Hewlett-Packard’s Cultural Revolution

November 17th, 2007 - 7:07 am ICT by admin  

At Hewlett-Packard’s Page Mill Road complex in Palo Alto, Calif., in the basement beneath the meticulously preserved offices of founders William Hewlett and David Packard, is a cavernous room that has the feel of a chaotic startup. Tables and chairs are strewn about and a giant, makeshift screen takes up an entire wall, even wrapping around a corner. HP projectors made for corporate presentations are clustered together to cast huge video-game images on the wall. The life-size scenes are so crisp and detailed that you almost feel as if you could walk onto a Madden NFL game or Halo 3 battle.

This game room is the kind of place where you would expect to find young programmers hanging out, jazzed on Mountain Dew and revving up ideas for a new 3-D Web or the next generation of social media. It’s a different business culture from the one you’ll find in the gray cubicles, where most engineers work, in the rest of the building. The area’s playful environment is critical to HP’s future. The space — and its projection system, itself a prototype — is one result of the Innovation Program Office, launched in 2006 to help the info tech giant buy hip, nimble startups for its huge Personal Systems Group, which makes PCs, mobile devices, and workstations. The hope is to inject big doses of the small companies’ creative juices directly into the HP culture.

HP has learned some key lessons on the acquisition trail over the past two years: how to develop cool, high-margin products that appeal to new consumer groups such as video-game fanatics; how to use social media to conduct Web-based consumer research; and, perhaps most important, how to inspire engineers in HP Laboratories to turn concepts into products faster.

HP’s culture has been in turmoil in recent years. The…

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