Barriers Are Fuel For Innovation

Blog Post Innovation that Creates New Value

The pressure to deliver blockbuster drugs is immense in the pharmaceutical industry.

Blockbuster drugs take years to develop, and it’s easy for innovators to focus all of their attention on the next big thing, creating gaps in the pipeline. When blockbusters near the “patent cliff” – the time when patents expire and the drugs are switched to over-the-counter sales – there’s pressure to replace that revenue stream.

Companies also are feeling a heightened scrutiny from the Federal Drug Administration. All of these barriers can box a team into a corner and squash innovation.

But there are ways to use these barriers as a way to further innovation.

Our firm worked with a team that was charged with switching a drug to the OTC market. It got some disappointing news when the FDA said it wouldn’t approve the switch. We helped the team respond to the issues, and they sent off their response in record time.

Some teams may have been discouraged that years of work were shot down by the FDA. Such a barrier could have killed their enthusiasm and caused them to either delay their response or give up altogether.

This team didn’t take no for an answer. It used the FDA’s rejection letter to point them in a new direction. They worked through the answers and the impact and were able to turn it around. Their efforts paid off, and the FDA approved the switch.

The impressive part was watching the team innovate around the barriers. Solutions that don’t come easily are often fuel for innovation and breakthroughs.

Resolving big constraints typically results in big outcomes. Of course, incremental improvements or line extensions don’t cause as much tension since they are minor changes and the risk is lower. But the return won’t be as fruitful as a business model transformation, product innovation, or a new go-to-market strategy.

Taking on something that is truly innovative will have some natural level of tension to it, and it’s actually a sign you are on the path to something transformative.

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