Innovate In What You Do!
On this episode of People Always, Patients Sometimes we welcome Michelle Shogren back to the podcast. Hi, I’m Tom Rhoads, CEO of Spencer Health Solutions. We recently spoke to Michelle Shogren, a familiar face in the clinical trials industry, most recently at Bayer Pharmaceuticals. She recently left Bayer to form her own consulting firm called Innovate In What You Do! Michelle is parlaying her 25 years of experience fostering teams and developing an innovation mindset into her consultancy. Michelle and our host, Janet Kennedy, have a lively conversation about innovation, which I know you’ll enjoy on this episode of People Always, Patients Sometimes.
Janet Kennedy: (00:47)
Hi, I’m Janet Kennedy and I’m a member of the Spencer Health Solutions team. It’s always a pleasure to talk to Michelle Shogren on People Always, Patients Sometimes. We spoke to Michelle recently on an episode about innovation in clinical trials and the pharmaceutical industry. Today, we’re gonna be talking about Michelle’s new company Innovate In What You Do! Welcome back to the podcast, Michelle.
Michelle Shogren: (01:11)
Hi, Janet. Thanks for having me back again.
Janet Kennedy: (01:13)
I am so excited about your new company, but for those folks who might have jumped into this episode and hadn’t heard the previous one, do you mind setting the stage a little bit and telling us a little bit about your background?
Michelle Shogren: (01:25)
Sure, happy to do that. So I’ve been in the clinical trial space now for about 25 years in different roles of patient caregiver study coordinator, site, director, marketing director on that side of the fence. Then I jumped over into the CRO world as a monitor and on to pharma to be a monitor, country lead monitor, study lead monitor, and eventually working in process excellence, and then starting an innovation function. The innovation function I created in 2015 with a team of six people who were working on something called fostering innovation. And we were trying to prove innovation made sense in R&D other than coming up with just the molecule. We were able to successfully launch that and grow it over the seven year period to a point where they said, “You know what, you’re doing so much now, and it’s so impactful for clinical development and operations; let’s move you up to strategy portfolio and operations, and you can support all of pharma R&D,” which included 11 functions now, instead of just one. So obviously we were doing something right along the way, and now I’ve had a chance to leave Bayer and focus on some family and some health needs. And I decided what a better time to start my own company to try to help even more people and stay close to the patients.
Janet Kennedy: (02:44)
All right. So I guess we’re gonna start with a challenge. It’s very comfortable, sometimes working for a very big organization with a lot of structure and benefits and support, and you’ve gone 180 degrees and you are now a self-employed entrepreneur. I understand that through work in innovation, you have to think like an entrepreneur in a big company. Do you think that that’s laid the groundwork for your decision to start your company?
Michelle Shogren: (03:12)
I think it definitely made it easier for me. It’s also something that I’ve been considering and thinking about for a few years and had planned as a later in life activity anyways. So when the catalyst of change came, I thought, “You know what? We can just go ahead and advance it and make it faster.” But you’re right. It’s a little scary
Janet Kennedy: (03:31)
Well, there are a lot of folks out there to support you. That’s the one thing that I would share with you; I did come from an entrepreneurial background, was very involved in startup weekends and innovation programs. And it is the most collegial group I have ever run into. Everybody wants you to succeed and they’re all there to support. So I think even though you are pretty fresh on the entrepreneurial track, you will find that the network is there to support you. So there’s a little bit of encouragement for you going forward.
Michelle Shogren: (04:03)
Thanks, Janet. I needed that today.
Janet Kennedy: (04:06)
Well, tell me about the company itself, Innovate In What You Do! Why call it that and what is it all about?
Michelle Shogren: (04:13)
Well, you know, it’s actually, it was a phrase that our corporate innovation had thrown out one time in a presentation and had used it a couple different times. And I said, “You know what? I love this phrase because of the fact, it doesn’t ask you to do innovation.” It says, “You know what? You can innovate in the things that you do on a regular basis.” And that is my philosophy going forward. Why innovate in some other space? You wanna innovate in what you do. And it was all around the fact that how can we be better at our day to day activities, and how can we make a difference for people out there? I have a near and dear passion of patients. So of course, if I can use these powers for good of helping patients in particular, that would be great, but I really just have a purpose within me to help others. And I think innovating what you do can do that.
Janet Kennedy: (05:04)
Now. I sense that this is not a quick decision that you made and that this is something you actually have experience doing. So tell me how the actual services that you would consider providing in your new business relate to the work that you did at Bayer.
Michelle Shogren: (05:21)
So I have been consulting in some form or fashion for years and years and years, usually just pro bono, trying to help people out and give them encouragement or some direction when they were misguided. Either startup companies, tech companies, different solution providers would come to us and I would say, “Hey, what do you think about this or that,” in order to help them figure out, how do they fit into this world of pharma? How do they communicate better? And how do they think about their users at all the steps of the way? A lot of times when we think end users, we think patients, but there’s study teams, there’s sites. There’s so many different pieces that all have to come together to make it work. So one portion of in innovating, what you do is around innovation consulting and trying to help those same people going forward.
Michelle Shogren: (06:06)
So maybe it’s a pharma company trying to create an innovation function like I did, or maybe it is somebody who has an innovation function and they’re struggling with taking those ideas that they have, and actually getting them to incubate and moving them on to implementation. But it could also be other sectors in the same environment or ecosystem that we sit in. So other solution providers, tech companies, startup companies, things of that nature, but it can also be innovating in your leadership style because that’s another big piece that people need help with. And that goes back into innovating what you do.
Janet Kennedy: (06:42)
All right. So let’s go break this down a little bit and I’m gonna get myself some free consulting here. So here’s our scenario A – it is a company that really never had anybody with a title of innovation; they were just a traditional company doing the traditional things, but they recognized that maybe their process was a little stale or that they were doing business as usual so much that business was maybe even declining or productivity was declining. That’s a pretty big task to come in as an outsider and try to shift that. So how would you go about it?
Michelle Shogren: (07:15)
It depends on what their main problem or what they think their problem is. Sometimes they don’t even know. And that’s where we have the first stage of Innovate In What You Do! So I call it my ‘two eyes wide’ approach. Cause if you look at the abbreviation for Innovate In What You Do!, it’s I.I. – two eyes – and then W Y D – which also sounds like wide. So with this approach, we always have to make sure we know the problem itself and there’s different innovation techniques that we can do to ensure that we are thinking about this all the way around. And we really do understand what the problem is. If they have that figured out, then we look to see, okay, well, what are your ideas that you have to fix it? Sometimes they have ideas and they just don’t know what to do with it. And I can help them with that other times, they’re like, you know what?
Michelle Shogren: (08:00)
We just know the problem. And we’ve been kind of trying to come up with ideas for a long time and not have a much success. So in those cases, I can help with innovation workshops, design sprints, things like that, using my knowledge of seven different innovation methods, as well as facilitation methods that allow them to focus on the content and not how to get to a solution or a resolution. If they have the ideas and they need to figure out how do I incubate them for success? A lot of people approach things like regular projects, just typical project management. This doesn’t work for innovation. You actually need to know how to do innovation project management, which is an advanced form of project management. It allows you to do iterations and pivots where a standard project management doesn’t even know what to do in those situations.
Michelle Shogren: (08:46)
And it also has a huge focus on the user. And how do you bring their voice in early? And how are you testing along the way to make sure you’re on the right path and set up for success and building champions within the people that you’re gonna have to end up selling this to later on. And if they have an idea of how to do that, and they’ve gone through everything, but now they’re struggling to actually implement it. They’ve proven in a proof of concept. It makes sense. It totally has the benefits that are there and it’s doable, but they’re just failing at how to get that implemented either at their company, or maybe they’re trying to sell something to another company. That’s another piece that we can help as well to try to figure out, okay, why is this a problem? What do you need for a good pitch? Do you have all the data that’s necessary? Are you prepared for the questions they’re gonna ask? And then what are the tips and tricks that I can share from all the years of experience of being able to be proactive instead of reactive in this environment.
Janet Kennedy: (09:43)
So let’s go back to the companies that maybe accept the idea that they need to be innovating or they’re attempting innovation, but it really isn’t getting off the launchpad. A lot of the problem is most employees feel like I’m already busy. Now I’m already overwhelmed. I can’t get my regular work done. And now I need to go into a workshop and we’re gonna brainstorm some stuff, but I’m gonna go back to my regular job after that. How do you get people on board and then how do you make them or encourage accountability once you’ve finished a workshop?
Michelle Shogren: (10:15)
Great question Janet. Many times when we find the situation, I can simply ask them, “Oh, well, how long have you been working on this topic?” And most of the time, it’s not a brand new topic. It’s something they’ve been struggling with. And they say, “Oh, we’ve been working on this for months already.” I’m like, “Oh, okay. Well, how many ideas did you come up with in those meetings over the last couple of months?” “Oh, well we had a few, but you know, um, nothing really seemed to land well,” is usually what they say. And I said, “Oh, well, can you show me the list of ideas?” “Oh, well, we don’t really document them. We just talk about them.” And that’s big problem. Number one is that they’ve obviously spent a lot of time on it. And if I could have a workshop with them for two to three hours, bring all the right people together, ensure that the process was followed.
Michelle Shogren: (11:03)
I provide the time constraints that are necessary to keep from overthinking or chasing rabbits down holes we don’t need to do. And I ensure there’s documentation of all of the ideas and the concepts that come out of it. Now I’ve given to them what they’ve tried to do for the last three to six months, possibly in two to three hours. And if you add an extra hour onto that, I can give you your next step session, where we talk about jobs to be done. What are the first next steps? Because sometimes people think, “Oh gosh, there’s so much to be done.” And they look at the end, result, that’s out there and they get overwhelmed, kind of like me in housework. So this way I can say, “Hey, what’s just the first next step to get this moving in the right direction. Who’s gonna be responsible for it? And when do you think it’s realistic to get this step done?” And I’ll help them map that through in order to be able to ensure life after the workshop actually yields results. And you can bolt on a consulting subscription to it afterwards to help make sure they’re driving in that direction and see how they’re going along the way and where do they need help. And sometimes you just need someone to push you. You just need that meeting on the calendar to make sure stuff’s getting done.
Janet Kennedy: (12:09)
Even if it is the day before the meeting.
Michelle Shogren: (12:12)
Exactly. And many times it is, but Hey, at least it got done.
Janet Kennedy: (12:16)
So innovation also sounds hugely expensive. When you talk to companies, are you telling them that there’s no reason meeting if you haven’t set aside some budget to support the ideas that will come out of this?
Michelle Shogren: (12:30)
No, actually I don’t because you know, back in my previous life, when I was right out of school and going into college, I sold Kirby vacuum cleaners, and these were vacuum cleaners that cost about $1,400 to purchase. And I was selling them in rural south Texas, where people made that in the entire month of work. And I found a way to be the top salesperson, even though budget constraints were definitely an issue because if there’s enough value there, if there’s enough shown benefits, if you do your job well enough in researching and testing things, to have data driven decisions, they’ll find a way to find the money.
Janet Kennedy: (13:07)
Oh, that’s an excellent point. So I’m now picturing you going to door selling vacuums, and I love this idea in my head. And that brings me to my next question is: a great percentage of your experience has been in pharmaceutical industries, but everybody needs to innovate. So do you feel like the processes that you’ve set up, the programs that you’re going to be offering, that they are applicable to any industry?
Michelle Shogren: (13:32)
Absolutely. I think that the innovation piece of it provides the framework to be able to be applied to any place. And I’ve actually helped my friends in different industries innovate in what they do just as a friend. So I’ve helped a day spa figure out how do they retain their people that are working there, their employees, after they get trained, because they were all jumping ship. I’ve had a funeral home that was trying to figure out how do they have advertising in a situation like that that was quite difficult. So you can, you can apply it in any kind of area. One of the things though that I think sets me apart is the fact that I do have all the experience in all the different roles along the life cycle of a clinical trial. And that’s one reason why I’m predominantly positioning myself within this area still, cause that’s really where my passion lies. However, my daughter Ren, who is 26, she has come on as a creative director for my company and she has different backgrounds. She has actually worked for bayer as well for a year, as well as other medical companies. And she’s also done some really interesting, crazy things with auto dealerships and marketing companies and emergency response companies. So she’s seen a lot of other things and she’s gonna be able and available to help in some other sectors as well, doing some of the similar things.
Janet Kennedy: (14:58)
Well, that was going to be my next question, which is, there is no way you could do this on your own, so how are you building out your community? Do you see this aside from your very talented daughter, do you see this as something that is trainable and replicable so that you could have additional folks leading a workshop for instance?
Michelle Shogren: (15:18)
Absolutely. And I already have some people that have reached out to me and were interested in helping and coming to work for me, which is really exciting. I need to have the amount of work first for me to bring them on, but I have several that have experience with innovation, possibly even with me in the past, so that I know their skill sets and their capabilities. Because whenever you do a workshop, especially you need to have two people it’s so much better. And I also wanna bring in some diversity and mix because I really believe we need diversity and inclusion in order to have impactful innovation. So that’s another big piece. So I’m looking for people that could support also in different places around the world going forward, but I can’t get too far ahead of myself. Let’s see if this even takes off the ground first.
Janet Kennedy: (16:04)
All right. Then one last question, and it’s obviously self-serving because I believe the more podcasts the better, but I see on your website, you’re thinking about launching a podcast. So what’s your plan for that?
Michelle Shogren: (16:17)
My thought was I could interview different thought leaders about some of the things that they did as far as innovation, but we could also have some podcasts of talking about what you can do in these situations where it’s more of an interview situation. And we talk through what different tools could you do, some easy things you can apply in your day to day work and you can just listen to it and have it to take away with you. Some simple understanding the problem exercises or possibly innovating in under an hour, what you could do with your teams in a regular meeting, some of these key pieces to help them learn and grow and take away some valuable educational information.
Janet Kennedy: (16:56)
Oh, I think that’s incredibly exciting. Well, I wish you so much luck and success with your new company. I know we’ll be talking to you and working with you going forward, but I guess break a leg and I hope it goes very, very well for you.
Michelle Shogren: (17:11)
Thank you so much, Janet. I really appreciate you having me here today.
Janet Kennedy: (17:14)
You’ve been listening to the People Always, Patients Sometimes podcast, today with our guest Michelle Shogren of Innovate In What You Do!