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The secret formula behind Tek’s innovation

Harsh Garg

Tektronix has a tremendous legacy in the Portland market, boasting more than 75 years of history and success. The company is best known for manufacturing testing and measurement devices such as oscilloscopes, source measurement units and test protocol equipment.

I had the opportunity to speak with Harsh Garg, the director of strategy at Tektronix, to discuss how the company stays relevant and innovative. As more and more established companies seek to remain competitive and agile, Tek’s approach is instructive.

“We are a 75-year-old company and have survived and experienced so much,” said Garg. “We are constantly challenging the status quo and asking tough questions internally. How can we innovate, improve, disrupt, and continuously push the limits of what we’re doing? How can we make our products easier to use and create additional value for our customers?”

Tek, which has enthusiastically supported entrepreneurship throughout its history, has several powerful internal mechanisms to fuel this focus on innovation. One such creative driver is the Growth Lab, which allows anyone in the company to pitch and develop a new product idea. It’s an inventive way to encourage new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking, and it instills in the 75-year-old company a kind of energy and momentum typically seen in startups.

“The Growth Lab has three phases,” said Garg. “Phase one, the dream phase, is all about brainstorming and working creatively to come up with new ideas that could go to market. Phase two is when you bring your idea to life and start to develop it. Phase three is the manufacturing and delivery of a product.”

Once an idea has been conceived in the Growth Lab the next phase is to thoroughly test and review it in a series of gates.

“The first stage is idea gate, when we decide if a new product concept aligns well with our brand strategy and vision,” said Garg. “Next, in gate two, the problem-solving gate, we discuss whether the idea is solving a pain point and would be attractive from a customer perspective. Gate three, the customer validation gate, is when we ask ourselves is it valid and will our customers use it? Finally, gate four is the business validation gate, where we perform financial modeling and discuss how we think the product could perform from a financial standpoint.”

As product ideas begin to travel through the different gates, the Tek team consolidates all of the ideas in a master list and ranks the ideas based on relevancy and potential profitability. This commitment to creativity and internal entrepreneurship is a key aspect of the Tektronix business model. The Growth Lab is a primary reason Tek has had such staying power and continues to create relevant products for its customers.

In the coming years, Tek will roll out a series of new products that have stemmed from the Growth Lab.

According to Garg, “Many of our ideas are focused on new software and data collection tools. We’re focused on solving customers’ problems and providing value through data. How can we make our customers’ lives easier, and improve their workflows through technology?”

The Growth Lab is an integral part of a larger effort at Tek to foster a positive, creative workplace culture.

“Our leadership team is very people-centric,” said Garg. “We have made very conscious efforts to break down the internal silos to innovate and solve customer problems.”

This is part of a regular guest column written by the Technology Association of Oregon in the Portland Business Journal.

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