HBA New England region Executive Exchange program hosts “Building a Culture of Innovation” event

Executive Exchange hosted its end-of-year event “Building a Culture of Innovation” on Wednesday, 23 May, 2018. The event was sponsored by Ironwood Pharmaceuticals and was attended by more than 50 executives at VP level and above.

The evening began with testimonials from Executive Exchange members who participated in this year’s pilot program, describing a “deeper level of networking… better than anything I’ve ever experienced. Invaluable…” and a “very high return on investment.”

Keynote speaker Ellen Zane, CEO emeritus and vice chair, board of trustees, Tufts Medical Center, was inspiring. She spoke about the importance of corporate culture – “the bedrock of the company” – in fostering innovation and risk. “In leadership, innovation and change, you need to identify risks worth taking – not “wimpy” risk, but material risk – and “when opportunity comes knocking at your door you’re never ready but you just have to go for it.”

Ellen described a “keep it simple” communication approach in developing an innovation culture. Sharing examples from her own career, she likened the challenge of shifting the culture in a failing hospital to “turning a cargo carrier in the Charles River.” But at the close of her tenure, employees across the spectrum used her simply phrased and clearly articulated turnaround goals, such as cash on hand, to illustrate company success.

Lastly, Ellen described the importance of emotional intelligence vis a vis IQ. “IQ doesn’t matter; it’s EQ. It’s about valuing the people around you…you want to set up a culture where people want to be innovative…You can buy IQ. But EQ is so important…and it’s free.”

The superb panel discussion featured executives from across the healthcare spectrum: David Altshuler, EVP and CSO at Vertex; Wendy Carruthers, SVP human resources at Boston Scientific; Susanna High, COO at bluebird bio; and Runa Islam, head of planning and business operations at Aetna. The panelists shared personal and professional perspectives on risk, the nature of innovation, and how to keep innovation front and center in an organization regardless of its size and maturity.   

The speakers highlighted recurring themes:

  • Be willing to take risks and fail – but keep getting up again
  • Leverage the diversity – not only gender and racial diversity, but stylistic and experiential diversity – to get all of the best ideas on the table
  • Share the sense of urgency to innovate across the company, so the team will rally as one
  • Be flexible, open and transparent, learning from failures as well as success.

The Executive Exchange Program
The HBA New England Region is actively seeking participants for next year’s Executive Exchange program, kicking off in fall 2018. 

Executive Exchange addresses an unmet need of senior female and male executives in the healthcare and life sciences industry to expand their professional networks, advance their careers, and contribute to supporting gender parity at the highest levels in the healthcare and life science industry. 

The seven-month Executive Exchange program creates a forum to achieve the following goals:

  • Move women into higher levels of decision-making, including the C-suite, in the healthcare and life science industry
  • Lead change in industry or in companies on issues about which the executives feel passionate
  • Fuel executive insight and problem solving around gender parity, diversity and inclusion
  • Cultivate strategic connections resulting in high value relationships
  • Foster executive resilience during these times of accelerated change and innovation.

If you are VP level or above and wish to learn more, please email us.