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March 2011

Back to Beantown: Lobster Rolls & Medical Devices!


I had the privilege of participating in the 2nd Annual Medical Devices Summit earlier this month in Boston. Not knowing what to expect from the event, I was pleased to be going back to Boston, the cradle of American civilization. After making my way to Quincy Market, I set my sights on a fresh lobster roll and thumbed through the event guide. The event was focused on hot button issues, sharing information among medical device manufacturers and brought together some of the key thought leaders in the industry for two days of presentations, workshops and networking. I and Carrie Nauyalis, Planview Product Line Manager extraordinaire, were eager to meet and greet attendees and learn more about the medical devices industry.

The keynote Monday morning was given by Kamal Ayoub PhD, and Vice President of Operational Excellence at Covidien, a world leader in medical device manufacturing. Dr. Ayoub really set the stage for me at the summit with his opening keynote. He started off sharing success stories about the well-known innovation and poster child for innovation success. Guess who? Yes, some kind of fruit company… er, Apple. He talked about Apple and Netflix, the decline of Kodak, and posed a question to the audience. What if people could see new innovations coming that threatened their product line? How could these corporations better prepare themselves to bring the right new products to market?

He drove it home by sharing that successfully developing new products is critical to the prosperity and organic growth of the modern corporation. It's also one of the biggest challenges facing corporations in an increasingly changing environment. He also pointed out that new products fail at an alarming rate – with only ONE in four product development projects becoming a commercial success.

Think about that. Now think about that as a medical devices corporation. What if your product fails and it has already been implanted or used to treat someone? The repercussions are costly and not just from a dollars perspective, but from a value of human life perspective. It's not a matter of "if" medical devices products are going to fail, it's often about "when" they will fail and/or get recalled. If they fail after harming a patient or they suffer a recall after having been introduced into the market, it can cost millions and millions of dollars – not only to the corporation but to its shareholders. And of course, to the families of the affected patients!

Then Dr. Ayoub zeroed in on something that really resonated with me. He held up a product portfolio management funnel that looked strikingly similar to the one developed by Carrie and team that we use here at Planview. He demonstrated that by taking a disciplined portfolio management approach and aligning that to your innovation strategy and to execution, you can make better decisions to bring the right products to market while prevent the wrong product from going to market.

He was also such a great speaker that I'm going to do my level best to recruit him to present at the upcoming PIPELINE 2011 Online Conference for Innovative Product Development event. But that's a blog post for another day – stay tuned!

Move Over Dr. Cooper! There's a New Guru in Town!


I didn't really know what to expect when I prepared to present at the Innovation Risk Management conference in Barcelona, Spain. In the event, I was delightfully surprised at the cast of co-presenters that the conference organizer, Marcus Evans, had assembled (I think I was the only one presenting that didn't have a PhD or who hadn't written a book in the area of innovation).

At this conference, a charming and clever man, always in a bowtie, opened my eyes to an alternate NPD process methodology to Stage-Gate's. And if you've read some of my previous posts, you know that I love me some Dr. Cooper, co-founder of Stage-Gate, so I was definitely paying attention. Dr. Bengt Järrehult presented the idea that a funnel-based stage-gate process (a horizontal funnel, wide side on the left collecting ideas, narrow side on the right spitting out winning products) is great for incremental or next-generation projects and products.

But when trying to deliver radical or breakthrough innovation, Dr. Bengt said that the innovation funnel simply didn't work for his organization (SCA). Similar to what the approach my colleague Kurt Weisenberger wrote about in the blog entry By Product Pros, For Product Pros: Another Successful Product Camp in the River City, Dr. Bengt offered this option for working on those radical and breakthrough innovation projects: the incubation reactor.

Incubation Reactor

In the above graphic, Dr. Bengt draws a variation of the pipeline funnel with the reactor, and overlays it with Gina Corarelli O'Connor's arrows from her book, "Grabbing Lightning." Dr. Bengt discussed that discovery and conceptualization would be similar between the two methodologies, but that the funnel doesn't narrow on into development because an incubation and experimentation stage was necessary before it could move into development and then on to commercialization.

I love this approach! And here's the kicker – these breakthrough or Blue Ocean innovations (read: Blue Ocean Strategy) produce almost 10 times as much profit than those incremental and next generation products. Wow!

A big thanks to my new friend/guru, Dr. Bengt, for presenting this innovative concept. And stay tuned, dear Pulse reader, as you may see Dr. Bengt coming to a presentation near you in Pipeline2011! (I'll be keeping my fingers crossed to see that bowtie again!)