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Turning ideas into innovation

05 June 2019, at 9:00am

What did we learn from the ViVet Innovation Workshop Series?

ViVet is an ambitious and wide-ranging programme designed to ensure veterinary professionals are at the centre of innovation in the animal health sector. It aims to support veterinary professionals to engage with innovation and to encourage innovators to engage with the veterinary professions when launching new products or services. The programme is managed by the RCVS and was inspired by the Vet Futures research initiative, which highlighted concerns that “vets could miss out on developments in technology, if they fail to be proactive about grasping the opportunities”. It also identified how there was a pressing need for the veterinary professions to be proactive and demonstrate they “not only welcome, but are driving, innovation in animal health”.

The programme assists the RCVS to gain insights into the market and how it is evolving, allowing it to develop a regulatory framework that is adaptable to 21st century technology, fostering and supporting innovation, whilst at the same time protecting animal health and welfare.

A new series of innovation workshops not just for entrepreneurs or innovators was launched to help provide veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses with the tools to create new or nurture existing ideas. They can be ideas for starting a new business, a new product or new content, or even just inventive ways of talking about or marketing an existing product or service.

The workshops aimed to cover a broad spectrum of innovation methodologies and provide the tools veterinary professionals need to turn ideas into innovations. The first workshop took place at the Møller Centre in Cambridge on 16 January and was led by professional innovation consultants Guen Bradbury, MRCVS, and Greg Dickens, MRCVS, from Innovia Technology.

The day started with an explanation of the innovation process and an introduction to the tools needed to enable participants to explore their challenges, find their needs and have good ideas.

Greg explained that “Ideation is the fun bit of the process. It is the famous part that people think of when you say you’ve been innovating. Selecting and developing those ideas is harder work, and a lot more valuable.”

It is important to differentiate between a problem (eg “I am cold”) and a need (eg “I need to be warmer”). Understanding the root of a problem can reveal the exact needs that you can base an innovative idea on. There are various ways to identify a need. Guen and Greg outlined three methods that can be used: value mapping, story-boarding and consumer research.

Value mapping involves documenting a process and looking for any wasteful steps. You can map an entire business or focus on a smaller aspect. Start by defining each process step; track the value created or lost; and discuss what could be done better. Storyboarding involves following the needs of a stakeholder. You start by giving the stakeholder a personality, analysing the experiences and decisions they would make during their interaction with your business, then think about their wants and needs.

Depending on how engaged your stakeholders are, getting enough data through consumer research to meet statistical significance can consume a considerable amount of time and resources. To get the most out of this research, ensure that it is anonymous, provides options to select or rank answers and include a calibration question. “The simplest way to find out what your stakeholders need is to ask them.” If you don’t have enough data to be sure, go and get more.

To bring first-hand experience into the room, participants were also joined by guest speakers Andrew Francis, entrepreneur and founder of South Coast Cardiology, a visiting specialist referral service, and Adrian Nelson-Pratt, founder of the Emerge Veterinary Project, focused on improving veterinary well-being and performance. Both shared their own innovation triumphs as well as failures, in addition to supporting and facilitating practical group exercises. An AVS representative at the event stated that the one key point they are going to take away is “that an idea isn’t enough – you need to thoroughly think through the need for the idea and develop it”.

The second workshop took place on 20 February. Part one of this day focused on how to test your ideas and refine solutions. Guen and Greg again brought their expertise to help participants verify the assumptions around their idea are valid as a method to reduce the inherent risk and uncertainty associated with innovation. Guen and Greg gave insights into development methods including stage gate, lean start-up and design thinking, to provide delegates with practical ways to develop and test their ideas.

A key message was that innovation is an iterative process and “failure” is not something to fear; rather, it is a necessary element of innovation and entrepreneurship. It is a crucial means of improving and refining your idea.

In part two, participants were guided through the difference between business plans and business models. Using the case study of the Fintech bank Monzo, they went through the process of developing and refining a business model, looking at how to create, capture and deliver value to the customer. The critical importance of ensuring the components of the venture fit together to form a coherent whole so as to maximise the chances of innovation’s success was also discussed.

The day concluded with the experienced speaker Tim Bowdin, who engaged the audience by explaining the importance of storytelling in winning support and funding for your idea. He also outlined the building blocks of a successful pitch, whether this be to your manager, investor or peers.

Director of Leadership and Innovation at RCVS

Anthony Roberts, MA (Hons), MBA, DipCIPR, MCIPR, FRSA, is the RCVS Director of Leadership and Innovation. Anthony leads the ViVet programme and is responsible for the delivery of the RCVS strategic ambition to become a Royal College with leadership and innovation at its heart.

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