What Makes Innovation Districts Successful?

by Arlen Meyers

What Makes Innovation Districts Successful?

Open innovation, a rarity in sick care, depends on the free flow of information from inside to outside and vice versa. For that to happen, it takes a permeable membrane to drive osmotic flow of information and possible solutions across the separator.

Like a polaroid lens that allows you to see things only when the optical conditions are right, likewise, the barriers to open innovation impact depend on collaborations between several participants in the sick care innovation ecosystem to enable the free flow of information across the osmotic gradient. They include:

  1. Entrepreneurs and industry
  2. The public sector
  3. The academic sector
  4. Community participants and non-profits dedicated to improving socioeconomic determinants of disparate health outcomes
  5. Payers
  6. Service providers
  7. Domain experts, including regulatory affairs, end users, intellectual property, reimbursement and experts in clinical trial design and execution,

However, just putting dots on an ecosystem map does not guarantee the free flow of information. Sometimes, cluster koombaya turns into WIIFM.

One of the key determinants of an innovative organization or cluster is information rheology. There are three basic elements to the equation.

The first has to do with the number of nodes in the network, both internally and externally. Network theory tells us that the more nodes, the more value. Having one fax machine in the world added nothing. It took a lot to unleash the value , as the development of social media has exemplified.

The second has to do with how the nodes are connected. Some are robust and some are not.

Finally, and most importantly, the two previous parts are not nearly as important as the velocity, acceleration and lack of resistance to the flow of information from one node to the next. We usually refer to this as a cluster or innovation district being “user friendly” and is typified by the free and rapid flow of information from one place to the next. Malcolm Gladwell described facilitators in the process as mavens, experts and connectors. Clusters cultures either drive or hinder interplay.

Successful innovation districts have certain characteristics. In addition, cluster and innovation district success should be measured by clearly defined key performance indicators.

There are simply too many moving parts and complicated systems to expect impactful outcomes from open innovation when all the players are not at the table. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs are nimble, impatient and swift at adjusting and have little patience with the other players who are not. Sick care can’t be fixed from inside, but it takes a permeable membrane that separates those with outside solutions to be effective.

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Arlen MyersArlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org

One comment

  1. Jason Williams

    Yes, innovation is about connecting the dots (nodes) and if you want to connect more dots, you must add more dots to the canvas.

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