In this Installment of BigTeam’s Feedback from Professionals blog series, we chat with Eli Scott, Director of Product Innovation at McKesson Health IT. According to their website, McKesson is the oldest and largest healthcare company in the United States, serving more than 50% of U.S. hospitals and 20% of physicians. They deliver one-third of all medications used daily in North America with operations in more than 16 countries. In an industry that is so dynamic, we wanted to get a feel for the role of product innovation feedback in Eli’s work.
How’s Eli Scott involved?
Well, as TechTarget puts it, an innovation manager is someone whose responsibilities focus on the development of new products, services or processes. They are skilled in project management, strategic thinking and leadership. They’re also capable of fostering individual and collective creativity, and they’re able to create processes and procedures for ideation, prototyping and production. Sound like a mouthful? Let’s here from Eli himself as he unpacks what his role means to the organization and how feedback helps him make a success of it.
The idea of product innovation was a lot more abstract when I started. There wasn’t a solid process and ideas were prioritized or built based on gut feelings or political clout.
I’ve witnessed a transition to a data-backed and market-driven process that is flexible and rigor-free enough to allow innovation to thrive despite the control. The process also ensures that ideas are less dependent on a corporate sponsor—which means that the best ideas can breathe despite internal politics.
It is critical to our innovation process – we have a series of phase gates that involve our leadership team and other stakeholders. We also have individual contributors (subject matter experts, customer liaisons, etc) at varying stages of the innovation life cycle that are crucial to the success of our new product ideas.
We have several people with great experience and expertise. Some revolve around technologies and others hold invaluable work experience that we often tap into.
The medical field is infinitely complicated from all aspects (practice, billing, payers, supply chain, etc), so I think the answer to your second question would always be yes. It doesn’t matter how plugged-in our team is, there’s always an opportunity to learn more or fine-tune something we are working on.
My goal is to always keep meetings simple. If possible; one topic, 30-minutes max, only the essential stakeholders and I try to end early every time. That’s not always possible, of course, but that’s my goal.
If I do end up with a larger meeting with more topics and people, I keep the meeting focused on the relevant topics by having an agenda and moving the meeting along as needed.
I like to orient my questions around customer problems and teach our teams how to interpret what an opportunity sounds like coming from a customer.
For example, if you hear a customer say, “It would be nice if…” or, “I hate doing this…” or, “Why hasn’t someone figured out…”—those sentences do not equate to customer complaints to me. Those types of phrases are a signal that our customer has a problem and that there might be an opportunity.
I, therefore, encourage our teams to listen for those types of signals and get the customers to complain even further about those items.
Keen to hear more from Eli and the interesting world of Product Innovation? Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow his updates as he continues to navigate the complex field of medicine—all while coming up with new products, solutions and processes to wow the world and optimize the effectiveness of his business.
If you like this, you can take a look at more Feedback from Professionals interviews on internal feedback best practices.