Techonomy Virtual Day Three: Innovation in Uncertain, Even Scary Times

Topics included marketing amidst Covid, innovations in health care right now, and why 5G wireless will be revolutionary.

Day three of the weeklong Techonomy Virtual: Reset + Restore brought together some inventive minds who have been at the forefront of innovation during this pandemic. GE’s Chief Marketing Officer Linda Boff told what’s it like to lead marketing for a company going through great transformation, Ericsson North America’s Head of 5G Marketing Peter Linder explained the future of 5G, Micron Technology’s Business Marketing head Christopher Moore and Qualcomm Technologies’ Paul Torres continued with what’s next for mobile, Orbis International’s Senior Medical AdvisorDr. Daniel Neely and FedEx Corp. President, Raj Subramaniam explored how global organizations can drive innovation-at-scale, and NYU Langone Health’s CEO Dr. Robert Grossman explained what that innovative hospital has learned about Covid-19. Here’s what I learned.

2 p.m.Linda Boff on the New GE and the Post-Covid World

“GE is a company that I deeply believe matters to the world…It’s why I’ve been here for 16-plus years,” Boff says, kicking off the program.  “We’re in a bizarre zeitgeist now,” says David Kirkpatrick, founder of Techonomy. And that zeitgeist is surely changing how marketers ork. “I’ve seen a whole lot of marketing that while heartfelt isn’t very memorable,” Boff says. (An audience poll found many felt the same thing about inauthentic Covid-era messaging.) Her answer has been to focus on messaging to the company’s employees, and showing gratitude to them for functioning as essential workers. “What I’ve chosen, we’ve chosen to do, is turn the lens inside before we think about what we’re doing externally… Right this moment what matters to me is that we show our gratitude to the people who are working really hard and we show it loudly in front of their friends and family,” Boff says.

2:27 p.m.Peter Linder on Seeing 5G With 2020 Vision

At the start of today’s event, a stat from Ericsson’s Mobility Report flashed on our screens saying 83 percent of smartphone users believed information and communications technology helped them cope during lockdown. And Linder, in his short talk, explains that 5G is how that ecosystem will evolve. “We expect the takeoff for 5G will take us to 2.8 billion subscribers by 2025,” Linder says. “And at that point that we will have almost 50 percent of the traffic in the mobile network will be carried by the 5G portion of the network.” Josh Kampel, CEO of Techonomy, called those numbers “staggering.”

2:38 p.m.Christopher Moore and Paul Torres on What’s Next for Mobile

Then we move to Moore and Torres for what’s in store for mobile. Kampel asks what we should be excited about in Linder’s talk, and Moore says 5G will, critically, help with connectivity issues in rural areas. He also says 5G will revolutionize how we live and work through the internet of things. “The Covid era is going to change the way we think about cars, transportation and all of that, clearly,” Moore continues.

Torres chimes in: “With the introduction of 5G, you have a lot more bandwidth and… also a lot lower latency, so…you’re going to start to see things connecting to other devicesa lot more than today…Devices are going to start talking to devices.”. Moore adds,

“5G is going to enable a much more immersive usage model with your phones.”

3 p.m.Dr. Dan Neely and Raj Subramaniam on Innovative Cultures in Uncertain Times

I don’t know about you, but when I think about companies involved in health care right now, I don’t think of FedEx. Until today, that is. When moderator Drew Ianni of CDX asks Subramaniam about something we might not know about the company, the president says FedEx has moved 1 billion masks in the last few weeks alone, along with testing kits and ventilators, to help quell the global pandemic.

“We had to move really, really quick to adapt and thrive in this environment,” Subramaniam says. As an opthalmologist who works globally, Neely has gleaned some lessons that could benefit the U.S. health system. “One of the benefits of traveling to third-world countries, developing countries…you really come to appreciate how great our health care system is, but also how much overkill is built into it,” Neely says. He says Americans should “look at something and really validate whether the cost of it is appropriate for the incremental improvement in care.”

But Neely wowed the audience by explaining something that is far from simple–Orbis’ Flying Eye Hospital. The plane, donated by FedEx, has been retrofitted as a hospital, with a simulation lab, a surgical theater and a recovery room. “It’s just incredible technology,” Neely says. When originally created 30 years ago, only those aboard the plane could see the surgeries, but now, “This airplane is a mobile surgical broadcast studio, in addition to the simulators…so surgeons can join from all over the world.” The partnership between these two organizations is inspiring, even moving.

3:33 p.m.Dr. Robert Grossman on the Frontlines of New York’s Covid Crisis

And since medical care is so central to what we’re all thinking about right now, we jump right into a discussion with NYU Langone’s Grossman. That top hospital system has been a key player in data collection during this pandemic, so good in fact that White House staff during the early days of the pandemic had Grossman emailing them data daily to help them understand how the virus was progressing in New York.  

Grossman attributes NYU Langone’s success during this time, at least in part, to how well its systems allowed the hospitals to communicate with each other. He explained that one of the biggest things he did after he arrived as CEO in 2007 was institute a detailed 800-element data dashboard that tracks a huge set of factors that contribute to success in treating patients efficiently. “We knew what was happening throughout the entire system at all times, so we were able to load-balance the hospitals, so we could transfer patients between every hospital virtually automatically. That’s huge,” Grossman says. “So the data and the communication and the culture really enabled us in a very intense and hectic time to keep our head above water.”

But, he says, they were better prepared than most,  since they did an emergency virus drill for a contagious disease pandemic in late January, and decided to stock six-months’ worth of ventilators, PPE and other key supplies in February.

Grossman admits to being a relentless optimist, but says we can triumph over Covid-19. NYU Langone is the site of much vaccine research, including a 30,000-person phase three trial of a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, beginning soon. “I think there’s going to be a vaccine, or multiple vaccines,” he says. “And then the other thing that’s very interesting is this monoclonal antibody developed by Lilly.” Hearing from such a veteran health care warrior was reassuring, and it was very “techonomic” how much NYU Langone’s successes flowed from its use of data and tech.


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