The emphasis and importance placed on innovation in the pharmaceutical industry has risen dramatically over the last 5 years. Although successful in bringing innovative medicines to the market, it has been much harder to bring that innovation mind-set to other functions of the pharmaceutical industry in the way they communicate with customers, augment a medicines value proposition and utilise innovative technology to improve both clinical and patient outcomes. This however is changing fast.
With our Innovation Lab we have built a simple set of 5 foundations that form our framework for implementing a successful innovation strategy. It is probably no surprise that they are a mixture of philosophy, structure and process:
Innovation is about creating greater value by improving something or creating a new way of working. This could be a new service, solution or process. Equally, it could be an improvement to the way we communicate or the product itself. At the heart of it is something that brings greater value to the customer, user or organisation (either commercially or as a support). Too many people get distracted with technology itself being the innovation, when actual innovation can come from almost anywhere so long as it results in an improvement. The important step however, whatever the definition, is to agree this across the team.
Once this definition is agreed it is important to construct an Innovation Charter. This essentially forms the guiding principles and enables a focus on solving the problems that form the validated remit of the group, rather than chasing new technology or losing focus with scope creep. Ultimately the Charter outlines the philosophy and the aspirations of the group, supported and agreed to by a senior leadership sponsor who commits to specific support at a leadership level.
It is essential that the team understand the types of innovation as it enables a much broader approach to solving problems. People have misconceptions about innovation that can stifle progress by always focussing on large, dramatic changes rather than the best way to solve the problem. You can define innovation types into three broad categories:
Mapping a value proposition helps guide and prioritise the development of solutions. It can be done by defining is the new process, product, service or communication has an obvious and immediate value to the target audience. This can be done with a simple matrix:
This is not about ranking the importance of a value proposition however. Latent/ aspirational solutions can be highly disruptive and transformational such as Uber or Netflix. Blatant/ critical solutions within large organisations, in complex regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, often drive innovation based on refinement of current solutions. For example, a critical/ blatant issue for the Pharma industry is clinical trials, something that has be done to bring a medicine to market. Innovation has focussed on core or augmenting the current process; social media being utilised for recruitment, real world patient outcomes replacing or supporting clinical endpoints or using smartphone and wearable technology to improve trial engagement and expand data collection, as obvious examples. It may take an outsider or a new kind of pharmaceutical company to challenge the very structure and nature of the phased clinical trial process altogether. Disrupting the licensing of medicines, what constitutes a medicine and how it is accessed and delivered to patients-including how it is paid for. That is why it is hard for large industries to disrupt themselves.
People can instinctively believe that process hinders innovation. In reality, innovation needs a framework for development. It is important to utilise the right strategic models for the task at hand. For example, we utilise a model that enables the development of a strategic focus for any proposed solution. This enables the overlay of the strategic organisational objectives with the external landscape and the end user needs. If the solution meets the organisation’s needs, is differentiated in the competitor landscape and is a solution of real value to the user, you have a strategic focus. When appropriate we have specific models such for the development of a value proposition for the design of digital health solutions for chronic disease.
Perhaps no other figure was as creative as Leonardo da Vinci in so many different fields and he is undoubtedly one of the most innovative men in history. His great gift was to make connections across disciplines and to marry observation and imagination. This capacity to forge innovation from blurring the lines between creativity, art, science and technological innovation was what stood him apart. Although the processes and strategic models are key to implementing innovation strategy, they are the foundation stone and not the answer in themselves. They should enable and encourage new thinking where we can examine the original problem and not simply tinker with previous solutions. As Leonardo himself observed in his notebooks “He who can go to the fountain does not go to the water-jar”. This is why so much of the challenge for those wishing to innovate in a complex political environment like pharmaceuticals need to blend the science, the creativity and the innovation. The biggest innovation is embracing change and the revolution in the head.
This Subject was discussed in the latest Digitally Sick podcast. It featured Faisal Ahmed from FCB, Kai Gait from GSK, Paul Jacobs from LEO Pharma Innovation Lab and is hosted by myself. You can listen by clicking on the logo or search for us on your usual podcast app.
The aim of Foundry3's IF Labs is to make a difference in the world of healthcare through innovation. Get in touch if you work in Pharma and would like to organise a free Innovation Workshop.
Alex is one of the world’s leading experts at the intersection of health and technology. For the last 15 years he has lead the digital transformation of healthcare, both from within the industry at Johnson & Johnson and servicing the industry by founding and leading multiple award-winning agencies. Most recently he co-founded Foundry3 which houses the world's first digital health innovation Lab focussed on the pharmaceutical industry, the ‘Innovation Foundry’. Alex pioneered the application and integration of new philosophies and technologies within pharma, launching the first digital only marketing campaign supporting a pharmaceutical brand, he was the first to utilise social media and he commissioned and designed mobile health applications before the advent of the app store. This led to numerous digital marketing and communications awards, the inaugural recipient of the Global Social Media Pioneer award in Philadelphia in 2010 followed by the James E Burke Marketing Award for Uncommon Courage in 2011, the first pharma professional recipient. He has won over 30 PM Digital awards and the prestigious AXA PPP Global Health Technology Award 2017 with his work displayed in the Design Museum in London. Alex has been the brain child of ground breaking digital health solutions in respiratory disease, Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, transplantation, opioid addiction, MS, diabetes and psoriasis among others. He is also an invited member of the Wharton Global Advisory Board on the Future of Advertising and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (FCIM).