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Innovating: A Team of Teams Spproach at CROs

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Michael Gawkins, a director in technology, innovation and performance, advances ideas about the role of innovation in teams.

In a time of constrained budgets, shortened timelines, compressed personal space and complex protocols, CROs work to identify and recognize the next big breakthrough. A CRO strives to develop an innovation before its competitors, or in some cases, to share that innovation with the industry in the spirit of benefiting the many sooner.

And, as we do this, one can’t help but pause, wonder, and consider if our industry is operating at peak performance compared with other similar global business models. If not, why not? So, around we go searching for innovative excellence, seeking to find the next big hook that truly bends the time cost curve by leading, informing, inspiring, or sometimes simply nudging along our industry toward bigger and better things.

Innovation at CROs

In order to institute a corporate innovation strategy, we can chose from a multitude of formalized methods, models and schemas. But before we do this, do we understand if innovation is embedded into the DNA of a CRO’s corporate culture? Does the CRO expect, nurture, and recognize that innovation occurs at the tactical and functional levels? Or, only at the functional and enterprise levels? Or, all three in a layered, team of teams approach?

I premise CROs can and should deliberately and competitively innovate at all levels, while consciously identifying and lifting the wins from each into a layered-enterprise picture that blends “boots on the ground” savvy with enterprise-level strategy and resourcing horsepower. Why blend? Because tactical innovation must — and is — occurring all the time as our teams rapidly deploy off-the-shelf commercial and life innovations to better their efficiency, effectiveness, and localized site competitiveness.

Future strategizing

A team of teams innovation approach capitalizes from those who are in the thick of it, with those who have the experience, resources, and an industry-level optic. These rapidly occurring tactical innovation ideations, though likely not obvious big needle movers, perform as the connective tissue that moves the businesses forward in the space between the occasional major innovation evolutional wins. And, we don’t always have the time or resources to wait for the next big enterprise-level derived strategy. We need to invest and strategize for the future (probability, bets), but must win today in so many ways (certainty, wins).

In helping to develop life-changing therapies, CROs need our small, agile tactical team of teams out there scouting and operating daily within their spaces, aggressively ideating and iterating as quickly as possible to stay one step ahead of a competitor and a client’s needs.

To model this team of teams innovative concept, PPD deploys a form of centralized control that fosters, empowers and accounts for decentralized ideations, structured to comprehend and identify when something occurs in order to quickly and effectively link it within the larger strategic innovation picture. 

Michael Gawkins is a director in technology, innovation and performance.