Here at CIMS, we’ve long maintained that big companies can “do” innovation as well as or better than small companies or startups. They just have to be more aggressive about removing obstacles to innovation, including unnecessary bureaucracy, or layers of middle management; entrenched and unwieldy supply chains; disconnection with customers; thetendency to silo information and competencies; and a culture distrustful of change and creativity.
I was happy to learn that big companies were well represented in this year’s winner’s circle when the Wall Street Journal announced its picks for its 2011 annual Technology Innovation Awards. Not only that, but two of the 35 winners—IBM and Xerox–are CIMS member companies and Novartis, another winner, is involved in the BioSciences Management Initiative which is one of our partners here at the Poole College of Management. It operates a brand-new flu vaccine plant in nearby Holly Springs, NC.
IBM won for its artificial intelligence creation “Watson,” which has become a household word among tech culture aficionados in recent months, in particular for defeating two human champions in a special, man-vs.-machine Jeopardy! match. We had the pleasure of “meeting” Watson when “he” came to the Poole College of Management with the new IBM CEO Ginni Rometty earlier this fall. The visit was in part to acknowledge the deepening partnership between IBM and CIMS—with the support of the College of Engineering’s Virtual Computing Lab–to make big data analytics more accessible to companies. Watson yet again prevailed against super-smart people in a Jeopardy!-style trivia contest the College organized as part of Rometti’s visit.
Watson has recently been in the news for its ability to help doctors diagnose complex medical problems quickly and accurately, often eliminating the need for expensive and invasive tests.
Longtime CIMS member Xerox was honored in the software category for someinteresting work it’s doing at its Meylan, France, research center. The product? A prototype for a customer-support system that uses 3D virtual reality imaging enabling customers to connect with live help-desk assistance directly from their broken printer.
And Novartis, which took first place in the health care IT category, was recognized for its SMS for Life project, which uses cell phone text messages to track medical supplies as they’re shipped to remote African villages. The system works because even rural communities that do not have landlines or access to computers often have cell towers. Using their cell phones, health clinic workers can order more malaria medicine before they run out.
The competition for this award was steep: the WSJ received more than 605 applications representing 31 countries. Only 35 winners were chosen, and of these winners, three received the gold, silver, and bronze awards. IBM was this year’s bronze winner, we’re pleased to say!
Congratulations to these companies and the other innovators whose work will no doubt make a difference in the world for years to come.
Center for Innovation Management Studies (CIMS)