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Unpeeling the Layers of Creativity and Innovation

Written by Kirstie Turner  |  Editorial Administrator, European Medical Group

Creativity and innovation have been described in countless ways; the concepts mean different things to different people, but this fantastic analogy comes close to capturing the magic moment of inspiration: “When you peel an orange and just get that smell of the fresh zest – it’s almost like that. You can’t do it again; you’ve got to pounce on it.” Kevin Loth VP, Corporate Affairs and Policy, Worldwide Markets, Celgene, shares this definition at the Power of Innovation and Creativity panel, which followed the HBA Women of the Year London Viewing Party on the 9th May 2019.

Panel host Julie Adrian, President, Europe Communications, Syneos Health™, opens the discussion by asking the panel to think about creativity and innovation: what is it and how is it used? After Loth’s orange analogy, Jessica Fine, External Affairs Director, Merck & Co Inc, takes the discussion in another direction; she believes that by defining the word, we are killing creativity. It should be a more organic process: “I actually think once you define ‘what do you mean by creative? What do you mean by innovative?’ you’ve stopped being innovative or creative because you’ve already put edges and a box around it.”

Fine continues by explaining that, to her, innovation is also more than just that first flash of inspiration: “Actually, that’s not the innovation. The innovation and creativity come with what you do with that and how you make it live beyond that first moment.” Loth gives us an example of how well this can work with Celgene’s brilliant ‘This is Axiom’ campaign, an ‘edutainment’ video using space travel to open the discussion of the future and innovation of healthcare. He says: “We did get tingling on our spines when the author sold us the concept, but all the work that went around that concept and seeing our employees getting excited about it rekindled our ability to have a discussion.” While the initial spark was important, it was the work that came after that really gave the project life.

The panel also shares some examples of how the healthcare industry are using innovation and creativity. One standout story is the partnership between the creators of the videogame Minecraft and Great Ormond Street Hospital. Fine describes the innovation which allows parents and children to “walk around the hospital and see where they’re going to sleep, see where they’re going to have their operation, see all the machinery in the room, and play with it and touch it” from the comfort of their own home, prior to the procedure. This is a brilliant example of innovation improving patient care and experience, as Fine continues: “To me, that use of AI, all the digital technology that we have and gamification coming together, is the most brilliant innovation.”

A challenge for healthcare in being innovative is finding the time in our everyday roles to be creative. Jo Pisani, UK Pharma and Life Sciences Consulting Practice Leader, PwC, discusses how to manage this: “We have a team that is just focussed on disruption. They look at trends, join our meetings, and come up with innovative ideas, and I think that forces us to think about it and to respond in real time.” Enabling creativity wherever possible is vitally important, and Pisani describes their focus for this: “Making sure we have people who think in different ways: lateral thinkers, sequential thinkers, all of those sorts of things, to try and breed that innovative environment.”

Implementing these discussions into everyday practice and then running with those initial ideas are both essential elements for developing an environment that breeds creativity: an atmosphere that can be elusive but is pivotal for an innovative industry. Loth concludes: “Be bold and take risks.” Take your creative meetings out of the office and work with your team to peel the orange and savour that first smell: the zest of innovation.