Is “Ad Hoc” Innovation Good Enough?

POSTED BY Robert McDonald and Jeff Padgett AT 1:23 P.M. Apr 7, 2016

As innovation consultants, we have a front row seat to watch (and help) companies learn how to be innovative. We’ve seen a lot of companies take a variety of approaches to innovation. One of the most common we see is what we call the “ad hoc” approach. This is a fancy way of saying “let’s invent something and then see if we can sell it!” Although this approach is very common, it very rarely works well. To be sure, it will work just well enough for companies to justify using it! But we have a better way. At ipCapital Group we use a more informed approach to innovation: the ipCapital SystemTM. For over 15 years this approach has provided consistently successful long term innovation.

Recently we have been looking at the economic landscape and believe that there is no industry that will need to change more in the next ten years than healthcare. In our view, the entire healthcare system must re-invent itself to avoid a real public health crisis. But this is complicated, and requires payers, providers, product suppliers, in fact, the entire supply chain to undergo massive innovation to respond. Will the “ad hoc” approach be enough? Will it generate the volume of innovation needed to effectively improve clinical results, significantly reduce costs and generally restore the faith and trust of families and patients?

We don’t think so.

From our perspective, to achieve significant and implementable innovation, a clear process is needed that puts the strategy for innovation ahead of the innovation itself. The ipCapital System is the antidote to the “ad hoc” approach and provides the methods and structure necessary to identify, articulate and understand what innovation will be most effective for your organization; technically and financially.

The ipCapital System is a comprehensive approach that requires care and attention. Innovation is complicated, a little messy, and requires resources that are often unexpected. From our experience, there are four fundamental ingredients for successful innovation strategy that are often underestimated:

Executive Buy-in
To create and implement the dramatic innovation that is needed in healthcare, executive leadership must be visibly and actively committed to it. Strong leadership is necessary to ensure that the members of the care delivery system, the patients, the public and the marketplace all understand that the innovations being generated are actually making their lives better. An example is Iora Health’s Dr. Rushika Fernandopulle and his well-publicized mission to “humanize healthcare.” Dr. Fernandopulle is not only changing healthcare, but also telling everyone about it.

Associative Thinking
Associative thinking puts concepts together in new ways to create opportunities for solutions that could have never come from linear or evolutionary processes. This often results in situations where “one plus one equals three.” For healthcare, this is a particularly challenging approach, both technically and from a business point of view. It is being done though. An example is the recent announcement by Boston Scientific and the Mayo Clinic that they will utilize an open innovation model to address unmet clinical needs. This model allows for the efficient sharing of ideas and business opportunities between clinicians and a device manufacturer to generate benefits for both them and their patients.

Innovation Goals
Having clearly defined targets of innovation that are within your range of expertise, budget and most importantly serve the needs of your customers (patients in this case). Seems obvious, but this is rarely done. We work with clients every day to help them articulate how their intellectual capital can be leveraged by intellectual property to address the needs of the marketplace and provide better products and services. Again, some are already doing this, but not many. An example is United HealthCare’s Optum tools, which use big data and analytics to drive more efficient infrastructure, improve clinical decision-making and support self-directed wellness.

Keep Innovating
Innovation is not static; it is a constant process that requires repeatable steps. A defined innovation process is a necessary business tool that actually gets more efficient and effective as the techniques are taught to the entire staff. We recently we worked with a client to extract 96 patentable invention ideas in a single day; imagine how fruitful their ongoing program will be! We have worked with many clients to create such ongoing programs that have helped them to accelerate innovation and protect the best ideas.

A CASE STUDY – Fortune 500 Medical Device Manufacturer
ipCG worked with a Fortune 500 medical device manufacturer to execute a systematic approach to drive Innovation. We first worked with them to understand their business and the market to establish a solid foundation for building innovation and implementation strategies. This enabled our client to understand what types of invention and innovation supported their business goals and demands of the marketplace.

To do this, ipCG conducted a facilitated session with business, marketing, technical, and legal personnel to collect what we call ipBusiness IssuesSM. This broad approach ensured that all perspectives of business were considered (from multiple levels and points of view) to create an ipLandscape® that visually organized the innovation “space” around their business. The ipLandscape then acted as a “game-board” to depict the business issues, markets, products, and technologies, helping to create a framework for ideation, innovation strategy development and implementation.

The ipLandscape provided a framework to extract existing innovation and ideas from the companies R&D staff via the ipScan® methodology. The structure of the ipLandscape and methodical approach of the ipScan broaden their thinking and seeded ideas across “thinking axes.” This allowed for the leveraging of different perspectives and areas of expertise to identify innovative ideas, many of which could be protected by intellectual property (patents). Once extracted, the ideas were prioritized based on company goals and then implementation were strategies applied to each.

In this case, nearly 150 invention concepts were extracted, documented and prioritized, generating over 80 patent applications, 98% of which were issued! Both the quantity and the quality of the IP assets generated through this process proved to be a key driver of sustained profitability for our client.