Corvus Solutions Blog​

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So, You Want to Be a Life Sciences Innovator

This series of articles is about how life science companies can better develop, pilot and launch innovative solutions designed to better engage and serve HCPs, patients and the company’s own personnel. While they are sometimes called “commercial” innovations because they don’t focus on the development of new drugs or devices per se, we see the principles we discuss in the series applying to groups as diverse as Sales, Marketing, Market Access, and even Medical Affairs and Clinical Development.

My colleague Jacquelyn (Jackie) Crane and I have been helping life science companies manage “solution innovation” for several years now across a diverse group of pharmaceutical and device (biopharma) companies. And given that I have a few more miles on me than Jackie, I’ve also had the pleasure of helping companies manage product and solution development as both an external advisor and as the executive in charge of innovation and solution development on the client side. Today, our consulting, insight and project management work, which we house within the Corvus Solutions division of Think Patients that Jackie leads, is still focused in large part on helping companies manage, pilot, evaluate and launch these “solution innovations.” We also have the benefit of calling upon the vast experience of our colleague Joe Shields, who leads our Health Accelerators division and who formerly managed a big part of several leading biopharma companies’ global innovation efforts.

Both clients and suppliers have at times asked us to write a book. We may do that someday, however our more immediate focus is to help those tasked with delivering “practical innovation” actually do so. We use the term practical innovation when speaking with clients because we want them to focus on better engaging patients and providers without breaking the corporate bank, and to avoid “snow globe” projects (I’ll address those in a separate, shorter blog post outside this series).  In short, we want to see and be involved in projects that actually accomplish something useful, and that can be sustained.   We don’t claim to be the only gurus in this field, because there are many other authors and advisors (some friends, some even competitors) who are simply fantastic, and from whom we, too, learn. But to put it bluntly, we’ve done a lot of this, and through that “we “know things”. And we’re happy to share some of that, if you’re willing to read about it.

Also, we are a little bit tired of seeing good ideas fail because so many teams aren’t doing a great job with their current innovation efforts and processes. This often happens because they have mismanaged things like their own internal communications and approval processes, or because they are bad at managing internal politics, which will always be a part of getting things done inside a company of almost any size. We’ll touch on some of that in this series, and hopefully help our readers both accomplish more, and enjoy the process of doing so even as they advance their careers and those of their team members.

Pharma and biotech companies can deliver innovative solutions to real world problems that also support their business strategies, and these “solution innovations” can serve as a great training ground and career development point for both the aspiring marketer and the seasoned veteran. At the same time, the solutions developed through these efforts can deliver real value to the sponsoring company and to the patients and providers who now seek more than just a great drug or device. And we think it can be a lot more fun to work on these projects than yet another detail aid, congress exhibit or mobile app.

With that in mind we hope you enjoy this series, which we plan to deliver about every-other week over the next several months. Our list of planned topics over the next year includes:

  • What’s the Problem? (putting first things first, and avoiding “chasing the shiny”)
  • Why YOU? (deciding whether you’re the “right” company to address the problem)
  • What IS a “Solution Innovation” (the other stuff biopharma is now expected to deliver)
  • Don’t Try This at Home (why internal teams so often fail – and how to mitigate that)
  • Why Failure is So Profitable (how not to get fired – and even promoted – by failing)
  • Are We Aligned? – Part 1 (gaining early stage, internal approval and support)
  • You’d Look Really Bad in Orange (why legal, compliance, etc., can be your best friends)
  • Build, Buy, or Partner? (what’s the best approach for addressing this problem?)
  • Procurement – Part 1 (setting expectations and alignment on unfamiliar turf)
  • Partner Discovery (who might be able to help us? How do we find them?)
  • Partner Evaluation (can they get this done? Can we work with them?)
  • Boundaries & Scope (defining the solution – early stage)
  • Sanity Check – Part 1 (does this make final and strategic sense to pursue?)
  • Are We Aligned? – Part 2 (concept review and buy-in)
  • Naysayers and Claim Jumpers (the downside of innovation in a big organization)
  • It’s a P-I-L-O-T. (Why failing to do this is, well, stupid. Seriously, seriously, stupid.)
  • Why Great Pilots Don’t Scale (avoiding the flipside of pilot failure – snow globes)
  • How Will We Know If It Works? (designing your metrics and measurement plan)
  • Procurement – Part 2 (negotiating and contracting with suppliers)
  • This Might Work (defining the solution, and deciding on an initial solution design)
  • Sanity Check – Part 2 (we’ve got a plan and a budget. Still good to go?)
  • Are We Aligned? – Part 3 (design-stage solution review)
  • Damn, This is Boring (managing the long, hard slog of the build)
  • Hands Off. Pencils Down. Ship! (avoiding the urge to tinker and tweak)
  • Are We Aligned? – Part 4 (managing the pre-launch, final approval)
  • Preparing for Launch (what to do to make sure the thing (probably) gets off the ground)
  • Course Correction (monitoring, and in-flight adjustments)
  • Managing Expectations (no, it’s not ready yet. And we still need the money)
  • It Worked/Failed – Let’s Tell Everyone! (communicating results, regardless of outcome)
  • This is Going to be BIG! (planning for scale and letting go)
  • Managing the Pain of So Many Opportunities (managing a portfolio of ideas)

We expect to rework this list a bit, based on your feedback as we publish, and we welcome comments, suggestions for new topics, and even arguments. Debate is fun, and we expect to learn a few things from our readers along the way. So, watch for our first post in this series in about two weeks, and feel free to comment before that. Thanks in advance for reading this series, and please let us know what you think.

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