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Innovation: It’s More Than Just a Buzzword

Intouch Team

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A colleague recently forwarded this article ("Merck New CEO Frazier Vows Innovation, Wider Markets") about the new Merck CEO and his focus on innovation.

The same colleague, (she’s smart! Find her onTwitter as @lauraN546), pointed out that it seems innovation is at risk of becoming "just another buzzword with subjective meaning."

That statement rang very true to me — but also very disappointing. Does the word "innovation" risk losing credibility due to its overuse?

Merck had a reputation for being risk averse — so is this new focus on innovation just a public relations message, or a real cultural shift for the company? Time will tell. But there isa widespread, much-discussed focus on innovation in the industry right now — or at least on innovation being inserted into corporate messaging.

Pipelines have dried, industry reputation is in the dirt, and customers are harder than ever to reach. Pharma product development, distribution, marketing, and sales all require an overhaul. And that requires innovation.

But what does innovation require? In my opinion and from observation, innovation does not (necessarily) involve technology. Innovation requires:

  • A cognitive, stated choice to do things differently and a readiness for change
  • A different way of looking at things — be it technology, products, approaches, services, or processes
  • The ability to challenge the status quo
  • Motivated, visionary leadership
  • A broad and deep understanding of the issue you’re attempting to resolve
  • A risk-taking mentality, a high tolerance for experimentation, and acceptance of failure
  • Energy and drive — at the organizational as well as personal levels
  • Strong communication and change management skills
  • Flexibility and nimbleness
  • Passion, inspiration, imagination

(By the way, Stefan Lindegaard (@lindegaard) maintains anexcellent blog on innovation, 15inno)As you’ve probably realized by now, most people wouldn’t put the bulleted list above and the words "pharma industry" in the same bucket. By its very nature, innovation risks the creation of cultural cognitive dissonance. In fact, to be considered innovative, I’d say some level of cognitive dissonance is downright required.Are you, your team, or your company innovative? Or are you just using it as a messaging buzzword?


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