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Open minds for open innovation

By Emma Knott

When it comes to problem-solving, getting an outsider’s perspective can really add value. Addressing an issue from a different angle or injecting new expertise ultimately leads to a more robust response. This is the basis of open innovation.

Many large, successful organisations such as Apple and NASA are already embracing open innovation to stay at the top of their game. In healthcare, programmes like 23andMe and PatientsLikeMe have demonstrated that this is a tangible tactic, despite the traditional need for high standards, strict regulation and rigorous process. And a couple of years ago, Novartis and the COPD Foundation’s crowd-shaped project won Communique’s Innovation in Healthcare Communications Award! So are we about to see an explosion of crowdsourced pharma initiatives?

Well maybe yes, but only if we do it right. Just like clinical trials or patient support programmes, those based on real insight and built with the end user in mind will be the most valuable. Here are some important considerations to bear in mind:

1. Define your challenge

Clearly identify the problem that needs solving and ensure alignment. In order to do this, you need to have the right information to fully understand the challenge – collect and mine data to get to the root of the problem.

2. Collaboration is key

Pharma’s traditional ‘closed-shop’ approach doesn’t align with trying to crowdsource a solution. Honesty and openness are paramount to the success of the solution. If combining the power of two competing pharma companies would help, put your differences aside and talk about partnership.

3. Keep an open mind

Crowdsourcing is all about using different approaches, attitudes and experiences to solve a problem. Be open-minded about who is involved – a marketer from Ann Summers or a martial arts instructor may have just the brain you need!

4. Think about the practicalities

Have a clear understanding from the start. Know who owns the IP, who is taking the lead and how it will work in practice.

5. Think long-term

True innovation leads to real change. So be sure you’re set up to succeed in the long run. Have a plan in place for implementation and roll-out. Set yourself goals and monitor and evaluate your
progress – evolving your approach where needed.

If done properly, pharma can benefit from crowdsourced problem-solving. It’s time to open our minds to open innovation.

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