permission. You run into a person like I ran into that’s a senior VP. You told me to go ahead. You’ll be surprised sometimes. Yes?

Male 2

What do you see as the key character traits we need in our innovation leaders now and into the future?


Yeah. It’s interesting, key character traits. The things that I see, that I’ve experienced over and over again are an ability to trust. Like, "I trust that you have good intention." I assume that actually from the start and I have the ability to gauge it, the ability to understand the difference between uncertainty and risk.

Uncertainty means I have no idea what you’re doing. Risk is I can gauge that it’s a kind of a goofy idea, but you’re not going to hurt anybody. The ability to store away a chestnut somewhere so I can say, "Actually, I have a little bit of a budget for that." You know, that kind of thing, that ability to adept inside an organization.

I can tell you, our API Academy leader, Matt McClarty, has got a lot of these skills in him. I’m amazed sometimes. He says, "No, no, Mike. Go ahead." I’m like, "Really?" "Yeah, it’ll be cool." He gives us opportunities. So, ability to trust. Ability to inspire is also incredibly powerful, that ability to judge risk and carry water.

Very often you just need to carry water. You need to help her out until she can get on her feet or finally get this idea started. And then sometimes there’s a lot of salesmanship. You’ve got to convince somebody else in the group, or your leadership. Those are the things that I see over and over again. I don’t know if that helps.


We have time for a few questions. Yeah?

Male 3

Thank you. What percentage of the overall budget would you spend on innovation?


What was that again?

Male 3

What percentage of your whole budget would you spend on innovation?


I have no idea. Absolutely no idea. And that’s a part of the magic. That’s part of the weirdness. So, part of what happens in the group I’m working in, which is called the API Academy group, we’re actually expected to constantly be innovating. But it doesn’t really work like that, right? So, it isn’t sort of like, "This is the innovation part and this is the rest of the part." It kind of keeps mixing up. Is that kind of what you meant?

Male 3

I guess so. But also, there’s this [inaudible 00:46:14 to 00:46:16]. If Google gave 20% of people’s time over to that, that’s an opportunity [inaudible 00:46:22 to 00:46:24]. If your team is funded purely for innovation, then that’s an explicit budget [inaudible 00:46:35].


Sure, yeah, it is. And we’re not the only ones. Every product group at CA has got the same sort of mission, it’s got the same sort of thing. And the way they handle it all is each different. So, it’s difficult. Google’s 20% is a great example. I think San Martino talks about this idea of just one percent, just give over one percent to do something else somewhere. Even each of us individually can carve 30 minutes out of a day and use that to do all sorts of goofy things.

And you can usually get that in your team as well. The thing that I find fascinating is, no matter who I’m talking to, they all have their own total way of going about this. And the ones who are really, really carefully budgeting and carefully planning and carefully tracking all that innovation, are failing.

It’s the ones who just let things happen as moments come up. And then sometimes they have to say, "Look, I’m sorry, Mike. It’s a brilliant idea, but I just gave all of my effort to Frank over here. You’re not going to be able to do it until maybe later." So, it’s a weird kind of adhocracy in many ways.


The other question I think was, how is your annual income? I think there was a question there about the budget of innovation.

Male 4

Just in the context of API and innovation, where does governance fit into that?


So, governance in APIs?

Male 4

Governance is a part of API. It’s an important part. But where does governance fit into innovation, in an API context?


I think Netflix really explains it really well. In Netflix, they say the leadership’s job is to give context and put a boundary around things, not to actually say how to go about it. So, in any kind of governance model, and actually just flipping gears to just API governance, the people who seem to be really good at governing well and still allowing creativity are ones who set guidelines and coaching rather than command and control.

So, use these protocols, use these formats, use these vocabularies, go nuts. Often, that’s all enterprise architecture really needs to do, is they need to manage the boundaries and make sure that nobody’s doing anything that drills below the water line. And that’s very different than what most of us grow up thinking about.

I took a bunch of slides out, because of time, about hierarchy. You think about holacracy and adhocracy and matrix organizations. For decades and decades, people have tried to figure out how to flatten organizations. Why? Just because they’re bored? No, because the hierarchy makes it more difficult. The hierarchy makes it more likely that you’re going to have to ask for permission. So, a lot of these organizations keep incredibly flatting. Governance works the same way. And that’s a big part of it, I think. I don’t know if that helps.

Male 5

I’ve done the startup thing a couple of times. The last one I did, we ran innovation programs through the business for five years. Every quarter, we had a new product and a new idea to test, and we had specific goals to do one a quarter. We had a very regimented system. Of that, the bit that you’re saying, about 75% of them failed miserably and were a complete waste of money. But 25% of them weren’t.

And a couple of those that came out of that actually grew the next phase of the business development. So they were not world change, but they were fundamental changes to the way we did business and the way we interacted with customers and products that we provided. But the bit that I still find…I’m just stunned to work in larger organizations now, is getting people to understand that bit of risk which says that you’ve got to take a bit of risk to actually do it.

And actually deal with the fact that they have to provide a motivational input into this process to keep not only the people doing it and coming in and having, but actually the idea is tipping the top that says, "Has anyone thought of approaching this problem from this angle?" something like that, is really hard.

So, how do bigger businesses do that? I mean, all the businesses that are larger these days don’t try and do it. They say, "We’re going to buy it in." So they’ll run external innovation programs or they’ll say, "We’ll buy things on the [inaudible 00:51:04]." How do we actually bring the kind of environment that says, "Have a go, have a risk," yet most of it’s going to fail?


If I had the answer to that, I would be rich. Your experience tracks so well. Twenty-five percent success is incredible success at the innovation level. And constantly feeding that machine over and over again is really, really important. Sometimes it’s just a matter of teaching people to be able to say out loud what they’re worried somebody would say is a dumb idea. Like, a lot of what we do in our group and what I’ve done with other companies is just creating these brainstorming sessions, and you’re able to say anything you want. How about this, how about that, and nobody is able to edit or censor.

You get used to this idea of generating things. And just that alone sometimes is hard for folks. But that generating ideas is sort of a pattern, not just for brainstorming but now also executing. "Well, let’s execute on this, and let’s execute on this." One of the things I find incredibly powerful about APIs, is they’re so virtual. We should be making sure, inside your organization, that the cost of creating an API is almost zero.

It’s like, "Oh, let’s try one out. Let’s see." We should have enough tools and enough equipment that the idea cost so little to test. Because if it costs a lot to test, suddenly we have meetings. Suddenly you’ve got to decide "We’re going to have to really figure this out carefully before we start." No. I should be able to build in right away.

Okay, it sucks. Throw it away. Build another one. Throw it away. Build another one. Throw it away. Build another one. Seventy-five times, finally I hit one. That’s what APIs can do so much better than manufacturing, so much better than the physical products that we would have to distribute. APIs give us that power of that virtuality.


I think it’s a great finish. Thank you very much, Michael.


Thank you.