Basel, Switzerland — Part of our team is off to Switzerland this week to talk about practical ways to add innovation into your daily work. A favorite approach they’ll be sharing: fail your way to success.

If there’s one secret that the most innovative cultures in the world share, it’s this: the goal isn’t to prevent risk but to build the capability to recover quickly, learn, and adapt when failure happens. Building that resiliency isn’t just a cultural dynamic, it’s project-level thinking and smart budgeting.

Let’s start with the project-level thinking first and one tool we use all the time to build project resiliency and limit risk: the pre-mortem. 

It’s goal: To uncover all that “what went wrong” wisdom that surfaces in post-mortems before the project even starts.


The process itself is pretty simple.

  1. Identify people from outside your team who know the company and industry well
  2. Brief them on your project’s goals and your plan for accomplishing them
  3. Ask them: What could go wrong?
  4. Prioritize those risks within your own team
  5. Assign team members to create short, concise plans (primary, back-up, contingency) to be ready to deal with the prioritized risks


Let’s try it with an idea we’ve been talking about here. I’ll call it iBeacon marketing to doctors (pretty sexy title, right?)

Here’s how we’d use the worksheet:

Project goals:

  • Connect with doctors who want information from pharma
  • Deliver new education in the right place at the best moment
  • Improve use of our content by this niche of interested doctors

Original plan:

  • Offer each doctor a proximity-sensing device (iBeacon). It can be stored in a desk drawer or anywhere that physician likes to do her reading and learning. When the brand has new content to share, it will be delivered to that doctor’s mobile device when she’s near the beacon.
  • Use intriguing new iBeacon technology to earn attention
  • Have reps deliver custom beacons to target list
  • Use a quick signup to register each doctor’s preferences
  • Push new education based on interests and media preferences

What could go wrong:

Here’s where the ideas start rolling in. Like these ones:

  1. Reps can’t get in to see doctors on lead list
  2. Doctors may not know how to use beacons
  3. Reps may not know how to use beacons
  4. Distinct measurement against other tactics
  5. Beacon is lost, broken, loses battery power
  6. Doctors don’t complete signup process


Each of those failure points is really very addressable at the front-end of a project. For #1, we could use our CRM system to check the access rates of doctors on the lead list and identify another channel for those with tightly guarded doors. For #2 and #3, we could make sure the education around the device made it seem super simple and do quick, rapid prototype tests internally or externally. The list goes on…

The goal of using these tools isn’t to find reasons why you shouldn’t do a project. Instead, it’s to help people feel more confident about innovative products or ideas that an organization doesn’t have as much experience with. The pre-mortem lets teams find and tie up loose ends to build both support and potential for break-through success.

Budgeting is certainly the other critical factor here. We’ll cover that in the next post.

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation and Insights for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for building and scaling a global team of healthcare experts who together help life science leaders better understand the complex lives, influences and expectations of their customers. Specifically, they uncover actionable insights that fuel empathy and creativity; lead co-creation events that let marketers learn from peers, trends, and new possibilities; and help clients identify the most valuable and useful new customer experiences to create.

Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for nearly 20 years.She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she held several leadership roles at our largest agency, GSW.  There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business.

Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes.

A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. This year, she led over 250 experts to experts to focus on the most important changes in the commercial, consumer, marketing, digital and healthcare landscapes. (See reports at

Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice and Top 10 Innovation Catalysts of 2017 by MM&M, Leigh also was recognized  as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.