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IT Thought Leadership

Shark Tank-style competition Helps VMware IT Increase Invention Submissions by More Than 200 Percent

by: VMware IT Director Rubina Gonsalves

VMware IT takes pride in promoting and fostering a culture of innovation. Leadership recognizes that IT colleagues are an untapped resource of transformative ideas. To ensure everyone has an opportunity to share their ideas, VMware IT built a portal specifically for capturing ideas, 24 x 7. Every submission is reviewed and vetted by subject matter experts (SMEs) to determine if they are patent-worthy.   

In 2019, VMware IT began an initiative to educate colleagues about patent submission. The numbers for invention disclosures in IT were abysmal and we sought to challenge the widely held belief that patent submissions were reserved for research and development (R&D). Fortunately, leadership understood there wasn’t a shortage of ideas but rather a platform to share them.  

The concern was that keeping a hierarchical process for submitting ideas would effectively maintain the status quo process. This involved a colleague sharing their vision with their manager, which was shared with the manager’s supervisor, and so on. Many ideas got lost in the shuffle and never saw the light of day.

VMware IT got innovative about encouraging innovation, effectively democratizing the process for submitting the next breakthrough idea. An innovation portal was created to allow everyone to submit proposals for improving products, services and processes.

The concepts identified as possessing the necessary qualities garnered the submitters an invitation to a weekly innovation huddle. As part of the huddle, every submitter has 15 minutes to share their ideas in front of a group of panelists. This is important, as feedback during this meeting often reveals that the concept had previously been addressed or was not relevant to business needs.

Conversely, many of the huddle ideas warrant further exploration. The best of these are selected to participate in a “Shark Tank”-style competition in which colleagues present and defend the most compelling ideas to IT leadership. The goal is to motivate employees to innovate and give them a platform to share brilliant ideas with IT leadership.

In the three years since the inception of the innovation portal, it’s clear the next transformative concept can come from anyone. One of the unlikely success stories is a new colleague who’d been at VMware for seven days. He submitted an idea that won the competition and was funded for development. Of course, senior leadership and colleagues who’ve been with the company for years don’t hold a monopoly on great ideas.

In just two years, the competition resulted in a triple-digit (216 percent) increase in invention disclosure submissions and nearly a 90 percent increase in the number of applications approved for filing a patent.

The innovation competition encourages new ideas but, more importantly, breaks down silos to promote team communication and interaction. This benefit allows VMware IT to reinvent its work and position it to remain competitive.  

VMware IT is committed to keeping its colleagues engaged, whether with an innovation competition or with renewed collaboration between teams. We believe the next significant products and solutions are just waiting to be discovered. All of us working together ensure that we thrive in a fast-paced, transformative marketplace.

VMware on VMware blogs are written by IT subject matter experts sharing stories about our digital transformation using VMware products and services in a global production environment. Contact your sales rep or vmwonvmw@vmware.com to schedule a briefing on this topic. Visit the VMware on VMware microsite and follow us on Twitter.   

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