5 Tips for Innovating from the Inside

Sally Susman, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Pfizer 

In the health care industry, innovation is critical—for our business as a biopharmaceutical company and for patients around the world who rely on therapies to improve their lives. At Pfizer, science and our 25,000+ clinical researchers are at our innovative core. But as head of corporate affairs at Pfizer, I understand that the power of innovation reaches beyond our laboratory walls. We’re constantly experimenting with how we can support marketing, communications and brand management in new and different ways within a 169-year-old company.

Last October I joined four dynamic women—Nathalie Molina, Gayle Jennings-O’Byrne, Morgan Berman and Andrea Conrad—at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women to discuss innovation and, more specifically, how to take an original idea and turn it into reality. Each of us had a different perspective, stemming from our own experiences, but we agreed on one thing: innovation is mission critical for any successful, sustainable business.

Our panel “Innovation Quotient: Making Your Mighty Idea a Reality” sparked a lot of creative thoughts. I came away with five tips for innovating from the inside:

Tip #1. Be an insider.

Understand the business and become a trusted partner to your leadership. Take the time to truly grasp the business realities at your company. Once you’re seen as having that base of knowledge, you’ll be trusted to bring new thinking into the organization.

Tip #2. Take a time-out for creativity.

Carve out time to let your mind roam freely—to percolate. Whether walking to work or working out, let your mind wander as you observe the world around you. Often the best ideas come when you least expect them.

Tip #3. Pilot first.

A phased launch can often go a long way toward seeing how consumers and other stakeholders initially respond to your new idea.  For example, we did an online-only soft launch of our Driven to Discover the Cure ad to test the waters before airing it on national TV. 

Tip #4. Be nimble.

Not every idea works out and sometimes you have to shift focus or acknowledge failure. Do so quickly, without fear, but also take the time to better understand why it failed and to reflect on lessons learned.

Tip #5. Commit.

Make innovation one of your critical annual performance goals. Commit each quarter to doing something differently—even if it’s just trying a new approach at an internal meeting. Even modest changes spark excitement and enthusiasm. The more you innovate day to day, the more the instinct to do so becomes ingrained as you look out to the horizon. 


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