A 165 Year Old 'Superstar' Developed Gorilla Glass in 3 Months

Founded in 1851, Corning Inc. is one of the world's biggest glassmakers today. It boasts of annual sales of nearly $10 billion and billions in annual profits. Developer and manufacturer of the now ubiquitous Gorilla Glass, Corning is another sterling example of a "superstar" firm.

Corning has had a rich history of working with innovators from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs. In fact, innovation is one of the key values driving Corning's business strategy. Corning regularly invests a healthy 10 percent of its revenue in R&D; to maintain and further it's technological leadership. And that's in good times and in bad. When the telecom bubble burst in 2000 and cratering fiber-optic prices sent Corning's stock from $100 to $1.50 per share by 2002, its CEO at the time reassured scientists that not only was Corning still about research but that R&D would be the path back to prosperity.

Corning has continuously reinvented itself – moving from the company that started life producing the raw material for bottles and windows, to making glass for Edison’s first light bulb, to a fiberglass pioneer and a key player in photonics, fiber optics, internet services. Its stage-gate innovation process is structured to enable a nimble response. Famously, Corning came up with its popular Gorilla Glass, a cover glass more durable than soda-lime glass or plastic, in about three months.

Corning now has its eyes set on the next glass-led revolution, a remarkably thin, rollable material called Willow. Corning imagines it will facilitate flexible smartphone designs and uber-thin, roll-up OLED displays. 

Supplement with:
You Need an Innovation Strategy by Gary P. Pisano, HBR
The Rise of Superstars, The Economist Special Report, Sept 2016

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