Do You Have an Innovation Strategy?

Health care and biomedical innovation will drag until we move from a reimbursement-driven model to an innovation-driven model. Organizations need to have internal strategies to prepare for the shift.

A recent article by Juruzelski, Loehr, and Holman from Booz Consulting (www.strategy-business.com) noted that there is no statistically significant relationship between financial performance and innovation spending. What's more, they identified that the 2 primary elements of innovative companies are 1) a focused innovation strategy, and 2) a corporate culture that is wired for innovation.

There has been a lot of talk about innovation as a way to get us out of our sick-care spending mess. Almost every CEO in any industry, including health care, cites superior products and services and quality as their #1 strategic goal. Whether you are in private practice, a corporate entrepreneur, a social entrepreneur or one of the rising number of employed physicians, you should ask whether you or your company has an innovation strategy and culture to execute on that strategy. The Booz consultants mention 3 core innovation strategies. The strategies are based on the approach to incremental versus breakthrough innovation and the role that end customers play in defining future product or service needs:

Need seekers actively and directly engage both current and potential customers and patients to help shape new products and services based on superior end-use understanding. For example, doctors interact with patients directly and via social media to get feedback about their care and how it might be improved.

Market readers, sometimes called market perceivers, closely monitor their customers and competitors, but are more cautious and incremental in their approach. They are "fast followers". Are you following other industries, like telecommuncations, IT and other service industries for the next "new,new thing"?

Technology drivers, also referred to at technopreneurs. They seek to solve the unarticulated needs of their customers (think Steve Jobs) through leading edge technology. They don't do focus groups, because they anticipate, not respond to customer needs and wants. They create new drugs and devices that leapfrog the competition.

Any of these strategies work. However, of the top 10 innovative companies surveyed, 60% were need seekers. In other words, they focus on being a problem seeker before being a problem solver.

Health care and biomedical innovation will drag until we move from a reimbursement-driven model to an innovation-driven model. It will happen, but there is no way to know how quickly, or what the unintended consequences will be. Regardless of when it happens, you should be creating an innovation strategy in your company. Probe leadership in your organization to create and adopt one, and build a culture that can execute. Your future, and the future of US health care, depends on it.