AKRON—As a former Navy SEAL, Michael Hochschwender appreciates the ability to innovate with limited resources.
During his time in the service, the CEO and president of the Smithers Group said equipment such as protective vests with intricate pockets were not available.
Instead, these elite forces scrounged around for discarded paratrooper survival vests and worked with others to overhaul them, transforming a useless piece of equipment into a tactical innovation that performed better than it had before.
“I have come to realize that innovation is not about the equipment that you have,” Hochschwender told a large group Sept. 9 during his keynote address for the Tire Society meeting, held concurrently with the International Tire Exhibition & Conference, Sept. 9-11 in Akron.
“It's not about the facilities that you own. It's about the spirit of the people and how they find a way to get it done and how they find a way to innovate regardless of the obstacles.”
Hochschwender, who spent five years as a platoon commander for the SEALs in Coronado, Calif., said that collaboration—when done wisely and with the proper entity—can be a vital tool in driving innovation in the tire industry.
As research and development budgets stay flat, and demands from shareholders, customers and consumers increase, he said collaboration could be an avenue to success. “It's very important to understand what you collaborate and why and with whom,” Hochschwender told the gathering.
“Collaboration simply to collaborate is cost without value,” he said. “Smaller collaborations driven and managed by frontline technical leaders can and typically are very effective.
“Innovation comes in many forms. A tire itself is without a doubt an innovation, but so is how we get the most out of our research and development and compliance budgets.”