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Where Should Innovation Be Conducted and by Whom?

There’s no one “correct” philosophy of innovation. Individuals, institutions, commercial entities, academic medical centers (AMCs), and research universities all have differing philosophies regarding commercialization of creative thought. One of our jobs as innovation leaders is to strive to understand these differences and unite and harness them in support of mission.

This chapter first touches on what philosophies motivate the individual innovator and dominate the thinking of the leaders charged with managing the innovation function at Cleveland Clinic. Next, it describes why the new locus of U.S. medical innovation is no longer industry, but our AMCs and research universities, and why it’s crucial to understand and embrace this paradigm shift. Finally, it explores why convergence of the innovation philosophies in healthcare and higher education, the two bastions of mission-driven innovation, can have broad, positive effects on innovation.

An Innovator’s Individual Philosophy

The concept of mission-driven innovation, as practiced by Cleveland Clinic and many of our sister institutions, is growing in understanding and gaining in popularity. What does it take to nurture it? The two main factors are presence of an innovation champion and buy-in at the top. If an organization identifies and empowers an innovation advocate, it positions itself to follow through and be successful in the practice. Furthermore, if the top executives prioritize innovation as a core value and competency, creativity will thrive.

For most physician-innovators, there’s always been inspiration beyond living the Hippocratic oath, wanting to help people, and seeking financial reward. It’s also the thrill of pursuing the unknown against considerable odds. I’ve long been inspired by the 140-word “man in the arena” excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 speech at the Sorbonne, Citizenship in a Republic.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.1

Some might judge this stance as contradictory to the disciplined, metrics-driven process of Cleveland Clinic Innovations (CCI). How can one disengage conduct from consequence? At its heart, innovation is about “daring greatly” and is performed by those “in the arena.” In a field where failure is so ...

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