Freeborn County author publishes new book

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 12, 2006

By Kari Lucin, staff writer

MOSCOW &045; At the most basic level, technology is just know-how, and innovation is only a fancy way of saying problem solving, says a new book by Freeborn County author Robert Price.

Companies perish or thrive depending on how well they foster innovation and on how well they utilize technology, but it isn’t always easy to see what characteristics in a company do those things. Price describes how to recognize opportunities for innovation and manage the creative enterprise in &8220;The Eye for Innovation,&8221; all through a close examination of Minnesota company Control Data.

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&8220;The company was probably the most innovative company, not just in Minnesota but one of the most innovative companies in the world,&8221; Price said. &8220;Its first products were at that time the fastest computers in the world, but later on the innovation branched out into all kinds of things.&8221;

Price served as the CEO of Control Data, and &8220;provided an environment for innovators and inventors to flourish and excel,&8221; according to William Norris, one of Control Data’s three founders, who penned a preface for &8220;Eye.&8221;

These days Price is retired from Ceridian Corp. &045; Control Data changed its name &045; but not from farming or the teaching he began after leaving the company. Price guest-lectures at Duke University’s engineering school and other colleges across the nation, and raises corn and soybeans in Moscow Township.

He writes in a restored one-room schoolhouse functioning as his office and library. Price enjoyed writing, but digging up details sometimes proved difficult, and sent him all over the place looking for historical facts, including the bunker-like University of Minnesota archives.

&8220;When I started, none of the Control Data materials were archived, it was just boxes and boxes and boxes of folders,&8221; Price said. &8220;It was really like picking needles from haystacks.&8221;

Though the information-gathering was tough, the writing process itself was comparatively easy. Price worked chapter by chapter, finishing nearly a chapter a month, working around teaching and farming. When he was done, Yale University Press assigned him an editor, and the two of them took the text apart and then put it back together again.

&8220;The concepts probably came easiest to me, but the most fun part was making contacts with people that I worked with for many years,&8221; Price said. &8220;I’m very very proud of the book, and I want people to read it.&8221;