3 Tips for Pharmacy School Innovation

As the pharmacy landscape continues to shift, pharmacy schools must take innovative approaches to evolve alongside it.

As the pharmacy landscape continues to shift, pharmacy schools must take innovative approaches to evolve alongside it.

Innovation was a key theme of the 2016 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California.

“In the world of pharmacy education, conditions are beginning to change more rapidly than before,” said Robert B. Tucker, president of the Innovation Resource, during his keynote address. “Innovation is an essential tool we have to adapt to those changes, but it is one that we must use correctly.”

He offered the following tips for pharmacy school administrators and teachers to best cultivate ideas that will allow their institutions to grow:

1. Identify Current and Future Trends

Because innovation is largely based on trends, Tucker advised his audience to consider what current pharmacy trends may reveal about the future of the profession.

“Whenever we observe a trend, we need to examine the larger implications,” Tucker explained. “While some trends are negative, some are a wave you can potentially ride.”

Predicting that the field will change more in the next 10 years than it has in the last 20, he pointed to the pharmacist’s growing role as a health care professional as an opportunity for pharmacy schools to innovate in their approach to education.

“As we move into uncharted future, the skills that will be needed and values will change, and the leaders and winners are going to avail themselves into this changing world,” Tucker told Pharmacy Times following the keynote address. “As the profession continues to change, schools and health systems will need to tap into the full range of pharmacist’s knowledge, talents, and skills to allow them to provide a higher level of care to patients.”

He cautioned against the belief that the future is intrinsically better, and he warned that innovation and change can sometimes prove disruptive. For example, he noted that the emergence of online retailers like Amazon has led to the declining use of brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Still, he remained optimistic that, with the right approach, innovators can find ways to mitigate or prevent these disruptions.

“For every problem there is a solution, and if mankind creates a problem, we have the ability to solve [it],” he said.

2. Seek Opportunities and Challenge Assumptions

Tucker also encouraged his audience to embrace what he called an “opportunity mindset” and remain open to change and growth.

“Our mindset going into a challenge is the most important thing we have,” he said. “We need to be constantly on the lookout for ways to improve, and not be afraid to take risks in doing so.”

An essential component of this is to recognize when innovation and growth are hindered by assumptions, and then confront those assumptions.

“Become aware of your own assumptions,” Tucker suggested. “…We need to assault our assumptions, as they prevent our innovation every time.”

3. Cultivate a Culture of Innovation

Lastly, Tucker emphasized the importance of maintaining a culture in which new ideas are nourished and allowed to thrive.

Noting that innovation is a team effort, he recommended that pharmacy schools make use of brainstorming sessions, quipping, “None of us are as smart as all of us.”

Tucker also warned that the wrong culture and leadership can extinguish any flame of innovation, and he advised that pharmacy schools identify potential innovators and help them develop their skills as both leaders and agents of change.

“The innovative leaders are out there,” he told Pharmacy Times. “We need to encourage and nurture those people and come alongside them.”

Highlighting his belief that there’s no singular way to transform or grow an organization through innovation, he ultimately encouraged his audience to always seek new ideas in both their work and their daily lives.

“Innovation isn’t what you do when your work is done; it’s how you do your work,” Tucker concluded. “You never know where your next idea will come from.”