When is innovation truly innovative and when is it “fake innovation?”
Innovation happens when a novel solution is applied to an existing market need. In the patient recruitment space, the term innovative is highly overused and has seemingly lost its contextual significance. We often find that solutions commonly referred to as innovative may not be new or novel to the industry. Occasionally, longstanding innovations are adopted in some organizations and then considered innovative only because they are new to the organization. They are not truly a brand new solution. Understanding risk, having a tolerance for failure, negotiating through the corporate environment and doing your homework can assist with understanding the difference between real and fake innovation.
Different companies have a different tolerance level for risk, which can help identify whether a solution is innovative or if it is simply new to a company. Striving to be innovative is admirable, yet comes with many challenges. It takes real risk to venture off the beaten path and try something that has not been done before. Innovation is not considered a safe bet. Innovation does not have the luxury of learning lessons from the past. Many innovations fail the first time they are implemented. The main sponsors of clinical trials are pharmaceutical companies that are known for being extremely conservative when it comes to integrating new methods. In a highly regulated environment such as clinical trial patient recruitment, it takes grit, the courage to take risks and a high tolerance of failure to apply a new solution to an existing need.
The environment you operate in can also be a marker of what is truly innovative. Certain corporate environments stifle innovation. Opinions are based on prior experience; therefore, an innovative solution that fails during implementation could cause leadership to become reluctant or hesitant to try something new in the future. There is value in failure, but not all companies embrace innovation labs or think tank models.
A great idea that is unsupported remains just an idea. That idea requires leadership support and buy-in to become a solution. Once there is leadership buy-in, the resources to support implementation are needed. Execution is a place where many innovative ideas go wrong. The reason for this is the lack of infrastructure or support systems. The new idea or process may be great, but if it goes unrecognized and/or unused, all of the time and effort that went into its implementation may be wasted.
Research beforehand. It is crucial to understand what is already available or in the process of being utilized elsewhere. What you think is new may have been implemented previously. Recently, a client told me that internet advertising for a clinical trial was innovative and that no other companies were doing that. After explaining to my client that other companies had been doing it for decades and that his company was actually a late adopter or laggard according to the diffusion of innovation theory, he said, “Well, it is innovative here.” That is fake innovation that should never be touted as novel and new.
Another example is virtual doctor visits. It is true that many people continue to physically show up at a doctor’s appointment, but virtual visits have been available for a few years. Technically, virtual doctor’s visits are no longer innovative, although we have not yet reached a saturation point in adoption. By doing your homework, you can see who the innovators and early adaptors were. Remember what is new to you may not be new to an industry and would be fake innovation.
When tasked with bringing innovation to your teams, heed the stages of the decision innovation process. First, gain knowledge. Do your homework beforehand to make sure you are fully aware of what is already available. Secondly, armed with knowledge, is persuasion. This is where you seek leadership buy-in to the new idea. If the decision is made to proceed, assess the environment and ensure you have the resources to implement successfully.
Ashley Tointon has more than 18 years of patient recruitment and project management experience supporting clinical trials and the pharmaceutical industry. Currently she provides recruitment expertise, strategy and leadership as Principal Consultant of Accelerate Clinical Enrollment. Email email@example.com or tweet @AshleyTointon.
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