GENiE of Innovation Is Out of the Bottle

Global health care experts gather at IESE to discuss challenges of channeling and managing innovation

28/10/2016 Barcelona

Prof. Jaume Ribera | IESE Business School

In health, we need to first find the problem and then an innovative solution, not the other way around – Prof. Jaume Ribera / Photo: Roger Rovira

“How do we incorporate all the amazing new curative techniques into our health care system?” Asked Prof. Regina Herzlinger, of Harvard Business School, during the 1st European GENiE (The Global Educators Network for Health Innovation Educators) conference in collaboration with EIT Health. Herzlinger was just one of 88 prominent names from the health industry participating in the event held at IESE’s campus in Barcelona.

Moderated by Prof. Jaume Ribera, Herzlinger kicked off the conference in a session that raised questions around how we can best utilize innovation within the field of health, “to meet the cost, quality and access issues across the world.”

Founder of the GENiE Group, an organization created to make innovation a central part of the education of future leaders in health care, Herzlinger referred to the theme of her organization, as well as the two day event. Conceived in 2012 at Harvard Business School to facilitate the exchange of experiences between professors and other experts who work with innovation in health, this was the first time the GENiE conference had left the United States. It was also the first time that GENiE had joined forces with EIT Health – an alliance of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

“IESE was the ideal place to join the two organizations for the first time,” comments Ribera, “because the business school is part of both, but also because IESE is the leader of the group for executive education within EIT health, it is part of BAHM (Business School Alliance for Health Management), and a large number of IESE graduates end up in the health academia.”

Apart from Herzlinger, other key participants hailing from all over the world included Prof. Rifat Atun of Harvard School of Public Health, Siemens’ Nitin Bagrecha, Prof. James Barlow from Imperial College Business School, London, Stephen Bonner of Harvard Business School, Michael MacDonnell of the NHS and Sylvie Bove, CEO of EIT Health.

There were 8 representatives from IESE, including Ribera, and Prof. Magda Rosenmöller, who organized this conference and attended the first GENiE one at Harvard. Both Ribera and Rosenmöller are the academic directors of IESE's Center for Research in Healthcare Innovation Management (CRHIM).

Towards Smart Innovation

Experts at the conference addressed how to ensure innovation flourishes but is also well managed, to maximize how much reaches the finish line.

“There’s a lot of innovation,” says Ribera, “but it happens in different silos. Professional clinicians, policy makers, and business schools are all trying to innovate, but they are completely disconnected e.g. you have a lot of innovative devices coming from engineers, but they don’t know how to take them through the regulation process. We need to do more bridging between these groups, and we need to educate all of these groups.”

Of course, new discoveries are only useful if there is a demand for them. And Ribera notes a disconnect between matching the needs of the customer with the product. “What we find with most of these companies,” he says, “is they jump from ‘I just discovered something’ to ‘how can I sell it?’ But we should be searching for the problem before finding a solution.”

New Breed of Health Managers

Such a shift in mindset and practices has to start with education. Which is why, Ribera adds, “the schools should be investigating the needs of those that hire their graduates and providing according to them.”

Herzlinger agrees that only an altogether different approach to recruitment can facilitate major change. “As health care transforms, there is a greater need for those who can manage innovation,” she says. “Health care is recruiting the wrong students. Rather than syllabus-led graduates, you need to focus on selecting students with the right talent to lead change in your organizations. Not people who are content to have good jobs, but who want to run and build their own – entrepreneurs.”