Words by Cheyenne Eugene
Ideas are gold dust. As humans, we are products of our environments and the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most innovative sectors on the planet brimming with Newtons, Curies, and Edisons alike. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, rapid digital transformation, idea generation, and problem solving have never been as heavily emphasised, with more solutions being encouraged and implemented daily.
So, you’ve just had a eureka moment and are keen to let your team know about it; before making that proposal, consider - what boxes does a genuinely brilliant idea needs to tick and does it have to be scalable to be successful?
At its core, the criteria for digital innovation proposals are the same. “The first thing we look at is the patient and healthcare professional,” explains Denise Dewar, Digital Hub Director, Europe, Japan, and Canada, GSK, speaking at Reuters Events’ Pharma Customer Engagement Europe. “If there’s something that we want to deliver, be that a programme or message, first and foremost the question will always be ‘Is this going to be relevant for the HCP?’” Also speaking at the Reuters event, Neelesh Shanbhag, Chief Information Officer and Vice President, Business Technology, Asia Pacific, Janssen, outlines the criteria for innovation: “How strong is the idea? How far outside the box is it? How does it align with the business strategy that we have set ourselves for the next 3–5 years?”
Having the data to observe, trial, and track whether an idea is working is ever more crucial. “It’s always a question of ‘is this working or not?’,” explains Dewar. “We’re starting to be able to answer that through data. You have to remove yourself from the question and start finding the data that corresponds.” Naturally, this does not come without its own set of challenges, and from an organisational perspective, there needs to be a system that collates all relevant data in order to help answer those big questions. “It’s massively fundamental in understanding how we can deliver upon what the customer really wants,” says Dewar.
You have to remove yourself from the question and start finding the data that corresponds
For an idea to be executed and demonstrate a quantifiable outcome, an organisation’s consistency in the process of how new ideas are managed is important: “It’s good to have some form of structure in terms of how we compare, invest in, and start to nurture new ideas,” says Shanbhag. This is detailed further at the Reuters event by Dan Atkins, Vice President, Digital Innovation and Insights, Shionogi Europe, he explains: We look to see if we’ve tried to run a similar idea in a different market or different therapeutic areas so that we’ve got some analogue work to figure out if we can build that area further… Sometimes we tried an idea previously, but it was too soon, and it comes around again and we find we’re in the right zeitgeist to roll it out again.”
Zeitgeists and cultural nuances mean that some ideas may be better suited to one market over another. Is scalability compromised with tailored approaches or is there a balance to strike? Shanbhag speaks of the “common core” for digital innovation which can be shared by all markets and the “last mile” which can be tailored to stakeholders depending on their location and therapeutic area. Dewar concludes: “It’s vital that there is always that lens from an individual market perspective whilst also trying to keep strategically aligned as an organisation.”
The rate and expansion of digital innovation in pharma offers a rare advantage and puts the industry in a privileged position. Since COVID-19, pharma’s already prolific nature has left a taste for change and is enabling more efficient methods of testing and implementing those innovative changes. Refining organisational processes that facilitate and support brilliant ideas will encourage valuable idea generation. When an idea strikes, much like a falling apple on the head, pay heed to it. Ideas are to thank for carrying us out of a global crisis. Where could your next lightbulb moment take us?