Utilizing suggestions from clinicians and administrative staff is associated with process and quality improvement, organizational climate that promotes patient safety, and added capacity for learning. However, realizing improvement through innovative ideas from staff depends on their ability and decision to contribute. We hypothesized that staff perception of whether the organization promotes learning is positively associated with their likelihood to engage in problem solving and speaking up. We conducted our study in a cardiology unit in an academic hospital that hosted an ideation contest that solicited frontline staff to suggest ideas to resolve issues encountered at work. Our primary dependent variable was staff participation in ideation. The independent variables measuring perception of support for learning were collected using the validated 27-item Learning Organization Survey (LOS). To examine the relationships between these variables, we used analysis of variance, logistic regression, and predicted probabilities. We also interviewed 16 contest participants to explain our quantitative results. The study sample consisted of 30% of cardiology unit staff (n=354) that completed the LOS. In total, 72 staff submitted 138 ideas, addressing a range of issues including patient experience, cost of care, workflow, utilization, and access. Figuring out the cost of procedures in the catheterization laboratory and creating a smartphone application that aids patients to navigate through appointments and connect with providers were two of the ideas that won the most number of votes and funding to be implemented in the following year. Participation in ideation was positively associated with staff perception of supportive learning environment. For example, one standard deviation increase in perceived welcome for differences in opinions was associated with a 43% increase in the odds of participating in ideation (OR=1.43, p=0.04) and 55% increase in the odds of suggesting more than one idea (OR=1.55, p=0.09). Experimentation, a practice that supports learning, was negatively associated with ideation (OR=0.36, p=0.02), and leadership that reinforces learning was not associated with ideation. The perception that new ideas are not sufficiently considered or experimented could have motivated staff to participate, as the ideation contest enables experimentation and learning. Interviews with ideation participants revealed that the contest enabled systematic bottom-up contribution to quality improvement, promoted a sense of community, facilitated organizational exchange of ideas, and spread a problem-solving oriented mindset. Enabling frontline staff to feel that their ideas are welcome and that making mistakes is permissible may increase their likelihood to engage in problem solving and speaking up, contributing to organizational improvement.
The first case describes the efforts of Beiersdorf, a worldwide leader in the cosmetics and skin care industries, to generate and commercialize new R&D through open innovation using external crowds and "netnographic" analysis. Beiersdorf, best known for its consumer brand Nivea, has a rigorous R&D process that has led to many successful product launches, but are there areas of customer need that are undervalued by the traditional process? A novel online customer analysis approach suggests untapped opportunities for innovation, but can the company justify a launch based on this new model of research?
The supplementary case follows up on an innovative R&D approach by Beiersdorf, a skin care and cosmetics company. The case relates what happened to the product launched by Beiersdorf, to its Nivea line, following the events of the first case, and how the commercial success of the product informed thinking by leaders in R&D for the future.
Innovation requires sources of novelty, but the challenge is that not all sources lead to innovation, so its value needs to be determined. However, since ways of determining value stem from existing knowledge, this often creates barriers to innovation. To understand how people address the challenge of novelty, we develop a conceptual and an empirical framework to explain how this challenge is addressed in a software and scientific context. What is shown is that the process of innovation is a cycle where actors develop a novel course of action and, based on the consequences identified, confirm what knowledge is necessary to transform and develop the next course of action. The performance of the process of innovation is constrained by the capacities of the artifacts and the ability of the actors to create and use artifacts to drive this cycle. By focusing on the challenge of novelty, a problem that cuts across all contexts of innovation, our goal is to develop a more generalized account of what drives the process of innovation.
Selecting among alternative projects is a core management task in all innovating organizations. In this paper, we focus on the evaluation of frontier scientific research projects. We argue that the “intellectual distance” between the knowledge embodied in research proposals and an evaluator’s own expertise systematically relates to the evaluations given. To estimate relationships, we designed and executed a grant proposal process at a leading research university in which we randomized the assignment of evaluators and proposals to generate 2,130 evaluator–proposal pairs. We find that evaluators systematically give lower scores to research proposals that are closer to their own areas of expertise and to those that are highly novel. The patterns are consistent with biases associated with boundedly rational evaluation of new ideas. The patterns are inconsistent with intellectual distance simply contributing “noise” or being associated with private interests of evaluators. We discuss implications for policy, managerial intervention, and allocation of resources in the ongoing accumulation of scientific knowledge.
Teaching Note for HBS Case 610-074.
This case presents the Myelin Repair Foundation's accelerated research collaboration model for drug discovery. It highlights the challenges of building a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional research collaboration that is attempting to create a treatment for multiple sclerosis based on a novel scientific approach. The case provides details on how norms of academic research and intellectual property had to be updated to enable collaboration. The current dilemma facing the CEO and COO of the foundation relates to setting strategic priorities for research so that a treatment for MS can be ready in the next ten years. The strategic choices need to account for the complexities of drug discovery, the uncertainty of commercial partners' interest in the therapeutic approach and the constrained donor-based fundraising environment.