Friday, May 2, 2014

Innovating for Hope: My trip to Switzerland!

"Some stories are meant to be told. You may not know how important they are until the stars align in such a way that leave a constellation in the sky. The more stars that join the constellation, the further it stretches across the celestial sphere, incapable of being ignored by those who look up."

I met stars in Switzerland, and I assure you that before too long, you will see a constellation. I’m not sure how I articulate what I've experienced over the past few days. I was in Switzerland, and I’d been invited to Roche, the company who owns Genentech, to be on an External Advisory Board focused on innovation. I received the invite just about 4 weeks ago, and we made the quick decision that this opportunity was one that I could not pass on.

I wasn't sure what to expect upon my arrival, after a nice flight in business class with good food to eat and full sleeping accommodations. Who was I to them, to invest in me without even really knowing me? Would I meet their expectations? Would they meet mine? Did it matter?

We had some time on the first day to get to know some of the others on the team, both internal and external. These times, unstructured opportunities to share stories about where we came from and why we had traveled here together, these turned out to be some of my favorite times.

As the meeting began, Roche shared a little bit about the work that they’re doing and hoping to do, providing the premise for our involvement. They had different industries represented, different stakeholders within the health industry, there were patients and patient advocates , and they were all impressive.

Having gone into the meeting already impressed with their vision and strategic initiatives, we were broken into teams and given a hat to wear – doctor, payer, regulator, pharma, patient – and challenged to create a solution for the future. Why should Roche be focused on innovation? What was the overall goal? And what do they need to do to get to where they need to be? Then talked about all that we had created, as a whole group, allowing time for everyone to provide feedback. There were bankers and doctors and insurers and representatives from the oil industry and patient advocates and representatives from healthcare organizations around the globe. I had so many “Ah-ha!” moments, when someone would share an idea or opinion and I would think, “Man, that is SO right!”, and then moments later hear someone challenge their position and think again, “Man, they are so right!” The value that I saw, that really became clear to me, is that collaboration is the only option. We need to be able to steal shamelessly and share seamlessly ideas from other industries, from partners and competitors, and really innovate iteratively for what patients need.

As the meeting progressed, my purpose became clear. They talked about their products, and not the people who use them, and I was there to let them know why this really matters, that there is life relying on them. The people who work there all came to the table, with clear eyes and full hearts, having made a choice to do what they do, hoping to make a difference in my life. They’re innovating for hope, and sometimes that's all that I've got. I appreciated the different perspectives that were brought to the conversations, as I believe that collaborative thinking is the fastest way to innovate.


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