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Fall 2021 Hallene Lecture with Dr. Ron Marquardt: Innovation Gardeners

By Jennifer Rowe

T-Mobile is at the frontier of innovation. From robotaxis to drone racing, T-Mobile is committed to leveraging the 5G network “beyond the smartphone.” Dr. Ron Marquardt, Vice President of Advanced Technologies & Innovation at T-Mobile, shared his insights on the process for developing disruptive technologies at the Fall 2021 Hallene Lecture.

Innovation is so spectacular because it involves changing how the world operates, challenging the norm, and pushing the boundaries of knowledge. This process is further distinguished by T Mobile due to the company’s emphasis on increasing customer value. There is a continuous focus to align the evolving world of technology with customer needs. Even though every project might not make it to the customer, the learning process is highly valuable. The learning process allows T-Mobile to identify how technology can better respond to customer needs in the future and thus focus on reaching this potential in the present.

Dr. Marquardt describes how any company is unlikely to reach its full potential for success on its own. As such, T-Mobile is involved in external innovation efforts with both large and small organizations via mutually beneficial partnerships. These collaborations have become a vital aspect of how T-Mobile develops new use cases for 5G. The 5G Open Innovation Lab connects startups with open platforms and industry leaders in order to explore new technologies, and the T-Mobile Accelerator connects with startups in order to advance new products and services that will further capture the value of T-Mobile 5G. Each startup interaction is utilized to explore, learn, and act upon the knowledge gap between industry and technology. Success requires an integrated understanding of business and technical domains in order to reimagine what is possible. As a result, T-Mobile aims to nurture disruptive technologies as an “innovation gardener.”

While external innovation leverages partnerships to enact change, internal innovation is crucial for creating the conditions to foster change. The future holds great uncertainty, so a company must be ready for when the market shifts, seek new ventures, and prioritize a long-term perspective throughout these efforts. Perseverance and commitment to technology become increasingly important. Even though investing in innovation is risky and involves unknown returns, Dr. Marquardt suggests that not investing in innovation is even riskier. He concludes that if 100 percent of projects succeed, then a company is not pushing the limits and challenging its capabilities enough to truly explore what has the potential to change the world.

Jennifer Rowe

Jennifer is a Junior in T&M Class XXVII. She is studying Accountancy at Gies and has recently finished working at T-Mobile as a Financial Reporting Intern.

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