Innovation is essential for any orthopedic company looking to stay ahead of the curve in a fast-changing landscape. Yet, innovation remains a significant challenge for many Big Orthos.
In this article, I will explore the reasons why Big Orthos often fail with their innovation programs and how Startup Orthos have the advantage in this regard.
The Innovation Dilemma
The innovation dilemma facing Big Ortho is a “true dilemma” in the sense that there’s no right answer. On the one hand, it makes sense to optimize your strengths and invest in what you’re good at, which is the pursuit of excellence.
However, in a fast-changing landscape like we live in today, companies that focus solely on optimizing their strengths risk getting stuck on a local optima, unable to reach a higher, more fit place. The analogy is that they climb the local mountain, and once at the top, they discover the larger mountain in the distance.
On the other hand, the only way to get to a higher mountain is to climb back down into the valley and venture into the unknown, to invest in places where you’re weak, and where there are unknown product concepts, unknown regulatory and reimbursement hurdles, unknown margins, and unknown business models. This is a difficult path for Big Ortho, as they tend to focus on their strengths, not to let go of their success and venture into unchartered territory. This behavior is not what got them here. And many are stuck in the 90 day earnings expectation cycle. “Better focus on strengths again!”
The Startup Advantage
The Big Ortho weakness presents a lot of opportunities for Startups. Startups are often forced to operate in environments that no sane Big Ortho would want to be in, with unknown product concepts, unknown regulatory ad reimbursement hurdles, unknown margins, and unknown business models. The only reason why Startups operate in such environments is that they have no choice.
The advantage of Startups lies in their ability to explore the unknown without money, through trial-and-error, and a willingness to take risks. Startups have less vested identity and less business inertia than Big Ortho, making it easier for them to reverse course and pivot quickly when necessary. Startups also have the advantage of being able to discover innovations through exploration and experimentation, rather than trying to solve problems with money.
The innovation dilemma facing Big Ortho is a complex one. While it makes sense to optimize strengths, it’s also essential to venture into the unknown to innovate and grow the business. Startups have the advantage of being able to explore the unknown without money, through trial and error, and a willingness to take risks.
Big Ortho can learn a lot from startups and the importance of maintaining a startup mentality as they grow and optimize their existing businesses, even if they have to create entrepreneurial divisions outside the purview of the core business.