Innovation is a messy, unpredictable process. And creativity and new ideas need time to germinate. But time is often an unaffordable luxury. So how can you innovate successfully yet still get to market quickly?
High speed innovation isn't easy but it is possible. Our recent engagement with CardioInsight is a perfect example. Because they had a hard deadline for scheduled testing, we helped them take a breakthrough new medical device from technology to clinical trials in just 4 months.
After four decades and hundreds of innovation programs, we've learned there are 5 critical requirements necessary for rapid innovation:
1. Tight Focused Team: Make sure all the key players are involved from the start. No more. No less.
Knowing CardioInsight's urgency, we assembled a core team from our design and engineering groups and CardioInsights' development team plus operations support from a manufacturing partner.
Other key players were pulled in as needed for research or testing, but this core team was large enough to drive the innovation program yet nimble enough to move quickly.
2. Clear Goal: Make sure everyone is headed toward the same target.
This may seem obvious but countless innovation projects have died because there wasn't agreement on the ultimate goal.
For CardioInsight, everyone agreed that the core technology existed but the question was how to inject the human element and transform it into a device that would be embraced by patients and medical staff.
3. Open Mind: Once you've set your goal, avoid any other limitations. You need to be able to consider any approach – no matter how wild – in order to uncover the new breakthroughs that will make you successful.
Our CardioInsight device needed to take a journey with the patient and stick to their body for as much as 8 hours but be easily and painlessly removed once the procedure was finished.
Because of a previous consumer products engagement, we had familiarity with a high-tech silicone membrane that was used for skin care. It would not have seemed an obvious direction initially but, in the end, it was the perfect solution.
And while conventional thinking would have prescribed a choice between a garment or a panel or a vest, we realized the answer was really none of the above and created a new type of hybrid that combines the best of both a panel and a vest.
4. Effective Communication: Once again, this may seem obvious but speed requires an effective communication process to keep the team connected and avoid time-killing duplication and misunderstandings.
The CardioInsight team used a combination of periodic conference calls and in-person meetings to make sure directions and deliverables were clearly understood and decisions could be made quickly.
Functional sub-groups from the core team held frequent conference calls to discuss immediate development and keep the project moving quickly.
These focused meetings were supplemented with broader bi-weekly meetings where the full full team assembled to review progress and sub-group activities, identify and resolve challenges and keep everyone in the loop.
The final and equally critical component was a series of milestone meetings where the core team met in-person with the executive stakeholders to review strategy and timelines and drive decisions.
5. Executive Support: Real breakthrough innovation requires resources and commitment.
So having a strong sponsor who is willing and able to fund development, take risks and make decisions is important to any innovation program but even more vital when there's no time to lose locating funding or vacillating over alternatives.
Even with a superb team, proven process and clear direction, there's no way we could have met CardioInsight's deadline without the strong commitment and support from their President and Leadership Team.
Innovation is not for the faint-hearted. If you create the conditions for success and you stick to the target, however, you can achieve the remarkable and the rewards can be huge.