Breaking Barriers to Innovation

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PharmaVOICE Staff

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John Hall, a contributor to Forbes, identified 10 barriers that companies should remove to enable their employees to take their company into the future. These include: closed-mindedness, traditions, jealousy, money, generational differences/age, communication, size, education, thought leadership, and resources.

Insigniam identified three constraints that limit innovation: corporate gravity, corporate immune system, and corporate myopia.

Shideh Sedgh Bina, co-founding partner of Insigniam, says corporate gravity is the pull, or direction, that everything in the organization pulls toward.

“In some cases, the pull is budgetary and financial, in other cases it’s toward the ideas that float to the top, and in yet other cases it’s the pull toward analysis until there’s paralysis,” she explains. “A new concept or thought can be killed off in the flow of gravity if it doesn’t fit in.

“The second constraint is the corporate immune system,” Ms. Bina continues. “There are processes, procedures, practices, and even conversations that can kill off any new idea that’s introduced into the system because it’s seen as a potential threat. We’re all familiar with the common statements, such as ‘Oh, we tried that before, we’ve done it before,’ but then there are others such as, “The FDA will never accept that, that won’t pass the regulatory process, or senior management won’t allow us to do that.’  Or it could be the processes a company has in place for how an innovation gets selected that are too confining.”

The third force that she says kills off innovation or the ability to create new value is corporate myopia, in which there is tyranny of the present over the future.

“This is the focus on today’s challenges for today’s customers and today’s markets as opposed to having a disciplined approach to think outside of current markets, current problems, and current customers to a second horizon, which might have different customers, or different services that are adjacent to where a company is. True transformational innovation is being able to think in what we call horizon three, which is inventing markets and customers that don’t yet exist.”

In her experience, Ms. Bina notes that a company has to have a culture that has a leadership mandate and an infrastructure to support innovation.

“Innovation can’t be handled ad hoc; there needs to be an actual home for innovation with a proprietary process — with resources, people, and pathways — that builds on the strengths of the organization,” she says.

PV0416_RiteshPatelAccording to Ritesh Patel, executive VP, chief digital officer, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, in addition to parochial thinking, the other factor that stops companies or organizations from being innovative is the “not invented here” syndrome.

“Companies are so accustomed to a culture of drug discovery that they don’t stop to look at what other companies are doing,” he says.  “For example, right now the belle of the ball is IBM Watson. Everybody wants to partner with IBM Watson because it’s a big company doing some interesting things. But IBM is just one company doing great stuff. There are about 200 other companies doing some very cool things that could change the way drug discovery and development are done. The idea that ‘we didn’t invent something,’ gets in the way of bringing a person or a company in to help innovate in an organization.”

Melinda Richter, head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation JLABS, says one of the biggest hurdles to innovation for smaller companies is the large investment of time and money required just to get to a proof of concept.

“Innovators have great ideas but need the platform of infrastructure including labs, equipment, operational and business resources, and commercialization experience to make it work,” she says. “We started JLABS to take down the hurdles that prevented emerging science and technology from reaching the people who needed it.  Our goal was to enable innovators to move their ideas forward.”

At JLABS, small companies gain access to many of the benefits of a big corporation within a capital-efficient, entrepreneurial, high-energy, think-tank environment.

“The flexible platform allows companies to get up and running quickly by providing access to state-of-the-art facilities, including core research labs filled with equipment; flexible, turnkey modular wet lab units; operations teams that handle daily facilities, equipment, safety, and operations activities; and a business services team to provide support as the company matures — all as a flexible, no-strings attached arrangement,” Ms. Richter explains. “Through JLABS, we are able to provide the equipment and assistance to the day-to-day infrastructure and administrative tasks, allowing companies to focus on what’s most important, the science.”

Wendy Mayer, VP worldwide innovation at Pfizer, says in her experience the biggest barriers are a focus on near-term business results, which cause teams to stick with the tried-and-true or low-risk ideas that can have an impact in the short term; a lack of reward or recognition for the additional work and bravery it takes to advance new and unproven concepts that creates a lack of incentive; and the inability to extract value from failure, which leads to many companies losing the ability to learn from their mistakes, which is essential to development of innovative ideas. (PV)

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