One of our pharmaceutical clients recently came to us with an innovation project: They wanted to dramatically speed up their production process. This client specialized in cancer-fighting drugs.

Drug development is, at best, a slow process that involves many regulatory steps and extensive testing. But this client believed it could still shave weeks off the normal development timeline if its teams were more innovative.

With our help, the company accelerated its process — more than anyone had thought possible. In the end, it brought the cancer drug to market 140 days before it was projected to get there. Every one of those days was worth $1.5 million in revenue to the company, not to mention the lives it was saving five months sooner than would otherwise have been the case.

Factors to speed to market

The lesson here: Innovation can produce dramatic financial growth, but only if several things are in place first. Among those things:

1. Creativity and imagination

Our pharmaceutical company was able to see a new way to get its products through a very old, established production pipeline.

2. Whole-hearted commitment

The innovation of the drug production cycle required a substantial initial investment, but a very unpredictable return on that investment. Most corporate cultures and most management structures are not designed for this kind of innovation. They are set up to produce predictable results. That means most corporations, even some of our client’s competitors, would have forgone the $210 million in revenue — plus the lives saved — that our client benefited from because it was willing to bet on innovation.

3. Effective execution

The company had to reinvent its processes to speed this drug to market. And the new processes had to work. That’s a lesson we’ve learned time and again: The most creative, innovative set of opportunities is useless if it isn’t translated into action and hard results, and effective execution can turn a market opportunity into reality — fast. And it gets better. Our client took a risk investing in a way to get its products developed more quickly. But now that the risk has paid off, it can apply the new process to products repeatedly — and profitably.

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