Interview with innovation consultant Adam Ward

Today our guest is Adam Ward Innovation Consultant for Simpler, an IBM Watson Health Company, from Columbus, OH. Although he has worked in the automotive, finance, education, government, non-profit, military and manufacturing industries, today the bulk of his work revolves around getting healthcare delivery organizations like hospitals, group practices and healthcare systems to introduce new services for their patients. This could include designing a care model for a specific patient population, introducing a new technology for delivering patient care or more. Adam's expertise is in the development process itself. We have conducted an interview with him.

How familiar are you in both success and failure modes of implementing a transformation methodology?

I've experienced examples along the entire spectrum from success to failure. The fundamental factor is always the leader. If that person is brought in and holds people accountable to the strategy, it can work. If not, it’s almost always doomed. It can limp along for some time, but eventually, the transformation will end. Having that leader’s commitment is the price of entry to transformation. You also have to have a methodology you're following and a coach(es) to guide you too. Tough decisions have to be made and things have to be done differently. The team that was in place before a transformation is rarely the exact team that succeeds. Detractors get moved out. Supporters get promoted. With innovation, it's a pretty fundamental change. That part of the organization usually no longer exists and must be built from scratch. That means funding. That can be hard as it is always a long term play, not one for the next quarter. Companies that can do it demonstrate serious results and get great press.

What challenges you the most as being an 'Innovation Consultant'?

The biggest challenge is everyone does “innovation.” If it were up to me, I called it almost anything else, even Cucumber. The word innovation confuses people. Once people understand that I define innovation as the process from idea-to-launch of a new product or service they can focus on the effort. I think the challenge then becomes what level of innovation do they want to do: do they want to improve existing offerings, introduce the next generation or attempt to disrupt their industry? Everyone wants to be a rock star but very few actually achieve it. The first part of my engagement focuses on level setting the client on what's achievable given their actual commitment level.

Do you feel the title 'innovation' exerts onto you a heavy responsibility?

Yes, but I gladly wear that mantle. I've been dozens of organizations across many industries and I've yet to feel incompetent or unable to challenge even the top thought leaders at clients. There is always something better and it's my goal to have the organization find it. As companies age, the tendency is to become less innovative. Many older firms have forgotten how to create new products or services that wow their customers. I help leadership teams see that and give them a methodology to get that skill back.

With the latest technological innovations, what do you think is the most interesting healthcare services that can be rendered in the foreseeable future?

My peers would probably say artificial intelligence or block chain. Patients don't even know what that means for health care. Ultimately the two put more power and choice into the hands of the patient. AI will allow doctors to focus on empathy and a plan of care customized per patient. Block chain will put our health records back into our hands once again.

Which technologies are the most exciting?

I personally get excited about AI democratizing medicine. For too long, doctors have held medical info over patients heads like priests did with the Bible when it was only in Latin. AI changes that in healthcare.

I think another area is IoT (internet of things). The more devices can communicate with each other, the more control we will have over our environment to focus on things we really like to do.

Virtual reality and augmented reality. The applications haven't caught up with the technology yet but when it does and the associated apps are available, it will fundamentally change how we interact with each other. It's as lifelike as it gets.

I don't think people can necessarily imagine the impact of these three. It will be as the internet and smart phones. We won't be able to imagine life without them.

Are you concern about the ethical issues?

I think the biggest ethical issues we face today are the algorithms data scientists write, the misapplication of AI and the gene editor CRISPR. Each of those can become quite nefarious if misapplied. Data analytics algorithms demonstrate unseen bias humans would normally recognize, AI could replace instead of augment humans, and CRISPR could wreak havoc with ecology and the future human race.

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