SDA Bocconi’s Innohack: the victory of applied innovation

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Innovative ideas that become reality: it’s not just a catchphrase. SDA Bocconi’s Innohack is the new methodology developed by SDA Bocconi that is being applied to a new initiative, the result of a partnership between the School and the multinational pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, aiming to find new solutions for chronic illness management. The event concluded with the assessment of seven innovative projects that had to test their mettle in the concrete reality of the patients and the healthcare and assistance services intended for them. The projects, selected in January out of twenty proposals from various work groups, were presented at the SDA Bocconi campus on the final day of the initiative, after passing a validation phase of qualitative research and field trials. The Scientific Committee—consisting of three BI experts, an SDA Bocconi faculty member, and a Deloitte consultant—chose Innohack’s winning project among them.

Chronic illness management is seven strong
It’s about seven initiatives led by just as many groups, for a total of 41 participants. They addressed the innovative management of several types of chronic illnesses, one of the most critical points in the public healthcare and social assistance system. Several common considerations arose regarding chronic situations. Among them, mainly, the involvement of several subjects in addition to the patient, and thus the existence of complex and delicate networks; in addition, the impact of the treatments on the lifestyle, and thus the need for the patient’s active participation. The projects that were examined dealt with different pathologies, from cardiovascular problems to asthma, from diabetes to obstructive pulmonary disease. They all suggest taking a new look at the problem of chronic illnesses, and offer original and “holistic” solutions. In other words, it was clear to everyone that there is a need to go beyond the clinical aspects of the pathology and to address the person as a whole, immersed in his or her daily life, their own “reality”.

A “contest” where quality of life is the winner
The winning project chosen by the Scientific Committee has the word “reality” in the title itself: The “Diabetes Reality Contest” suggests an original way to tackle the difficulties of those who suffer from diabetes and the different aspects in their daily lives (medical assistance, nutrition, lifestyle). It’s a sort of competition, “Masterchef-style”, that follows the typical day of a group of diabetic patients and the problems that surround them. The objective is to test strategies and make them “win” to find the most efficient way to take on the therapy and to improve their quality of life. During the experimental phase the project proved to be highly appreciated: out of the sample of patients that were interviewed, more than 80% would certainly follow the program, and half would participate in the program themselves. The winning project, which was awarded 15,000 euro, could actually be carried out by Boehringer Ingelheim.

The selection of the final projects, and later the choice of the winner, clearly show the philosophy that Innohack is based on: the fostering of an “operational creativity”. There are many evaluation criteria, and they all refer to the idea (the level of innovation and the coherence between the initial situation and the objective to be attained, paying particular attention to keeping the patient at the center of it all), the project (its efficacy as regards the problem to be solved, the variety of stakeholders involved, technology and tools to support the suggested solutions, medium- and long-term sustainability), and its presentation as well (formal requirements, clarity, and explanatory comprehensiveness).

A successful formula
SDA Bocconi’s Innohack confirms the effectiveness of this methodology in producing innovative ideas that can be applied rapidly and effectively. It’s a methodology that doesn’t stop at the creative part, but also gives plenty of space to validating the ideas. Mikkel Draebye, SDA Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, and in charge of the project, says: «It’s difficult to understand whether an idea is good or not beforehand. Many ideas are only good on paper, on in someone’s head. In the world of innovation there is not such thing as an “eureka” moment, no one can foresee if and when an idea will work in a complex environment. You can only get results by working in the field. It’s a method that comes from the start-up world, where testing and correcting times are tight.»

Of course, the effectiveness of the formula also depends on the active participation of all the subjects involved. In this case a factor that contributed to the success of the initiative was certainly the philosophy of the partnering company. «In Boehringer Ingelheim we have embarked on a process focused on a value-based approach,» said Sabine Greulich, President of the Group, at the end of the Innohack event. «We aim to foster and support the development of a better and sustainable healthcare system; we believe that value rises from innovation, and that any project is possible if it’s based on cooperation. Our guiding principles are: put the patient at the center, listen to the stakeholders to align our offer to their needs, and invest in diversity, exploring and integrating all the perspectives of those we speak with.» Talking to the participants, she concluded: «The Innohack project incorporates all these principles. Today we thank you for all your projects, through which we’ll create value together, both for the patients and for the healthcare system as a whole.»

SDA Bocconi School of Management

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