This former CTO left a $37 billion insurance giant to found a VR startup. Here’s how he says innovation can stop being killed in large companies.

virtual reality expo china woman seated

Companies have tried various approaches to encouraging innovation in their workforces, including launching in-house incubator programs, but finding success in those startup camps remains a challenge.
Aaron Gani, who previously served as insurer Humana’s chief technology officer and now runs a startup called BehaVR, says one of the main problems is the internal feuds over funding.
The key to unleashing innovation, he says, is to “break the back of the resource competition” that well-meaning employees are naturally drawn to.
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Big companies have a “resource competition” issue baked into to their business model, says Aaron Gani, and it’s driving away innovation-hungry talent.

Gani spent a dozen years at Humana, the $37 billion insurer, eventually becoming the chief technology officer. While he saw insurance deploying all sorts of policies and incentives to get people to actual change to healthier behavior — adherence, or getting people to do things, has been called medicine’s “weakest link” — he came to realize that those efforts still couldn’t quite reach people. They stopped short of “getting inside somebody’s head,” he tells Business Insider. But virtual reality, with its powerful, if early, therapeutic results, possibly could.

Hence BehaVR (as in behavior), the company Gani founded in 2016, which reportedly now has partnerships with chronic pain and substance abuse centers in Kentucky, where the company is based, with plans to fundraise next year.

Gani left Humana because, in addition to a lifelong desire to run his own company, the startup approach made sense for trying to solve a pressing health challenge — actually getting people to adhere to what’s best for their wellbeing — while using a still unfamiliar technology, that of VR.

His story highlights a familiar issue in corporate America: retaining the talent that wants to actually drive change.

“Almost every big company out there struggles with this challenge of ‘how do you enable true innovation from the inside,'” he says. “How do you really free the innovators?”

Feuds over funding are a major impediment to creating the startup mentality in corporations

Companies naturally want to keep top employees and have tried a number of solutions to tackle that goal, including launching in-house incubator programs. But those business development programs can be hard to manage and often fall victim to corporate politics, Gani says.

A key part of the problem is the battle over financial resources and the desire among executives to invest in their own top priorities.

Corporations, Gani argues, are a lot like machine learning, where ideal behavior is reinforced after repeated successes. And while almost any leader will back the need to innovate, it can be difficult to convince organizations to change those long-standing protocols to make it happen.

“You are trying to support the attainment of your organization’s, or division’s, or team’s goals, even if it’s at the expense of other things. Those are the rules of the game. You need to do that to succeed,” he said. “What you’re asking leaders to do …read more

Source:: Business Insider – Tech

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