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Innovation Leadership & How to Build the Ideal Innovation Team – Part 2

Building a team for innovation? Wish you could get tips from an experienced innovation leader about how to structure teams for performance and results? In part 2 of this series on building the ideal innovation team, Kaleidoscope VP of R&D, Medical, Michael Clem DVM, MS, shares his insights and best practices. In this article, we’ll look at a “category structure” for lean-type startups. This is a different perspective from the “functional structure” for building the ideal innovation teams covered in part 1. (5-minute read.) Here’s Dr. Clem:

Clinical, Technical, Commercial and Organizational Considerations

Over the course of my 25 years working on and leading teams engaged in medical device development, I have experienced a variety of approaches to staffing the ideal innovation team.

In Part 1 of this series, I described a “functional approach” based on key technical skills team members should possess. Alternatively, in this section I describe a leaner approach based on critical categories of thinking required for medical device development.

In a lean startup environment, you can’t always access or afford all of the specific skills you might desire. At the same time, you do need to ensure your team is prepared to address the clinical, technical and commercial considerations inherent in developing medical product innovations. Depending on your organization’s size, the team may also need to be prepared to address organizational variables.

Building a team to address the clinical, technical, commercial and organizational considerations of product development requires a different way of looking at the individuals you choose. Rather than focusing on a person’s primary technical skill (i.e. engineering, design, marketing), identify team members who have the breadth of experiences necessary to successfully navigate the requirements in each category of thinking. From my experience, these individuals can come from various technical backgrounds.

Let’s look at the role each category plays in medical product innovation.

Clinical Considerations

In medical device development, a deep understanding of the users and clinical problem is critical to developing successful solutions. For instance, the concept development team must understand the problem, anatomy, physiology, pathology, users, use environment and so on.

Someone on the team needs to develop this multilayered understanding. This allows the team to represent patients, physicians, other healthcare professionals and key stakeholders who will benefit from the solution.

Depending on their training and backgrounds, this in-depth clinical knowledge might be a stretch for some. But with diligent observational research, relationships with consulting subject matter experts and secondary research, this knowledge can (and must) be integrated into the team. A good scientific or clinical advisory group, composed of relevant subject matter experts, can be invaluable.

Although this clinical understanding speaks specifically to medical device development, it has an equally critical corollary in any field of innovative product development. Simply foster a deep understanding of the end users and the job(s) they are trying to accomplish.

Some methods and tools that can help develop this knowledge include:

  • Ethnography and customer observation
  • Regulatory assessments
  • Procedure maps
  • Clinical stakeholder assessment

Commercial Considerations

Much like fostering an understanding of clinical considerations in your team members, integrating commercial considerations is highly important. Even if your innovation team is staffed exclusively with engineers or individuals with technical backgrounds, someone on the team needs to be ready and able to put on a business thinking hat. Ideally, this individual would come from a business or marketing background or have additional experience in these fields.

Examples of commercial considerations the team should address include:

  • Customer value proposition
  • Claims exploration
  • Competitive assessment
  • Business plan development
  •  

Innovation teams that fail to incorporate these commercial considerations in developing their solutions run the risk of creating wonderful technical solutions that the market will not embrace for any number of reasons.

  • Tools to help make sure the innovation team addresses these considerations include:
  • Concept selection criteria
  • Concept exploratory research
  • Customer segmentation and persona development
  • Financial modeling