The Healthcare Innovation Boom: When to Explore it, When to Exploit it

We’re living in the age of technology. New tools, techniques, and processes are being created and adapted every day. Naturally, these innovations that are blooming all around us are having a profound impact on our current and future health outcomes. From brain-controlled prosthetic limbs to implanted heart failure sensors, the healthcare landscape is constantly evolving.

For innovation to adapt dynamically with the current landscape, there must be a delicate balance of exploiting existing resources and exploring new opportunities. Business leaders who understand when it’s best to exploit versus explore – and to balance the two strategies in harmony – will be those who find the most success is navigating the versatile terrain of 21st century healthcare.

When Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Exploiting existing systems and exploring new ones have their own unique pros and cons. Exploitation is based on refining, enhancing, and strengthening what’s already been established – from pharmaceutical research to surgical tools to health IT systems. Exploitation can be viewed as the “safer” route for innovation. Less risk is involved, since the building blocks have already been tried and tested.

It’s more reliable, but less radically innovative. Brands can develop and produce innovations at a faster rate due to lower overall demand in resources and a greater chance that innovations will succeed and integrate. As such, costs can be kept down and processes can be kept smoother and more predictable in comparison to full-blown exploration.

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Switching Gears to the Fast Track

However, an excess of exploitation over a long period of time can cause brands to become stagnant and systems to become outdated. To propel healthcare into the future, we rely on new perspectives. We need groundbreaking, disruptive innovations that alter the way care is conceptualized, delivered, and received. This is the where exploration comes in.

Exploration is high-risk, high-reward. It requires a more substantial amount of resources that must go into research, development, and implementation. Then, of course, there’s the very real risk that a radical innovation will fail to integrate into the marketplace. For a brand that has put all its marbles in the exploration basket, this could be disastrous.

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Striking the Balance

When weighing the considerations of these two approaches to innovation, we see that it’s critical for them to constantly work in tandem. This way, they can feed off each other to achieve maximum efficiency while still contributing to the evolution of care. Brands that balance exploitation and exploration can in turn balance their industry impact with the money, time, and other resources that go into their efforts.

As we progress, we can only look forward to the amazing changes that are in store for the healthcare industry. But as innovators, we must be strategic in our efforts to safeguard our progress while breaking through the healthcare haze.