Creativity and Innovation – In Pharmacy, both may need an injection

Creativity and innovation are terms constantly used in the world of business, but what do they really mean in that context?
The dictionary defines creativity as:
“the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination”
For an actual example of creativity I turned to Seth Godin, and he did not fail me

“One of my favorite triumphs of all time happened on my first day of work at my first real job, 1984, Cambridge, MA. No voice mail in those days. I was employee #30. I walked in and there was a plastic carousel, about 18 inches in diameter, with 40 slots in it. Like thin slices of pizza, but 4 inches deep. Each slot had a sticker with a name typed on it. Not in any order, particularly.

Every day, when you went into work, you had to spin the carousel around and around until you saw your name, and then grab whatever pink slips had your phone messages on them.

Now, there are 100 better ways to do this system.
Faster and easier.
But 99 of them required getting a new carousel or device.

Instead, I grabbed a paper clip and put it on my slot. I could find my slot in a heartbeat now.

Within a day, the carousel was covered with flags and widgets and more.
Problem solved.

See the rules. Keep most of them. Break one or two.
But break them, don’t bend them.”

And that is a great example which brings the concept of creativity right to the level that can be grasped within a pharmacy.
We have all seen instances continually where staff has reinvented the systems they have to work with because it makes life easier for them.

The encouragement of creativity will depend on the leadership of an organisation and whether pharmacy managers have too rigid a style.
Rigidity of management through interpreting the policy and procedures manuals as the only reference point in decision-making, will crush creativity.
It is definitely not a leadership attribute.
Good managers interpret the rules and make decisions on a continuing basis. That is their function.

Seth Godin comments:
“The enemy of creativity is fear…In the long run, the enemy of fear is creativity.
I’m sure of it.”

The biggest single obstacle to pharmacy creativity has been the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which has allowed government to progressively hijack a large component of core business (dispensing) and actually “own” it.
The process dates right back to the original signing of the contract that seduced pharmacy to deal with a single customer, rather than the millions of patients individually.
That immediately created two masters to serve – the government, as a massive single customer, having customer expectations and views.
This could only create a model of commoditisation that would not be able to be controlled by each individual pharmacy.
It is far from being the best health system in the world as it is often touted.
The second master, the patient, had totally different needs that related to a high level of personal interaction and knowledge transfers to enable a patient to self-manage and interact with their health advisers at a higher level.
Because the latter was funded by what was left over from the PBS, there was obviously going to be a point of crossover where patients would become disadvantaged because of bad government policy.
That stage was reached in 2012 and has worsened since that date.

Fear has strangled any thoughts to create alternative methods to break out of these strictures, so we see cannibalistic models of pharmacy emerging, trying to survive by carving up the internal pharmacy market through price discount.
That is creating a “red ocean” of spilled blood – and that holds no future.

In contrast, as a country, Australia now ranks number one in the global index for creativity.
We have the ability as a nation, but insufficient ability within pharmacy.


Rank Country Technology Talent Tolerance Global
1 Australia 7 1 4 0.970
2 United States 4 3 11 0.950
3 New Zealand 7 8 3 0.949
4 Canada 13 14 1 0.920
5 Denmark 10 6 13 0.917
5 Finland 5 3 20 0.917
7 Sweden 11 8 10 0.915
8 Iceland 26 2 2 0.913
9 Singapore 7 5 23 0.896
10 Netherlands 20 11 6 0.889

This report presents the 2015 edition of the Global Creativity Index, or GCI.
The GCI is a broad-based measure for advanced economic growth and sustainable prosperity based on the 3T’s of economic development — talent, technology, and tolerance.
It rates and ranks 139 nations worldwide on each of these dimensions and on our overall measure of creativity and prosperity.
Perhaps pharmacy leaders collectively might be able to interpret the 3T’s of talent, technology and tolerance and reverse some of the negative policies and influences that affect pharmacy.
Break free from government control.
If they want to subsidise services on behalf of their voters, then they need to go directly to their constituents and subsidise them directly.
Pharmacy should not make the same mistakes again, but we still see no movement by leader organisations without government funding (or control).
We can do it ourselves from the “bottom up”.

Turning to innovation as a concept, the dictionary defines the action or process of innovating as:
“innovation is crucial to the continuing success of any organisation”
changealterationrevolutionupheavaltransformationmetamorphosis, reorganization, restructuring, rearrangement, recasting, remodelling, renovation, re-styling, variation; a new method, idea, product, etc. plural noun: innovations “technological innovations designed to save energy”

Australia is not a global innovative leader according to the Global Innovative Index, where we rank as number 16

Rank Country Percentage Rank
1   Switzerland 1.00
2  United Kingdom 0.99
3  Sweden 0.99
4  Netherlands 0.98
5  United States 0.97
6  Finland 0.96
7  Singapore 0.96
8  Ireland 0.95
9  Luxembourg 0.94
10  Denmark 0.94
 Hong Kong 0.93
11  Germany 0.92
12  Iceland 0.91
13  South Korea 0.91
14  New Zealand 0.90
15  Canada 0.89
16  Australia 0.89

There are seven pillars that are evaluated to create a comparison index.
They are:
Institutions, Human capital and research, Infrastructure, Market sophistication, Business sophistication, Knowledge and technology outputs, and Creative outputs.

If you objectively rate your pharmacy for each of the above “pillars” you begin to understand why pharmacy is in such a hole.
It is the entire pharmacy profession that needs an overhaul and as well, its industry partners, and it aches for an injection of innovation.
There is an enormous gulf between all players and all need to tidy up their act and learn to collaborate once again.
How do our institutions perform? Do we invest in human capital and our own research? Do we have the infrastructure to deliver what consumers need? Do we have our own market sophistication (not that of others such as franchisors)? Are we sophisticated business managers? Do we generate our own knowledge products and  technology? And do we encourage creativity in the workplace – and measure it or reward it?
Note that creative outputs comprise part of the innovation index.
It would be an interesting exercise for some economist-minded independent organisation to develop an innovation index for Australian pharmacy – maybe even a global index.
Because we are certainly part of the “global village” and we do need to be compared to the world’s best.

In looking for an everyday application for innovation I again turned to Seth Godin:

“Analogies, metaphors and your problem

Innovation is often the act of taking something that worked over there and using it over here.

Your problem, whatever it might be, probably has a solution somewhere in the world. And your organization is probably stuck because they don’t know what to do, and more important, don’t have the guts to do it.

An example in the real world that’s precisely about your particular problem, then, is fabulous because it not only shows you what to do, it gives you the confidence to do it.

Louis CK had the same problem of many comedians–too much time, not enough money. His pay-on-the-honour-system Internet special was a huge success, and of course, dozens of comedians (ostensibly creative risk takers) rushed to follow in his precise footsteps.

What were they waiting for? After all, Radiohead did a similar thing years before Louis did. Of course, they make music and he makes comedy.

“Oh, that’s a fine example of how a company in the hockey stick industry grew, but we make lacrosse sticks. Do you have any case studies of how a lacrosse stick company has succeeded?”

If you’re waiting for a proven case study, directly on point, you’re going to wait too long.

The skill, it seems, is having the desire and the guts to seek out examples by analogy instead of insisting on being a follower of someone with guts.”

And, as usual, Seth hits the nail on the head.
He summarises the condition of Australian pharmacy through a series of analogies and observation.

Entrepreneurs are noted as a special group of people who are continually innovating.
What ails pharmacy is its heart.
The local community pharmacy has lost control and given it over to others.
To retrieve it back will require large inputs of creativity and innovation.
That process has to be kick-started by every single individual before we are once again moving in the right direction.

It’s going to have to be paid for by you – not government.
So all leaders need to rise up from their lowly position on their personal frustum, and create a pathway to the top through innovation.
Meanwhile, we daily continue to lose ground until the leadership vacuum is filled.

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