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How to resuscitate tech innovation at your company

Rob Enderle | May 19, 2014
Maintaining or rediscovering innovation is difficult and often counter-intuitive for larger companies. However, columnist Rob Enderele offers suggestions for how businesses can get back the innovation they lack.

Rather than reinventing EMC, it spun out much of software into a separate company, which could operate more like a startup. Dell took the whole company private, but we'll get to that in a bit. The idea is to remove the things that prevent innovation and staffed correctly skunk works projects tend to result in some amazing things. Mostly this process is used to create unique weapons, some of the most insanely wonderful fighter aircraft came out of programs like this.

Innovation Day

This program, which Dell showcased this week targeted at healthcare, pits a bunch of small companies against each other all chasing the funding for a large-scale trial. In this case, the competition (which seems modeled after a reality show) starts in three cities and then two finalists are selected from each by segment experts including representatives from both Dell and Intel (Intel co-funded).

A seventh company is selected from the pool as a wild card. The presentations are analyzed based on capability and on the impact a large trial might have on their success. The winner gets a funded large trial and, if that is successful, a springboard into being a full-sized and fully capable company in the segment (and the possibility of being further funded and acquired). I should point out there really aren't any losers in the last set because the judges tend to husband them personally into success just not as quickly.

I wasn't at the earlier competition, but I was at the final this week and was there when the winner was announced. The firm AnesthesiaOS (this was a solution for anesthesiologists that I think should be required by law)won the event over firms providing solutions networking pharmacists, connecting home care givers to critical information, a mini IBM Watson (not from IBM), and a solution that better connected patents to their own information.

My personal favorite was Mana Health, which seemed to connect all of the information you'd need (including wearable devices) into a service that could improve your life. Oh and perhaps the most innovative was the Blue Marble Game Company, which used games to improve both your health and the effectiveness of your care-givers.

For a relatively small amount of money (the cost of a trial that would become a showcase for Dell and Intel technology) they got access to a massive amount of innovation that the firms will later benefit from.

Fixing the Problem

At the core of this issue, however, is the fact that innovation is hard to accomplish in big public companies. Dell is addressing part of this by going private because the excess focus on quarterly results is certainly a big part of the problem.


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