The Picture of Competition, Cooperation, and Innovation Reply

Maya Laurent and her husband Patrick run a small, online photography business.  Year-round, Maya shoots portraits of families, high school seniors and events, and the photos she produces are fresh and unique.  But for all of their uniqueness, the Laurents were well aware starting out that the business would be a microscopic fish in an ocean of well-seasoned professionals.

Conventional wisdom says that competition is one of the necessary ingredients for any thriving business: from time immemorial, the drive to win has always motivated business owners, resonating with something in the human psyche that does not like to be beaten.  New businesses, however, are understanding that openly sharing ideas in cooperative communities is essential to remain competitive.  The open and connected nature of the internet supports this trend.

Instead of pursuing their business goals in secret, the Laurents used a few established online social networks to find and share new ideas, and an amazing thing happened: their tiny business took off.  The couple had discovered and joined a matrix of like-minded people who support, encourage, and promote each other.

As a result of the community paradigm, Pat and Maya are in a constant state of learning because there is a steady influx of ideas from the photography crowd.  For example, one portrait photographer has made a series of e-books and videos that are available to the photography community for a donation.  As a result, Maya has learned some spectacular solo outdoor lighting techniques, and is getting excellent results.  She is also being asked how she achieves certain images and effects, and is happy to share.  But as you might expect, things go wrong from time to time.

Tech-fixes and secrets in the photography world are not readily available from equipment manufacturers who would rather sell new gear than promote the do-it-yourselfer.  When Maya was having shutter issues with a very expensive DSLR camera, she feared they’d soon be spending big money for a new unit.  The camera maker, interestingly, had no do-it-yourself solutions on the web.  But the crowd prevailed in the end: a quick query of her new online photography community revealed a solution that saved her thousands of dollars.

Our Lilly COI team believes in this same spirit of collaborative sharing.  In clinical development circles, we can learn from the Laurents’ example and apply it to our research efforts.  It is really this kind of give-and-take that represents both the genesis and essence of Henry Chesbrough‘s definition of true “open” innovation:

“…There are two facets to open innovation.  One is the “outside in” aspect, where external ideas and technologies are brought into the firm’s own innovation process.  The other, less commonly recognized aspect is the “inside out” part, where un- and under-utilized ideas and technologies in the firm are allowed to go outside to be incorporated into others’ innovation processes.”

So in our efforts to leverage open innovation in the clinical development space, we are asking: What does the community around us have to offer that would improve clinical research?  What are the best places for us to share ideas and tools?  As we move forward, here are some of the experiments and efforts we are exploring in our project portfolio.  Instead of pursuing our business goals in secret or obscuring research that could otherwise spark innovation and accelerate knowledge, we are reaching out to the online crowd and leveraging the ideas of many brilliant people.  Specifically, our 4 Cs model describes the advantages of collecting, consuming, and curating clinical trial data, and creating communities around clinical development.

Where are the best opportunities for collaboration-driven innovation in clinical development?  Drop us a comment and share!

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