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Leading A Culture of Innovation – An Interview with MIKE BOYLE, Managing Director, HP ANZ

Mike Boyle, MD at HP on Leading a culture of innovation

Mike Boyle talks about how innovation touches all areas of the HP universe as a sneak preview of his keynote at the Executive Leadership Summit on November 26 – 29.  


How do you tell an innovation story beyond tech? At HP, leaders are creating a consistently outstanding brand experience inside and out – for the people who work in the tech giant, industry partners and the customers.  

When you talk to Mike about innovation, he can take you through the whole tech landscape of hardware, software, data security, manufacturing, and what’s happening in 5 to 10 years. But at the heart of all this is people.  

Innovation for Mike and HP is ultimately about caring for people in new and exciting ways. And you don’t have to be in tech to start a culture of innovation in your company. Here are some tactics, a few of them serious, but a lot of them fun and delightful, that you can steal from Mike and HP.  


Leadership style   

Mike loves to surprise his team by having chats with HP’s customers ahead of his salespeople, to casually check up on them. He is amused as he talks about the time when he caught one of his salespeople off-guard “They look shocked and say, “Oh, so you’ve spoken to them?” And I think that shows the organization that I’m listening. I’m probing at all levels.”  

He is passionate about being agile, as in to physically move around the office. Mike feels strongly about being ‘anti-desk’, adding that he is not the typical executive who is perched in his ivory tower.   

“I think that makes a statement to staff around accessibility. I’m not some person sitting in a boardroom the whole time and that I’m just accessible. I’m doing my job just like them. And I think that helps level the organization and remove, hopefully, some of the politics that can occur when you’ve got people with status and position.”  

Just genuinely caring about people, listening to them and the simple gesture of trying to know everyone by name is high up on Mike’s priorities as a leader. “I hate it when I don’t know someone’s name, and I’ll test myself until I know as many names as possible and what people do in the organization. To say ‘thank you’ a lot and bringing meaning in terms of what people do at work is so important. And I remind staff as well that we are making a difference.”  


Team engagement  

Mike is passionate about getting feedback from all sides at HP. “I love getting feedback. And I always say thank you when I get feedback because sometimes if you get into a business that doesn’t have that feedback loop, then nobody’s growing.”  

He recalls how a company-wide meeting turned into a fun musical jam session. “We do a quarterly, what we called Coffee Talk. No one knew why it was called coffee talk, and no one drank coffee at the coffee talk. So we renamed it, we called it our Quarterly Connect. It’s got nothing to do with boring PowerPoint slides and business analytics, et cetera. It was really, “Hey guys. This is about you. What are you thinking of? How’s the meeting going? What would you like to see more of?”   

“And in the end, we heard that they wanted coffee and they wanted to do it in the afternoon. They also said “we want to hear an HP band”, and I’m a keen musician. So we opened with a band in Melbourne and a band in Sydney. And it was amazing — the connection that people have made through seeing their peers get up and have fun and perform. It wasn’t an expensive exercise.”  

Mike also likes to start random conversations to check up on his staff.  

“I always sort of ask, “what do you tell your friends at the barbecue on the weekend?” I hope that they all go home and say, “You know what? I work in a company that does this and this and this. They’re agile. They’re removing processes.”  

“I had someone say, it was replayed back to me from someone in Singapore, “Oh, I heard about your boss. He actually listens, and then he acts on things.” You know, simple stuff, innovation.”  


Customer focus  

Mike is famously quoted for saying “You will never grow a business staring at a spreadsheet” because it’s just a reflection of what happened in the past. He says, “My job as a leader is to know what’s going to drive customer demands, brand engagement and brand positioning in the future.”    

Another charming story that Mike likes to tell is when customers slip him a complaint on Linkedin 

“I will get a disgruntled person and end up having some great relationships with people who have problems, and they tell their friends that HP from the top-down deeply cares. I think that if every employee and every partner that we’ve got delivers that same experience, then we’re a great brand to be on board with.”  

“Close to 90% of our business is done through partners. So if our partners are saying, “Deal with HP, you’ll have an exceptional experience,” then we’re in a really good position.”  


Next level technology  

Finally, an innovation story is not complete without talking about all sorts of cool tech that’s coming from the tech stalwart. Mike gives us a teaser for now as he will dive deeper into this subject in his keynote — “We’re a company that’s gone from scientific instruments, to computing, to printing and now into the world of 3D. And then that will also be AR, VR, 3D. So we are bringing the skills and the knowledge of how do we bridge that future.”   

The big thing for HP in 2020 is 3D. Worldwide, it’s a $7 billion business. Only a few years ago it was a 3.5-billion-dollar business. When asked, Mike remarks that “3D is going to change the landscape, as I say, around that manufacturing volume. We’re getting to a point where we’ve got tens of millions of parts that are being produced on our devices, on our printers as such, on an ongoing basis. And in some ways it’s not realistically printing, it’s actually a form of manufacturing.”  

One of the things that drew Mike to HP was the fact that it owns all of its IP from software, hardware and handling systems. It’s a little-known fact that HP is one of the biggest chemical companies in the world.   

“We’ve got huge IP around chemistry. And that has possibilities to move into med-tech, fin-tech, you name it. It’s about how do you get the cooks in the kitchen and use all of that IP and technology to create something. But whilst we’re on that journey, we innovate to the next level. For us, it’s about how do we build that bridge to the future and make it accessible to people.” 


Join Mike Boyle at the Executive Leadership Summit and learn how you can ensure your organisation stays relevant by driving meaningful innovation. 

Executive leadership summit