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From linear to exponential thinking: How will your organization activate innovation?

Digital manufacturing and nanotechnology…Synthetic biology…Artificial intelligence and advanced robotics…Crowd-sourcing…Incentive competitions…Health and medicine are not immune from the rapid change of technology. Moore’s Law is at work with exponential improvements in performance and a corresponding drop in cost, making innovations possible like never before. The question is, “What impact will these exponential changes have on organizations’ businesses and ecosystems? And, what new business models will the technologies create?”

Earlier this month, Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Life Sciences and Health Care practice worked with the Deloitte Consulting Innovation (DCI) team on a unique collaboration with one of our newest strategic partners – Singularity University – to host Exponential Medicine 2014. Exponential Medicine is a global workshop of more than 400 thinkers, innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists, and executives across health care and medicine. These experts are dedicated to helping leaders understand and explore the profound impact of a wide array of rapidly evolving next generation technologies on the future of the industry.

Afterward, Deloitte invited event participants to join in a reflective discussion around the conference and, more importantly, to wrestle with questions like, what do they do next? The conference and discussion highlighted several key issues which health care organizations and stakeholders should consider:

Developing depth and mastery in exponential technologies, and creating and living with exponential organizations
Health care organizations should consider developing a fluency and working understanding of the major areas of exponential technology that are playing out across all of society and business. Examples include:

  • Advances in information technology related to abundant bandwidth and ubiquitous connectivity that are enabling mass dissemination of data and pervasive communications globally.
  • The world of robotics and how it is impacting areas from surgery to behavioral health.
  • Digital manufacturing whereby the reality of 3D printing is making possible the printing of implants and someday even organs.
  • Advances in biotechnology that are rapidly occurring and making it possible to target disease and re-write human genes.
  • Big data applications and use cases that are improving exponentially, with innovations in database design and analysis tools that make gleaning insights from massive data sets possible; eventually this could lead to transformation in research/development, prevention, personal empowerment and treatment dimensions of health.

Mastering exponential technologies and embracing their transformational impact also means creating new competencies. These include increasing organizational agility, strengthening organizational learning capabilities, and evolving into learning networks, embracing open talent networks, leveraging prize-based competition and gamification, rethinking traditional organizational metrics, and building new “muscles” in ecosystem development.

Planning for living within ecosystems
Exponential Medicine 2014 underscored the fact that innovating in an exponential world requires that organizations do not go it alone. In fact, the world of exponential change might require that organizations get comfortable with finding and developing new types of partnerships and collaborations. New relationships could be instrumental not only to build depth and exposure to the exponential technologies themselves but also to innovate and execute at the required pace. More broadly, the conference demonstrated that the future solutions and innovations are cross-functional and cross-disciplinary in nature – answers to the big challenges could come from broad industry collaborations.

An example of this new ecosystem thinking was highlighted in the industry-wide discussion with Dr. Craig Venter and Dr. Peter Diamandis and their most recent venture. Participants in this dynamic discussion identified industry-wide opportunities to leverage advances in genetic and microbiome sequencing.

Understanding the importance of platforms versus apps
Is Uber a car service app or, is it a platform for urban logistics? Uber recently piloted an offering to connect nurses to consumers that need flu shots. What makes an app company a platform?

There is a proliferation of apps in health and medicine (over 10,000); these are both analytical in nature and focused on the consumer or mobile world. Yet, advances in exponential technologies present new opportunities and imperatives to leverage emerging and highly scalable platforms. These platforms, made possible by cheaper storage, more powerful algorithms and ubiquitous connectivity, could enable the integration of disparate data sets and broad-based collaboration across industry boundaries. Instead of silos of applications, emerging platforms could support patient engagement, clinical insight development and population health.

Creating a game plan for activating innovation
Exponential technologies are powerful tools, but how do they become even more impactful enablers of innovation? This challenge of activating innovation is faced by organizations across health and medicine. Organizations need a framework and vocabulary for how an organization can discuss innovation and its portfolio of initiatives; ‘core,’ ‘adjacent’ and ‘transformational’ innovations can impact a range of markets and customers as well as a range of existing to new products and assets. A powerful first step in making the shift from linear to exponential thinking is to have a framework and nomenclature that an organization can leverage to become aligned and focused on its innovation priorities.

Exponential Medicine 2014 presented a window into the future – not only for health and medicine, but for society. The rapid changes in technology could foster new solutions to today’s problems and allow for greater innovation and the creation of new business models. But embracing exponential thinking and the power of these emerging technologies may not come naturally to everyone or all organizations. The inertia of our day-in-day-out linear world is powerful. Nevertheless, industry leaders should consider the question, “Is your organization willing to embrace the exponential wave of change and be in position to leverage its transformational impact for the better?” Activating innovation starts with taking that first step.

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Author bio

Jason, Deloitte Consulting LLP, serves as Managing Director of the US Life Sciences & Health Care Practice. With 20+ years of experience, he helps many of the nation’s top health care organizations navigate challenges including implementing latest technologies, creating operating efficiencies, improving performance and addressing industry reform. Passionate about others’ success, he co-led the creation of a talent development program for Deloitte and served as Dean of the New Leader Program.