There Are No Unicorns: And Other Lessons Learned While Running an Innovation Team

Business, Design & Usability, People
Location: Exhibit Hall 3
Average rating: ***..
(3.69, 16 ratings)

Two years on (and sometimes leading) eBay’s Disruptive Innovation team brought me valuable insight into how work gets “done” at a Fortune 500 company, and how innovation does or doesn’t fit into that model. At the end of my time with the team, I learned that innovation is only slightly different than “normal” work: it takes persistence, you need to know your objectives, and the best innovation won’t change the world if you can’t work it through the right organizational channels.

I have entitled this talk, “there are no unicorns: and other lessons learned while running an innovation team”, because the notion of a unicorn closely matches how many business view innovation: an unattainable emblem of wonder and salvation.

In my talk I’ll discuss the following lessons learned, which should apply to any group asked to achieve the impossible or improbable:
- identifying good members for your team
- recognizing the setup for success
- knowing what questions to ask, and when
- selling your ideas to the skeptical

Photo of Rolf Skyberg

Rolf Skyberg

eBay, Inc.

Currently a Platform Product Manager and Evangelist, Rolf has held diverse positions at eBay such as “Disruptive Innovator”, “Researcher”, and “Quality Assurance Engineer”, He’s been involved in all aspects of the ecommerce ecosystem from beginning to end. While at eBay he has focused on inspiring new ways of approaching problems and exploring them from a holistic viewpoint.

His investigations in those areas have yielded patent filings in areas such as social commerce, item categorization, and delivery verification systems.

He also serves on the advisory board of Innovation Exchange, a company that seeks to deliver open innovation for Global 5000 companies. By opening up innovation to everyone who wants to participate, Innovation Exchange enables companies to absorb ideas from globally rich and diverse community of innovators.

Comments on this page are now closed.


Picture of Tucker Bradford
Tucker Bradford
07/23/2009 4:26am PDT

This may have been my favorite talk of the conference. As a seasoned manager, these are lessons that I’ve learned the hard way, and have wanted to to reduce for my staff. Rolf did a fantastic job of reducing this topic to key considerations.

  • Intel
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • Sun Microsystems
  • Facebook
  • Gear6
  • Kaltura
  • Liferay
  • MindTouch
  • Novell, Inc.
  • Open Invention Network
  • Rackspace Cloud
  • Schooner Information Technology
  • Silicon Mechanics
  • Symbian Foundation
  • Twilio
  • WSO2
  • Yabarana Corporation

Sponsorship Opportunities

For information on exhibition and sponsorship opportunities at the conference, contact Sharon Cordesse at

Download the OSCON Sponsor/Exhibitor Prospectus

Media Partner Opportunities

Download the Media & Promotional Partner Brochure (PDF) for information on trade opportunities with O'Reilly conferences or contact mediapartners@

Press and Media

For media-related inquiries, contact Maureen Jennings at

OSCON Newsletter

To stay abreast of conference news and to receive email notification when registration opens, please sign up for the OSCON newsletter (login required)

Contact Us

View a complete list of OSCON contacts