Want to thrive past the pandemic? Act big, bold and fast, say researchers. Slow or incremental change isn’t your friend at the moment, writes McKinsey.
Innovating in a Pandemic
During a recent virtual discussion, McKinsey interviewed a handful of medtech leaders on innovating in the current landscape. Participants included Benoit Clinchamps (president, MicroPort CRM); Anton Kittelberger (CEO, mySugr); Florian Nickels-Teske (director, Helios Health Institute); and Harmut Schaper (CEO and general manager, Security & Safety Things). Joining the discussion were Ralph Dreischmeier and Chris Llewellyn, senior partners at McKinsey.
We’ve captured key themes below. (You can catch the full exchange here.)
Embrace collaboration as an accelerator
“Speed has taken on a completely different dimension,” says Dreischmeier: “Two years of digital transformation is now happening in two months.”
One way to accelerate transformation amid a pandemic is to embrace collaboration.
“We’re trying to convince [medical device manufacturers] that it’s better to work together, because none of them has the necessary scale for fast [product] innovation,” says Schaper, who recently founded an association where competitors can talk to each other.
In an earlier post on finding the right partner, we covered a few benefits of joining forces with someone who’s been down the road you want to travel, including: refining ideas, strengthening your value proposition, countering blind spots, reducing risks and uncovering opportunities that would’ve remained hidden otherwise — to mention a few.
Look at what’s working in other industries
If something has worked in another industry, it’s worth taking a look to see if it could work in yours, says Schaper. While you’re at it, “the best thing you can do is turn something that used to be a strength of your competitor into a weakness, like having them cling to this fully integrated stack and experiencing increasing difficulties,” he adds.
Llewellyn agrees: This is one reason why it’s so important to have a diverse team charting the path forward, he says.
Two angles to consider
Clinchamps offers two approaches to building new offerings or business models: (1) the customer-supplier relationship, and (2) technology innovation.
“We develop complex life-sustaining devices and traditionally offered an intensive service to physicians and hospitals to help them implant these devices. But we are trying to change this model,” he explains: “So we’re introducing deeper training for physicians and cardiologists to better understand the products and make it easier for them to implant these devices. Transferring this type of service to hospitals and other parties allows us to do things with fewer people than our competition.”
On the tech innovation front, Clinchamps’ firm is investing big in remote monitoring. “We must avoid overcrowding in hospitals and waiting rooms, as well as unnecessary trips to the doctor. So remote monitoring is far more important than it was before.”
In any case, he recommends staying close to customers to recognize their needs — a vital ingredient we also advocate in your product ideation process.
Beware of perfectionism
The pursuit of perfection is kryptonite to innovation, especially amid a pandemic.
“If you have this perfect company where everything is planned down to every minute and every portfolio position, you’re not leaving people space to breathe,” says Schaper. For creativity and new discoveries to flourish, people need resources to try things out and they also need to know they won’t be punished for trying something reasonable that fails, he says.
Schaper is not alone in voicing this warning. According to the Harvard Business Review, an undue fixation on launching the perfect product brings costly side effects, including increased costs, longer time to launch, greater potential for risks and FDA scrutiny, psychological turmoil, and more. (More on that here.)
Failure to move now will cost you later
Medtech leaders should be mindful that this is a unique moment in time and the world will be a very different place coming out of this crisis, says Llewellyn.
“There’s quite a big risk for many players to get left behind, but my sense is that those that act quickly and with conviction will put clear water between them and competitors,” he says. Key to this will be “not being afraid to get it wrong an asking for forgiveness rather than permission.”
In our own experience at Genesis Plastics Welding, as soon as COVID-19 hit, we shifted resources to hyperbaric oxygen hoods to help patients recover from respiratory distress and avoid risks associated with other devices. We also helped manufacturers boost production speed and savings with custom bioprocessing bags. The point is reacting quickly to market changes, anticipating what’s ahead, and wasting no time to act.
The current operating environment, as chaotic as it is, is no excuse for inaction. Quite the opposite, Llewellyn concludes: “I fear those that don’t seize the moment won’t just be left treading water but will be left looking at up the new Goliaths in the industry, saying, ‘How did we miss our opportunity?’”