innovation

“Creativity gets killed”

close up of human hand

When I consider all the organizations I have studied and worked with over the past 22 years, there can be no doubt: creativity gets killed much more often than it gets supported. For the most part, this isn’t because managers have a vendetta against creativity. On the contrary, most believe in the value of new and useful ideas. However, creativity is undermined unintentionally every day in work environments that were established—for entirely good reasons—to maximize business imperatives such as coordination, productivity, and control. This is even more true in the world of medicine; “untested” is a bad thing.

Surgeons cannot be expected to ignore the need for innovation and testing new things, of course. But in working healthcare systems built on established guidelines, safety first and indeed….adhering to the code of Do No Harm, we have designed organizations that systematically crush creativity.

What Is Business Creativity?

We tend to associate creativity with the arts and to think of it as the expression of highly original ideas. Think of how Pablo Picasso reinvented the conventions of painting or how William Faulkner redefined fiction. In business, originality isn’t enough. To be creative, an idea must also be appropriate—useful and actionable. It must somehow influence the way business gets done—by improving a product, for instance, or by opening up a new way to approach a process.

The associations made between creativity and artistic originality often lead to confusion about the appropriate place of creativity in business organizations. In meetings, I’ve asked other leaders if there is any place they don’t want creativity in their companies. About 80% of the time, they answer, “Accounting.” Creativity, we seem to believe, belongs just in marketing and R&D.

Building an innovation system can yield improvement ideas that reshape health care practices, but this rarely happen seamlessly. The following excerpt from the IHI Innovation System white paper presents five types of challenges inherent in most innovation systems and what IHI has learned about overcoming them.

5 Innovation Challenges and Tips for Overcoming Them (ihi.org)

Challenge Creates Innovation

Personally, I have a great example where the two worlds (my creativity and lust for problem solving vs the “we have always done it like this”) meet. Go back a couple of years, and enter St Mary’s Hospital in London, an old building that looks like it has secret corridors, hidden passages and at least 3 floors that nobody can seem to access. The staff room is a small room with a floor that leans to the east, with a view over London’s rooftops and chimneys. The only way I can ever find it (yet to this day) is through the back entrance spiral stone staircase, up, up, up…

Standing behind a surgeon learning about the challenges they meet on a daily basis (every patient is unique) is an option to not just learn, but also to innovate. For me, it is a unique situation: I am the only Medtech CEO in the world that has the background of a trained ballerina combined with a women’s health education learning  surgical  game changer TVT from the inventor Ulf Ulmsten himself. I watch how surgeons move, I understand anatomy in a different way, and I can mimic movements down to individual muscles. I am trained to memorize patterns, flow and rhythm. I physically flinch when a move looks awkward or strenuous, and I instinctively know how to fix it.

Watching a surgeon getting frustrated by trying to correctly position the frame and tighten a screw on an old blue plastic retractor sparked one of those moments in me, and I was trying to lighten the mood in the room by commenting: “Not a great design, that blue thing!” I was rewarded with a grin from the scrub nurse, and a smile from the surgeon, who quickly replied: “Let me guess, you make a better one?!”

“Not yet, but I bet I can!”

Nothing makes me more interested to do something than someone telling me I probably can’t. I have a long list of things I have done, purely because of a challenge. Fast forward a couple of years, and Galaxy II is now a global brand, sold in over 40 countries in a range of surgeries. We have launched the worlds first ever light attachment (again a challenge I needed to solve, this time from surgeons doing charity work in Africa and needing better intra cavity light) and won The Queens Award for Innovation in 2021.

Expertise and creative thinking are an individual’s raw materials—his or her natural resources, if you will. But a third factor—motivation—determines what people will actually do. The scientist can have outstanding educational credentials and a great facility in generating new perspectives to old problems. But if she lacks the motivation to do a particular job, she simply won’t do it; her expertise and creative thinking will either go untapped or be applied to something else. Read more about Creativity in this Harvard Business Review Article: How to Kill Creativity (hbr.org)

Why simplicity is important in innovation

It is so easy to fall into the trap of ego. You know you have a great idea, and you want to show the world how clever it is…well, it is easy to also want to show the world how proud you are of having thought of it!

And being proud is a good thing.

…Just not so proud that it derails your innovation. Let me give you a good example, witnessed often in previous roles in large corporations:

Clever person solves a problem. Clever person then tries to share solution with other clever people, but makes the pitch lopsided, and the OTHER clever people end up offering to help with THEIR solutions to the problem. Clever person leaves feeling devalued, demotivated and misunderstood.

So what went wrong?

The mistake was made to make the PROBLEM bigger than the SOLUTION. (We tend to do this when we want to build suspense, to really milk out the praise we think we deserve for our brilliant solution.) It then back fires, because we focus too much on the stage before the solution, and once everyone’s brain is in help and solution mode, it is very challenging to present a solution. Intelligent creative people love problem solving and are so eager to help, they can’t stop!

Try this next time

Instead of building up the problem too big and subsequently losing your moment to shine, try summarizing the discussion you want to have up front. Try starting with saying something along the lines of : “You know that x we have been mulling over? I have a solution I want to share with you today, and I am really proud of it!”

Be honest, know yourself and use your strengths. Innovation is only beautiful when it is simple, and everyone gets it.

(Just like a good joke is only funny if you don’t have to explain it.)

My biggest business failure (so far…)

It seemed like a slam dunk, and I was convinced it would be an easy win. After all, it was an under-served market, a simple product that required no training to switch to, and I knew we could make it for half the cost as the market leader, who had no competition. Slam dunk by far, right?

Wrong. 2 years later, our Galaxy retractor is not even in 20 hospitals in the UK market. I don’t get it. How can this not be the EASIEST SELL IN THE WORLD?! (You can tell I am frustrated by this!)

Procurement sell?

If my job was to save NHS money and still maintaining similar quality, I would want to freakin’ MARRY Galaxy. No re-training needed, British company and almost -50% cost. If all of the current product was switched out, the NHS would save half a million pounds…..ANNUALLY. Without ANY work.

How messed up is it what this discussion must happen surgeon by surgeon, hospital by hospital? And how frustrating is it, that a British company could create 5 more jobs, save the NHS millions of pounds AND do better for the environment (yeah, 10% less plastic waste too) and STILL not be the number one provider?

My Top Endorsed Skills

So, as a reasonably good (well…) business leader and someone whose Top Endorsed Skill on LinkedIn is Product Launch and Marketing Strategy from my career in medical device, I am considering this to be my greatest failure. We are doing something wrong, and I just can’t seem to figure out how to fix it.

It is taking too long: 2 years and we are nowhere close to where we should be. 2 years, 500k annually. A million pounds in wasted tax money, and in addition, money that is leaving the UK to an American company.

I want to save money for the NHS, keep the funding in the UK and grow our business so we can employ more people in Buckinghamshire instead of Connecticut. But I can’t for the life of me make it work.

That must be my biggest failure: it seems so OBVIOUS and SIMPLE, and yet I can’t crack it.

Any idea what I am doing wrong??

 

 

 

Product development and Launch – the JUNE MEDICAL way

I’ve done The Big

Because I have had the pleasure of working with larger corporations (I spend 10 years with JNJ, 3 with Allergan and 3 with American Medical Systems ENDO) I have quite a lot of experience of new product development and taking new things to market. I have had my finger in design, development, research, early stage testing, pre-launch and launch, as well as training and port market evaluations.

Long process, not always for the right reasons

Usually in one of the large corporates, a new product development idea goes through many rounds of iterations, with a lot of people who don’t have the faintest idea of what the patient symptoms are, what the available solutions are, what the surgeon need is or what the possible outcomes should be.

That’s where JUNE MEDICAL is different. Let me give you the example of this month’s launch: The GOKit.

I was sitting with Maria, nurse at St Marys Hospital, when she got yet another call from the consultant asking her to run upstairs and fetch something from Theatres (she works in Outpatient). When she came back, I asked about what I just observed, and it turns out that she quite frequently must run upstairs to collect a piece of equipment that is missing from the resterilizable trays they use in Outpatient. (Which also means she opens a complete sterile tray just for one or two missing pieces!)

Digging deeper

I asked her more questions, and then suggested a product we could make for her that would solve her problem of missing, broken or incomplete trays. She laughed and said “A new product will take years to be put together and approved!”.

I winked and reminded her that we are JUNE MEDICAL (!), and asked her to give me 3 months. She laughed and said the challenge was on. I was pretty pleased with myself when I casually strolled in just before Christmas and presented her with the first sterile sample kit of the new outpatient Gynae Tray, and she was absolutely over the moon – blown away with the quality and the low cost, saving the trust money.

In summary:

  • Know your stuff
  • Watch your customers and solve their problems
  • Work fast

 

Oh, and GOKit? See for yourself! www.junemedical.com/gokit/

 

Innovation is difficult? I disagree!

We are naturally capable of innovating all the time, but our psychological filters stop us before we even get out our drawing books.

How hard is it to innovate? Is it raw talent, a trained skill or just luck? As a growth company, how can you repeatedly implement great new products, processes or services? Continuous innovation is not easy and if you keep using the same method you will experience diminishing results.

Innovation comes naturally to me, as my key strengths of Improvement and problem solving, combined with creativity and a love of change bring me a brain that never stops. (Exhausting, trust me.)

Here are my top 8 suggestions to get your started into the habit of innovation:

1.     Ask customers. If you simply ask your customers how you could improve your product or service, they will give you plenty of ideas for innovations. Typically, they will ask for new features or that you make your product cheaper, faster, easier to use, available in different styles and colours etc. Listen to these requests carefully and choose the ones that will really pay back.

2.     Observe customers: Never ask what they WANT. Ask what THE PROBLEM is. Then you can innovate.

3.     Copy Paste: look at someone else’s idea. One way to innovate is to pinch an idea that works elsewhere and apply it in your business.

4.     Minimize or maximize. Take something that is standard and minimise or maximise it. Take out the middle man. (IKEA lets you build your own furniture, or sells the service to pay extra for someone to do it for you)

5.     Eliminate. What could you take out of your product or service to make it better? Dell eliminated the computer store, Amazon eliminated the bookstore, the Sony Walkman eliminated speakers and record functions.

6.     Collaborate. Work with another company who sees things differently. We recently spoke to a lighting company who had great ideas for improving visibility in surgery.

7.     Combine. Combine your product with something else to make something new. It works at all levels. Think of a suitcase with wheels, or a mobile phone with a camera or a flight with a massage.

8.     Ask your team. Lead your team is such a way that innovation and improvement is always on everybody’s mind, and that nobody is afraid to speak their opinions.

Tough times hit hard: 5 things that may help.

Brexit, economic downturn, lack of funding, new regulations and changing personal circumstances  are all events that can rock the foundation of your startup business. Making it through hard times requires a steel determination and some serious grit. However, these days I think we need more than just fighting spirit. Here are some thoughts on what else to do when tough times hit.

Cut Carefully

I really don’t like this cutting, because I think one should always be frugal with money. In addition, for small and growing business, cost-cutting needs to be implemented with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. Cut too deep and your business will never recover. Cut too shallow and cash flow problems could force you to the back of the unemployment line. Exercise care and judgment in determining what and where to cut and by how much. And keep monitoring the impact.

Use Low-Budget Marketing

When recessions and other difficult times hit, the marketing function of a business is the first to get cut. With less advertising and marketing, the funnel of incoming prospects is reduced creating even more revenue decreases and setting up a vicious cycle.

The key to salvage any business in hard times is NOT to reduce your marketing activities but to REPLACE them with  Low-budget marketing ( include tactics such as PR, networking, public speaking, online marketing and more.) If you’re already doing that, then figure out how you can do more, through new channels.

Invest your way out?

Are there others feeling the pinch? Can you buy yourself some growth, with efficiencies to be made through scaling operations?

Customer. Customer. Customer.

In good times, business comes easy. Your sales pitch or marketing message may be less effective but will still get results. Surviving hard times requires going back full circle to the fundamentals: Keep it simple, and give your customers what they want and need. Make sure EVERY customer is happy, because you certainly can’t afford a single unhappy one.

Forwards!!

It’s easy to fall into the trap of replaying the situation that got you here today. If you had a failed partnership, replaying your mistakes is a mistake. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Lyubomirsky, Sousa, et al reveals analysis occurring during talking or writing is beneficial in difficult times while replaying negative events is detrimental.

There is a great book called “What got your here won’t get you there”, and that phrase is a great reminder of the need to pause, take stock, realign and move forward.
Go win. If it was EASY, ANYBODY could’ve done it already.

My second application was rejected too! WTF.

So I have now submitted two rounds of the same applications for funding from Horizon 2020 to prove how surgical confidence has an impact on outcome.

Both got rejected.

And interestingly enough, the SECOND application was deemed WORSE than the first one!!

The rating was much worse specifically in the area of proving the market potential for the final product despite me adding further detail and markets. I believe (from the notes in the feedback) that they simply thought the numbers are too good, versus what I was asking for. And that, exactly that, is an entrepreneurs weakness. You see, we are consistently asking for less money than others, if my theory is true.

Entrepreneurs ask for less money because we are used to doing more with less.