I know R&D. 

I have been lucky enough to experience world-class R&D, but I have also seen ineffective R&D. Often the R&D Leader is the problem. 

Here are 8 signals that you should consider making a change to your R&D leadership.


1) Lack of Innovation

You are not getting real product innovation from R&D. Your new products look like variations of the competitor’s products.  Meanwhile, some of your competitors are doing remarkable things.

2) Thin Pipeline

Your product pipeline is thin. Successful orthopedics companies win with a steady flow of new products. New products are the engine of the company that fuels the sales force.

3) Heavy Sustaining

Your head of R&D is constantly fixing or redesigning products that have been launched. You may now know it, but the majority of your R&D budget is probably being spent on maintenance. If it feels like there is a disproportionate spend on maintenance, check it out.

4) Risk Averse

The R&D team is not thinking differently.  Your head of R&D is not giving the Engineers room to experiment and make mistakes.  When your R&D leader demands that the Engineers “get it right the first time” he/she biases the Engineers to focus on the least-risky solutions.

5) Lack of Diversity

Your head of R&D hires “like-minded” Engineers from the same background or school. The result is that there is not enough diversity of industry backgrounds, project experiences, and engineering disciplines on your R&D team. Read more in the mingle article.

6) Poor Focus

Your head of R&D is carrying too many projects. This is a common mistake. Most R&D leaders do not want to give up on the more interesting “back-burner” ideas. Engineers may be working on side projects forever that never reach commercialization.  Less projects = more focus = more speed.

7) Poor Collaboration

Your R&D team is not playing well with Regulatory, Marketing, or Sales.  Infighting between R&D and other key departments will kill innovation every time.

8) Customer Distance

Your R&D team is not plugged into the customer, the end-user, the surgeon and healthcare provider.  Many R&D leaders hold their teams back by not allowing them to travel.  Innovation will be sacrificed. R&D Engineers should be in surgeries each week, period.