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Innovation f Rules

October 20, 2010

Ever attended an unconference?  I experienced my first last week, the MassTLC (@MassTLC) Innovation Unconference (, and have been debriefing with the best innovators I know.  My big take away from the conference was that innovation arises at the intersection of wild passionate entrepreneurship and well structured, measured business management.

It also helped me understand the key principles that will determine how Life Science and Health Care organizations innovate to drive market changing disruption.


The first Rule of Innovation is Freedom. This is a question of leadership, vision, passion, openness, and the freedom to  try and fail. Innovation is not possible where it is not allowed.  It starts at the top of any organization and is the single most important factor in innovation.


The yin to Freedom’s yang is methodology.  To reach its potential, Innovation must be underpinned by sound processes and structure. For the Life Science and Health Care organizations this includes answering some practical questions …

– How do we budget for innovation?

– What’s the role of IT vs. the internal customer vs. the external customer?

– Which ideas do we pilot and what are the measures of success?

Depending on organizational culture, the approach can vary in level of structure.  For a structured methodology, I highly recommend Merck‘s innovation methodology based on the scientific method,, developed by Sanjoy Ray, Director of Technology Innovation.  I’ve also seen lighter weight structures produce great results.  Novartis Vaccine’s and Diagnostics Shared Service Group, lead by Ken Grady (@gradygroove), is creating differentiable patient care with a light weight, grass-roots approach. VaxTrak is one result,


Game changing results start with the right focus.  Innovation in Health Care begins and ends with a focus on the Patient.  This became clear to me over a coffee with Kevin Granfield, Director of R&D IT Support Services, at Biogen Idec. Once an organization has freedom leadership and innovation process they need to focus on the patient as their key stakeholder.  The entire Health Care value chain needs to rethink its processes, from research to reimbursement, with a focus on patient health and experience.  Focus anywhere else is a distraction to game changing innovation.

So…  What are you learning about innovation in Health Care? Love to hear your thoughts.


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