I recently reread the book I, Steve – Steve Jobs In His Own Words. It’s a truly amazing read, full of inspirational quotes. As a consultant focused on the probability of success when commercialising innovation, the ones that relate to innovation and product development struck me the most.
The quotes make me think of the healthcare industry, where designing, developing and commercialising great products that markets actually want and will pay for is critical to a company’s success. Within the healthcare industry, there are quite a few companies that are great at commercialising innovative products successfully but there are also quite a few more that are not. What is it that those that commercialise innovation well do relative to the others? There are many companies that serve as great analogues when thinking about good product development and commercialisation – e.g. Apple, Pixar, Johnson & Johnson.
The following 3 Steve Jobs quotes are particularly helpful in thinking about some of the things required for a company to systematically bring great products to market:
1. “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas…”
This is a great observation. We often see clients trying to take on too many challenges, e.g. indications at the same time. It is important to prioritise and sequence. Saying no now does not mean the opportunity is dead per se, only that it is not a priority at this point in time given the current understanding. If circumstances change the project can be revisited.
2. “My model of business is the Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check…. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”
There are many examples of successful teams being comprised of functions or individuals that counterbalance each other. Think of creatives and suits within advertising. Think of Larry Page and Sergey Brin who founded google.
Within healthcare, companies often state that they have cross-functional teams working together for the good of a project. In reality though, how much say does market access actually have relative to other functions, during the early stages of a drug’s development? To what degree are they able to influence the development trajectory of an asset?
3. “The system is that there is no system. That doesn’t mean we don’t have process. Apple is a very disciplined company, and we have great processes. But that’s not what it’s about. Process makes you more efficient.”
There is definitely no one system that will guarantee success with every product on every ocassioan. There are however, processes that can, with the right opportunity.
I do recall speaking to a senior executive sitting at the helm of an unexpected blockbuster product that was positioned by the market rather than by proactive design. When I asked how he intended to continue the great fortunes of his business, he replied, “we cannot plan for serendipity but we can have a process in place to ensure it is taken advantage of when it does occur”.