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Xerox PARC, R&D and the ROI of long-term thinking

R&D | Xerox PARC, R&D and the ROI of long-term thinking Leslie Kossoff

The former Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) - now just PARC - recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. And what a track record of innovation it has.

PARC is where little things like laser printers, ethernet and what became the Macintosh's groundbreaking GUI (Graphical User Interface) came from. It was, originally, Xerox's closed door R&D house for all the technological innovations that any of their researchers pursued.

The scientists and researchers at PARC changed the face of technology. And they continue to do just that.

And what makes that happen? A completely counter-intuitive, as good as anti-Wall Street perspective.

In sum: long term thinking leads to high ROI.

When the executives at Xerox established PARC, all they were thinking about was the future. It was what could be done - not what was being done. They created a world of possibilities that, for years, they kept as close to wholly internal as possible - until they decided to start partnering with other organizations in ways ranging from joint research to investment in early stage start-ups.

Now, from using what started as printer technology, to creating more efficient solar panels, to clean water technology, to comparative mirrors showing shoppers' multiple items - on them - for comparative purchasing decisions, PARC's scientists and researchers live in a no-holds-barred, as far as their thinking can take them, future-oriented world.

A profitable world. And one which can also do good at the same time.

That's the thinking, no matter what your organization does, that is required now to get everyone past the fear that the recession has brought. There has to be a focus on the future. Moreover, there has to be a belief that there is a future.

Because, based on what's out there and what's being reported, one would think that we've as good as reached the end of the world.

Not by a long shot.

But, the only way organizations can succeed over the long term is if they think in the long term.

All this reactive, fear-based thinking - from lay-offs to hoarding cash - is short-term thinking. It's backwards looking. It's based on what was.

Not what is - or, more important, what can be.

And that brings us back to Wall Street and the by-extension pressures felt even by small-, mid- and micro- businesses to perform short term while leaving the long term to...what? Ultimately, some other executive or business owner, somewhere else. Possibly in some other country – no matter which country you happen to be in.

All of which means that, when the opportunities arise, if you haven't been the one thinking about and planning for the future, it will be on you that your long-term prospects are much worse than they should or could have been.

There's big ROI in long-term thinking, planning and action.

Executives and entrepreneurs have a lot of pressure put on them to perform. But to what measures? And by whom are those pressures being applied? And why do those have to be the only voices that are heard?

They don't have to be. More importantly, you don't have to listen.

Your organization may not be in the business, as is PARC, of changing the world in toto, but you are in the business of changing your customers' worlds for the better - no matter what your product or service.

The more time and attention you spend on that, the greater the rewards - now and in the future.

This guest blog was first published on The Thinking Executive.

Tags: future prospects , innovation , R&D , ROI , technology , Xerox PARC
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