Get innovation flowing: 4 strategies to creating the right conditions for great ideas

Get innovation flowing: 4 strategies to creating the right conditions for great ideas


By: Will Reese, Chief Innovation Officer

An organization that isn’t innovating, isn’t staying competitive. Improving the flow of innovation, generating great ideas and implementing them fast are sure-fire ways to meet the evolving needs of customers. The implementation of 4 key strategies that are readily adaptable to your organization, will  get your innovation flowing.

  1. Customers, customers, customers
    They are the reason you exist. Begin by developing a granular of understanding how they manage their disease or use your product on a daily basis – doing so can provide important insights into the daily details where there are pain points and a greater need for innovation.

    Leverage your analytics technology to give you insights into digital customer behavior but also regularly spend real time with them in their environment – constantly question where you can solve problems and how you can make the customer experience flow better and more intuitively.

    Engage customers as early as you can and create a relationship that encourages regular feedback and opportunities to work together in shaping customer experiences. This will not only improve your understanding of customer behavior – and how this changes over time – but also help drive buy-in and ensure that too much time isn’t spent on ideas that don’t have tangible and measurable customer value.

  2. Embrace innovation
    Innovation isn’t something that can be scheduled. It happens as a result of an environment that encourages creativity, experimentation and appropriate risk-taking. Adjust customer experience planning and ideation sessions to occur at least quarterly, helping you be more responsive to changing customer needs which don’t fit neatly into an annual assessment. Many organizations are also now shifting from annual planning and budgeting to quarterly to better support a quicker innovation and optimization cycle. This helps to ensure that funding is available to support new innovative ideas that have the highest potential to deliver customer value.

    Consider looking beyond Pharma by engaging with creative and strategic partners who bring experience from other industries when it comes to omnichannel marketing – this can help us better understand emerging technologies and capabilities that we can apply. Exploring inspiration from different and advanced markets also leads to a wider, more diverse range of ideas and solutions.

    Finally, embrace design thinking, an effective problem-solving approach that focuses on empathy, experimentation, and iteration. This human-centered approach prioritizes the needs of customers to identify solutions that are both practical and innovative.

  3. Establish a clear governance structure and process
    A clear governance structure helps to ensure that innovation is effectively managed and is aligned with organizational goals. This includes having a clearly defined set of criteria to evaluate innovative ideas and make informed, but rapid decisions to prioritize funding and support flow.

    Your governance team should feature representatives from all functions to ensure broad stakeholder support and be able to provide insight on the potential impact of the innovation to other workstreams, emerging capabilities, technology, and processes. This can help avoid potential duplication of efforts and prevent delays in the development and implementation of the innovation.

    Treating innovation as a product with a living roadmap is another useful tool that can provide a clear and structured plan for innovation. Providing details of key milestones, decision points and timelines, a roadmap plays a critical role in aligning stakeholders, prioritizing resources and managing risks. In addition, and as per customer experience mapping, regular review of pain points and barriers to innovation should be reviewed with data used to assess impact where possible and inform how the innovation process can be optimized.

  4. Agile teams flow
    There’s a reason why there is a lot of focus on cross-functional teams that work in ‘agile’ vs waterfall: they flow better. Find the talent in your organization that is passionate and highly skilled in innovation strategies and flow them to lead key initiatives for short-term assignments of 3 to 6 months. This shorter duration of assignment helps avoid burn out and brings regular infusion of fresh thinking into the process. It also time-boxes the workstream, encouraging the team to break down large projects into MVPs as deliverables to experiment, test and learn along the way to ensure they deliver customer value. 

    Consistent with agile methods, self-forming teams are preferred but don’t hesitate to assign a leader to recruit others with the skills needed to build a high-performance team. A skills-based vs. role-based flow of talent is preferable to help set up teams for success.

    Experience tells us that small team of 6-8 members, 100% dedicated to innovation projects are the most effective. This level of exclusive commitment ensures innovation is seen as a business priority and provides the capacity to determine how best to fast track delivery so any initiatives deliver commercial or patient value more quickly. When backed by senior leadership and supported by a focused Medical and Legal advisory group, a dedicated team can be extremely effective at breaking through obstacles that slow or derail the progress needed for rapid implementation of great innovative ideas.