Successful Innovation in Clinical R&D – Part 1

As they says, ideas are cheap – execution is rare.     I reviewed a presentation yesterday from the SCDM conference in Sept 2012.   This particular presentation presented 10 new ideas for changing clinical research.   I can’t say I disagreed with any or many of the proposed ideas.   However, I would question the value of the ideas themselves.

We all like to think that we have great ideas.     The question though is how to you make them stick?  How do you convert a good idea into an effective solution?

For 4 years between 2006 and 2010 I was responsible for Operational Excellence at Medidata Solutions.  Plenty of challenges… some of which we managed to tackle.  Since 2010, I have been helping organize innovate through change.

Here are a few tips for those of you that have been struggling without much success with a truly excellent innovation idea.

Change Management

Hold on.. stop.. don’t leave… The term Change Management sounds like Management Consulting speak for all theory and no practice.    I am a convert though.  Change Management is all about changing minds.  Most innovation ideas only come into effect when the neigh-sayers become converts.   You need to take steps, that will differ depending on the type of resistance,  in order to push through your proposed change.

Here is a simple set of steps;

  1. List the names of all of the individuals (or groups) that have influence over the success of your idea
  2. Categorize each of the above from 1  to 5 with 1 being totally against and 5 being totally for.
  3. For the 1’s and 2’s – list out the reasons they might be against the innovation idea… and list out methods that might bring that person or group around
  4. For the neutrals – be prepared to communicate positive information about the innovation
  5. For the 4’s and 5’s, determine how they might become change agents – speaking for your innovation idea.

Then… execute a Change plan based on your actions noted above.

Measure Measure Measure

The greatest innovations mean nothing unless they are comparable to the thing they replaced.  You must first of all take a baseline measure.   For example,  lets say you want to implement a new game changing solution.  Before you start, you need to know what your game changing product is going to improve – your metrics – and, you need to measure how the current state performs to this metric.  Once you have the current state metrics, you need to ensure the results are supported by all – especially the neigh-sayers above.

Once you have successfully implemented your new game changing solution, and considered teething problems and the learning curve, you re-measure the metrics.

If the new metrics do not outperform your old metrics, you need to re-examine your new game changing idea to see if it can be improved.  If it cannot, then it is not game changing… game over.  If it is, not only do you have a Game Changing solution… you also have the evidence you need to help it become ‘a change’.

After you have made the change.. you need to continually re-assess.

Re-Assess your Innovation

To give you a personal experience example.  I implemented a new EDC implementation process back in 2009.  The process resulted in implementation times between 6 and 8 weeks, including the troublesome integrations and data extracts.  We were very pleased.   A year later… the performance dropped down to 9-11 weeks…

The reason?  – well the team responsible for execution were reverting back to former methods.  This was partly due to the drive to apply the new methods being less urgent, and, a failure in addressing concerns raised.    A failure to re-assess earlier resulted in the degradation in performance.   If we had put in place the means to continue to monitor performance, and to capture feedback, we could have resolved the issues, and maintained performance.


More on achieving successful innovation in future posts…

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