To innovate successfully, you need a culture of empowerment.
Our most successful product, the Roomba, a robot that vacuums, stemmed from an idea that a
group of employees had. They approached us with this idea, we backed it and now millions
of units have sold. Today, we hold internal contests allowing our employees to innovate
and present their inventions to the top management team. In fact, our newest product, a
robot that cleans gutters, is the result of an innovation contest.
Diversity in the workplace leads to diversity in ideas.
The project manager for the Roomba 500 series was an Islamic refugee from Bosnia. She
said, “We are going to build the robot that I need to clean up after my 2-year-
old twins.” She looked at the usability and product attributes differently than most men
on the team. Because we’re looking for new approaches and new ideas, diversity of
background, perspective and cultural experience is important.
It’s not about me, it’s about you.
I always wanted to build an Internet-connected Robot (read “New Household Robot Promises
to Make Virtual Visits Easy“). In 2000, we tried to get one
to market with a selling price of $2,500. I knew I was willing to pay a few thousand
dollars for a robot—and I knew other robot enthusiasts like me would be willing, too—but
at that time, there just wasn’t enough interest. Eight years later, though, we’ve created
a different Internet-connected robot with many of the same capabilities but selling at a
fraction of the cost. It’s become a reality because we focused on the right things:
pricing, functionality and the end user.
I take pride in our inventions.
Our PackBot—a robot that detonates roadside bombs for the military—holds a special place
in my heart. I have worked closely with the armed services for the past 20 years and have
gained a very clear understanding of the risks our soldiers take every day. I have shaken
hands with men and women who credit our PackBot with saving the lives of their teammates.
It’s rewarding and motivating, and we continue to learn from them and work on inventions
that will help with their missions. Our robots are truly making a difference in their
I never met a robot I didn’t like.
R2D2 from Star Wars first inspired me to build robots. I’ve always believed that robots
will be a part of our lives, and this belief kept me going through a lot of ups and
downs—especially when we were living contract to contract and the stress was high.