CIOs must stand at the forefront of innovation

innovation concept
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Introducing technology into organization-wide strategic plans and tactical initiatives.

We are fortunate to be able to collaborate with Dell, one of the industry partners for our Innovation Lab, a healthcare product incubator that takes medical devices and health information technology (HIT) to market.

Recently, while strategizing with Frank Negro, the Dell Services Global Practice Leader for Healthcare & Life Sciences Strategy and Consulting, he told the story of Percy Spencer, a self-taught engineer who always envisioned what might be possible, looking at technology as a way to open up new opportunities, in addition to responding to ongoing business needs. In 1945, when he was head of the power tube division at Raytheon, Spencer became the first to investigate why a candy bar had melted in his pocket while he was testing a magnetron tube. His innovative spirit pushed him to determine how this discovery could serve a purpose.

When he pointed the magnetron at kernels of corn, he watched them pop. Before long, Raytheon had a patent on the first microwave, the Radarange, which weighed 750 pounds and sold as a commercial cooker for $2,000 to $3,000 to restaurants, ocean liners and passenger trains as a way to conveniently provide warm meals. Then in 1963, Raytheon purchased Amana Refrigeration, experts in consumer goods. In 1967, Raytheon introduced the first home machine, the Amana Home Radarange for under $500.

The real innovation here was not just in the discovery of the effect of these microwaves, but the understanding that this effect could be used to resolve a problem that had not even been described. Similarly, CIOs must be at the forefront to evaluate how new and existing technologies can be introduced into organization-wide strategic plans and tactical initiatives. As an example, Uber was founded as a car service. Without the technology stack behind them, Uber could not have succeeded. According to Ryan McKillen, software engineer at Uber, they had to write lots of JavaScript and Python and build their dispatch systems on Node.js and Redis. They had to build all their business logic into an API built on Python, MySQL and Mongo. The information technology has been critical to their success.

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation President Robert D. Atkinson says that his organization has seen dramatic progress in scientific and technological innovation since their organization was founded in 2006. In a recent report on Restoring Investment in America’s Economy, he observed that 10 years ago, there was little experience with 3D printing, drones, deep-learning computing systems, big-data analytics, or the Internet of Things (IoT). Today, these technologies are either on the market or in beta testing.

Information technology has seen improvement and it has spurred healthcare innovation. If you wanted to get your genome sequenced in 2006, it would have cost you more than $1 million. Today, because of the contributions of HIT and computing power, it can be done for $1,000.

CIOs must look beyond their traditional roles of setting up and maintaining infrastructures, and be the innovators who see how to turn breakthroughs in technology into improved healthcare solutions.

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