Bringing innovation to large organizations

In today's fast-paced and turbulent economy, it is often stressed that organizations need to embrace innovation to survive. However, as explored in a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, rarely is it explained how to introduce innovate thinking, especially at a large organization where leadership is risk-resistant and entrenched in their established processes. 

The source explored the experience of Janssen, the pharmaceuticals arm of Johnson & Johnson, which was able to introduce creative thinking and innovation into a stifling, stagnant culture. 

Two employees, Annick Daems and Enrique Esteban, were tasked with increasing the organization's diversity of opinions and experience. While attempting to accomplish this goal, the pair discovered two major challenges that were keeping the organization from making full use of its personnel, both common ailments of large organizations. The first was that employees often worked in silos, lacking collaboration with others. The second was that many of the professionals advising the organization lacked tangible experience. In this case, it was that Janssen's advisors on emerging markets had never been within a hundred miles of their areas of expertise. 

To confront these issues, Daems and Esteban arrived at a novel idea: send the advisors, along with the workers in relevant silos, to the countries in question to gain first-hand experience and insight. Not only would this help the problem of limited collaboration, but Adrian Thomas, head of Global Market Access and Global Public Health, took the idea a step further. 

Thomas saw the pair's strategy as more than an internal solution. He believed that the strategy could be used to find scalable solutions to global health problems. 

Thomas then developed the Immersion program, where cross-silo teams were sent to identify and solve specific problems in specific locations. For example, Hepatitis C was a growing concern in Romania, while Poland was facing the concerns that come with an aging population. Not only did this initiative increase collaboration and open new channels of communication between departments, it also gave the advisors a chance to gain crucial insight into how the organization could better fill its target market's needs.

It accomplished this through severing ties to conventional process and taking a calculated risk. Large organizations commonly fear going against the grain because they are focused on short-term goals. This view, where near-term revenue outweighs potential long-term payoff, needs to be acknowledged and addressed before innovative thinking can be embraced.  

Introducing innovative ideas at a large organization can often feel like an uphill battle. However, once leadership is made to understand that there are ways to improve or create new revenue streams in the future by not following established processes, they are often more willing to embrace calculated risk. Selling the slow-burning idea may be difficult in a large organization focused on the short-term, but as evidenced by the success of the Immersion program, it is well worth the effort.