Where do the ideas for the products and solutions of tomorrow come from?

2019-03-19

Where do the ideas for the products and solutions of tomorrow come from?
How can you optimally combine a new and fast-paced culture of innovation with the processes of an industrial giant? Answers come from a start-up founder who now drives innovations at Siemens Healthineers as a Key Expert, and from the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Siemens Healthineers.

If you ask Silke Sasano what makes a true innovation culture, she spontaneously answers: “Focus on the customer and taking customer experiences very seriously. It’s all about driving innovation from a human-centric perspective. The focus is on the customer, the user and the patient and identifying new possibilities for innovation from this perspective.”

The start-up founder has been with Siemens Healthineers for 12 years now and is still surprised at how creative developers can be when realizing their ideas: “I only wanted to stay a year to experience how innovation is driven in such a large company. Now it's been nearly 12 years and I've always been able to push ahead with exciting and future-oriented projects. I really 'got stuck' with passion – and got to know a lot of people in the innovation environment who drive new ideas successfully with sparkling eyes, great expertise and a lot of joy.”

Siemens Healthineers CTO Peter Schardt has a simple explanation for this: “We live in times of rapid technological changes. To master them, we must see innovations more from the perspective of our goals, give greater space to our imagination and trust our own abilities. That’s why long-term, creative thinking – also experimental, with radical different viewpoints – has become critically important. That’s exactly what we need more of in the company.”

The signs point to digitalization in the healthcare industry as well. Especially here, believes Peter Schardt, interdisciplinary networking and knowing you don’t have to invent everything yourself is more important than ever before. In the past, innovators focused on improving products in their own business line. Today, we deliberately look for ideas beyond our own departments and beyond the healthcare industry itself. We often draw our ideas from other industries, such as the gaming industry, which was the first to use augmented reality. Today our customers use this same technology in their operating rooms.

An open mind and a readiness to tackle new challenges are requisites for looking outside the box. Silke Sasano stresses that this is exactly what makes her job so special. A dedicated Business Transformer Group, called T-Club, was set up, for example, to specifically promote interdisciplinary exchanges and the digital transformation at Siemens Healthineers. It’s clear we not only face technical challenges but need the ability to change the business and explore new paths. The group has experts and explorers who offer a mix of visionary business ownership, social influence, and the ability to develop new tools, methods and technologies. When asked how all these creative minds can be brought together as one team, she has a simple reply: “I have a good track record in getting people on board to try things in a new or different way – and make it a journey that people like to join.”

Just how open is an innovation culture when an idea doesn’t work out? Peter Schardt emphasizes that failure is part of the innovation process. “But we usually wait too long before we realize or admit that we’ve failed. If our failures are small and fast – and we learn quickly from them – that’s the kind of culture we need. We’re on the right track at Siemens Healthineers. Few people these days still see mistakes as failure.”

And yet, it’s still discouraging to realize you’ve made a mistake. Silke Sasano and Peter Schardt draw energy for taking new approaches in part from knowing their perseverance benefits people throughout the world. But Peter Schardt also emphasizes that we are a company and must convince our partners with innovations if we want to prevail as one of the leading providers of medical technology. For Silke Sasano, both aspects are a personal incentive. “Finding the right balance between people and technology in order to design, deliver and optimize our customer and patient experience for a true competitive advantage is always a challenge I love to tackle.” In addition, both are stimulated by the challenge to continually prove to customers of Siemens Healthineers through innovations that they have the right partner at their side for shaping the future of healthcare.

Interview with: Silke Sasano: Key Expert for Customer Experience and Peter Schardt, CTO of Siemens Healthineers since October 1, 2018