What we do

Expert advice on structuring, forming, and implementing collaborative partnerships

To have a good collaborative partnership you have to understand the perspective of the individual. The aim is to integrate different perspectives and work on something together that benefits all partners. Working in a collaborative partnership does not mean you should settle for compromise.

We help you do the hard work of identifying synergies. This starts with understanding the ‘why’ for each individual partner. We map the benefits each partner is seeking onto a ‘collaboration value matrix’ that maps individual partner benefit against the common benefits of the collaborative partnership. If the objectives of a project do not meet, or exceed the needs of an individual partner we advise that they not be engaged as a partner.

Our experience is extensive, and we can help provide advice on the governance, implementation, risks, and strategy for having a highly effective collaborative partnership. We can do this on an organizational or individual level. This can take the form of traditional consulting or for individual ongoing support the form of a ‘Master Mind’ group that serves to advise, educate, and provide implementation for individuals looking to increase the value they get out of collaborations.

 

Facilitation of structured discussions between diverse stakeholders.

Integrating the input of diverse stakeholders is not easy. Sometimes different stakeholders seem to be talking a completely different language. We have facilitated well over 5.000 stakeholder discussions and we put that expertise to use in innovative ways

Think Tanks

Our approach to forming a collaborative project involves first getting the individual perspective. This is then brought together around a ‘collaboration canvas’ which we have created by adapting the business model canvas. We then facilitate a discussion with the different stakeholders/or partners with the collaboration canvas providing the structure. This helps participants think beyond the typical discussion topics and understand aspects such as what is unique about the project, what the impact will be, and perhaps most importantly what the value proposition is. Our experience is that researchers and clinicians find this approach illuminating. It truly forms the basis

Discussion games

When you have a broad spectrum of stakeholders, more effort needs to applied to achieving a meaningful dialogue. We use discussion games to increase the interaction between stakeholders. A discussion game typically involves a bit of role playing and a framework for getting input from all present. We either use an established game framework such as ‘Play Decide’ or we create one for you depending on the circumstance. Discussion games are excellent for gaining an understanding of different perspectives and building a team to deliver some concrete outputs. They are particularly useful for addressing policy issues and getting meaningful patient input.

 

Application of business principles to make collaborative partnerships sustainable and more impactful

Most collaborative projects have a finite amount of funding, or have to be developing in such a way that they are sustainable. This requires business thinking.

We use our knowledge of business development couple with our knowledge of science and project management to bring specialised expertise to the problem of making medical innovation projects sustainable. Like all of our services we can help you integrate multi-disciplinary expertise to deliver sustainability plans that are more than a bunch of nice projection graphs.

We apply a lean start-up methodology. The lean in ‘lean start-up’ does not necessarily mean ‘cheap’. It is an approach the relies heavily on a series build-test-validate iterative cycles. This is not unlike how most science is conducted. The point is that if you spend all your time planning and not testing you are likely going to miss opportunities and develop a plan that has no chance of success.  The value of plans developed with such an approach is the they are grounded in reality and backed up with evidence of their feasibility.

Assessing and adapting to ensure objectives of individual partners and those of the project are being met

A characteristic of successful projects is that the plan is continuously adapted. The trick is to remain true to the shared vision. This requires more than meeting milestones and writing adequate deliverable reports.

We help assess the project dynamically in terms of the process of collaboration. Partners who no longer believe in the shared vision can become an anchor that holds a project back. By maintaining an integrated view of all that is taking place we can help project leaders maintain the fitness of the collaboration. This also requires an almost constant process of planning and implementing new adaptations.

By facilitating issue oriented conference calls and meetings we build understanding of how the project is progressing and who is contributing. We can also implement a process of stand up calls and task/action tracking that delivers at least certainty that issues are being address.

We apply the methodologies described in Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done. Being able to clearly define what the next action should be and who is going to carry it out can make a world of difference in terms of the rate of progress. We also organize projects using the online collaboration platform Teamwork.

We provide business developers, programme managers, project managers, and executive assistants who are focused on the process of collaboration. This helps to assure that both strategic tactical considerations are considered and acted upon.

Integration of multiple perspectives to creatively resolve barriers to progress

It is easy to think that creativity ceases once you have the ideas and concepts that form a project nailed down. It is our experience that the most creativity is required during implementation of a project. The dynamic between multiple disciplines and perspectives can be harnessed to deliver a level of problem solving that far exceeds the speed of even the most diligent and determined individuals working on their own. One underappreciated source of creative input is that of stakeholders such as patients who can bring a perspective and diversity of expertise that is not present in typical project participants.

We are experts in facilitating the genius of a group. We have facilitated over 5.000 multi-stakeholder discussions and know how to listen to identify the creative solutions. It is often about making sure that all perspectives have been considered. Group genius is the underappreciated strength of collaborative projects; we make sure your project makes good use of group genius. We are also experts in the integration of diverse stakeholders into a project in a meaningful way.

Neutral moderation that transforms conflicts into opportunities

Conflict is a risk and an opportunity. When there is conflict it means that not everyone’s perspective is being properly integrated. Calm and appropriate resolution of conflict always improves a collaborative project. Conflict that is allowed to become personal and emotional will destroy a project.

We function as neutral moderators to help you get the most of the inevitable conflicts that occur in collaborative projects. Sometimes this means even provoking a conflict when there are issues that are lurking in the background which no one is discussing. We work closely with project leaders and provide advice and support for coming to a rapid resolution.

Achieving a truly collaborative partnership through a process of continual communication

A truly collaborative partnership is about working together to achieve a common goal. This means that you need to create a team that includes members of diverse partner organizations. If you only meet every three months or less you won’t have an integrated team.

It is also important to have iterative discussions. It is often that it takes time once you have heard about an issue or an idea to think it through properly. It is the insights you have when your mind is more quiet that lead to creative solutions to problems. If you have to wait too long to discuss those insights with your partners, chances are they will be lost.

Our system for continual communication centers on issue centered conference calls. We track each issue until it is resolved and capture not only decisions and actions but also the just of the discussion. This provides the right amount of structure and focus to enable the emergence of creative genius in a group. This also helps to assure that all partners are informed and have the opportunity to contribute.

Reduced administrative, planning, and communication hassles, more innovation.

Collaborative partnerships require a specialized type of logistical support. The simple fact that you have to work between organizations creates logistical challenges you do not have when working internally. Indeed, logistic hassles can bog down the process of collaboration, and are undoubtedly a major source of collaboration fatigue.

We provide collaboration logistics experts who make the process of running a collaborative partnership much more efficient. This can range from the difficult challenge of arranging conference calls with multiple people with challenging schedules to the bureaucratic challenges of project reporting. You focus on innovation; our experts will make sure the logistics are handled.

Impactful communication about your innovations

An innovation no one knows about has no impact. Being able to frame innovations in terms of value propositions and impact requires both understanding the innovation and the principles of marketing. You also need to be savvy about methods of dissemination and content generation.

We have ample experience in disseminating the outputs of collaborative projects. We can help with websites, social media, and document preparation. This includes blogs, white papers, as well as scientific publications. We can set up a publication process that has been proven to generate and track substantial output from a collaborative partnership. Perhaps more importantly we also can integrate stakeholders such as patients into the process.

Truly innovative projects born out of group genius

It is very satisfying to see a basic concept evolve into an exciting project that generates enthusiasm. This happens when there is a convergence of expertise and perspective across multiple disciplines. And that is the challenge. Getting people to think together and develop a concrete concept for a project is not easy.

While integrating multiple perspectives is a challenge the opportunity to do so is also a strength. When facilitated and structured in an iterative manner the conflicts of a diverse group of experts can be turned into group genius. This requires identification of the connections and synergies between the ideas and concepts that are being discussed. We help by facilitating the discussion and providing some lateral thinking as a neutral moderator. This helps to identify some of the connections and opportunities that are easy to miss when you are focused on your own area of expertise.

Integrating the objectives of individual partners into the bigger picture of a collaborative project

Forming the concept of an innovative project requires an iterative approach and continual communication. We help facilitate this process and provide project frames around which the discussion can be put into a set of concrete tasks and plans.

We use a ‘collaboration value matrix’ to integrate the individual benefit with broader common benefits. We also apply our business thinking skills to frame the developing project in terms of value proposition and impact.

Project plans that strike a perfect balance between structure and flexibility

Project planning can seem too restrictive. Science and innovation happen best in an iterative manner. Yet, some degree of planning is needed, if anything just to make sure there is enough resource to feasibly achieve the aims of the project.

We help you achieve the right balance between vision and feasibility. We help shape your ideas into quantifiable tasks, milestones, and deliverables that allow for a degree of flexibility so that you can still take advantage of opportunities that arise. Don’t worry about the dreaded Gantt chart, we have got that covered too.

Being a leader in medical innovation is itself a discipline. Accordingly, there are skill sets that everyone needs to develop and continually improve upon, regardless of where you are at in your career. We offer Masterclasses and Mastermind Groups on some of these types of skill sets for which we have expertise.

A Masterclass is an interactive workshop that can be organized for one day or over 2 or more days. The emphasis is on interaction and the production of concrete outputs that can be used by the attendees when they have finished the Masterclass. We can organise a Masterclass for your organization and we organise a number of Masterclasses for which individuals can register.

A Mastermind Group is a group of current or future medical innovation leaders who meet on a regular basis under the guidance of a facilitator who has expertise in the topic. It is meant to be an ongoing workshop, a forum for tacking challenges individuals may have in their projects, and an accountability group. Practical guidance will be offered for implementing best practices and the group works to helps you to implement those best practices. We don’t take just anyone into a Mastermind Group. There is an application process. Those who have attend a Masterclass will be given preference. You can join ongoing groups or form your own. For example, the leads of a number of work packages or a particular group of principle investigators could form a Mastermind Group that serves as means of helping each other and avoiding pitfalls in a particular project.

Types of Masterclasses and Master Mind Groups

Transferable skills for career development

During your training and thereafter you are often faced with a conundrum. Do I stay in academia or go for a non-academic career? The good news is that you don’t need to make that decision until an opportunity arises. You would, however, be best served by building transferable skills that help you both in your academic research and are applicable to a nonacademic career.

Our transferable skills Masterclass and Mastermind Groups focus on approaches and strategies of improving your skills for fulfilling your needs as a researcher. We emphasis researcher’s needs as defined by a researcher’s needs pyramid: Funding, techniques, data, publications, efficient working, collaboration, and contributing to step changes in your field. Using our experience and knowledge in researcher, project management, and business, we help you to deploy approaches to meeting your needs faster. The concrete outputs are an CV that helps you to stand out for what is really important, the introduction of your seminal research manuscript, a framework for your next grant funding proposal, and a roadmap for your career.

Effective collaborations

There is a whole slew of methodologies you can employ to make your collaborations more effective. Collaboration is after all one of the most important strategies you can use to ensure that you can contribute to major step changes in your field.

The effective collaboration Masterclass and Mastermind Groups will help you deploy methodologies in collaborations for effective working such as a Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done and agile project planning. You will also learn how to facilitate a discussion between experts and how to turn conflicts into opportunities. The concrete outputs are the mapping of your collaborations onto a value collaboration matrix, actionable project plans, and an organization system for yourself and your collaborations.

Grant funding proposal preparation

Grant funding proposals can be a major time sink for your efforts with a high risk of little or no return. We teach you the approach we have used to prepare numerous proposals in an efficient and collaborative manner. You will learn how to build a concept by tapping into the group genius of a number of partners, how to frame and plan your proposal preparation process, how to produce a budget and project plan, and how think about and write aspects proposals such as impact and dissemination that are not within the typical repertoire of a researcher. The concrete outputs are a frame for your proposal, a project plan outline, a budget template, and outlines for impact and dissemination sections.

Maximizing the value of translational research datasets

Being able to handle and analyze translational research data is becoming a primary skill that every researcher needs. Using our experience with the project eTRIKS, we convene iterative Masterclasses and Mastermind groups that help you understand and deploy the systems you need to compete today as a translational researcher. A hands on experience is delivered with live exploration of either publically available datasets or your own datasets. The concrete output from these is an implementation plan for making the most out of your data.

Through our work on the project eTRIKS, we developed a network of providers who can help you maximize the value of your research project data.

Handling the diverse data requirements of a collaborative project

Just like everything else is collaborative projects, handling the data that is generated is different than what you do internally. In most collaborative projects the data these days is very complex and coming from many diverse sources.

Managing access

First off, you need a place to put the data that can manage access across multiple sites. You really don’t want to have to be emailing datasets back and forth. That also creates a risk that data gets changed or altered.

Through the eTRIKS network we can help projects set up a system that will make managing access efficient.

Integrating diverse datasets

An often underappreciated aspect is that different data sources mean different data models and if you are going to handle them centrally and most efficiently they need to be integrated. The real challenge is that in order to integrate these datasets they need to be transformed and that transformation often requires someone data, research, and clinical expertise.

The eTRIKS network has service providers as members who can perform this task for you efficiently, or set up processes using open source tools to do this. The eTRIKS/tranSMART platform provides is a platform with a defined data structured which are your datasets can be transformed into. We can also help you establish a collaborative curation process where all the needed expertise is brought together to curate the data obviating the need to find someone who can do it all.

Exploring data before you engage the statisticians

The breadth and complexity of today’s datasets means that there is a wealth of data to be anlaysed. There simply are not enough statisticians to do all the analysis that is necessary. The eTRIKS/tranSMART Platform and the data visualization and analysis plugins allows researchers to explore datasets before they engage the statisticians. This makes the process much more efficient and faster.

We can help you set up a platform that allows for exploratory analysis. We can also run a Think Tank or data hackathon where a collaborative approach to data analysis is conducted.

Preserving your data

When a project’s funding is finished, how do you preserve the datasets. Most often there is still a wealth of valuable insights that can be gleaned from the data.

We can help you set up a plan and system that preserves your data even for free if you want your data to be open.

Perspective mapping

One of the first and most important aspects of achieving a meaningful stakeholder dialogue is to gain an understanding of individual stakeholder perspectives. Doing this in a one on one situation can be more revealing than trying to do it collectively in a group. The resulting gain in the understanding of stakeholder perspectives is essential for being able to facilitate a productive stakeholder meeting.

We conduct individual interviews with stakeholders after initially gaining some of understanding for ourselves the issue that is to be addressed. This is brought together in a perspective map or gap analysis report.

Discussion games for moving beyond token input

Whenever there are large differentials in stakeholder knowledge or position, stakeholder input can be stifled. It is often the quietest individuals that have the best insights. If they are overwhelmed by the outspoken members of a group, opportunities for creative ideas and solutions are lost.

We develop and facilitate the conduct of stakeholder discussion games as a means to achieve meaningful dialogues. These games typically involve role playing and a mixture of small group and large group discussion. Our approach is based upon the Play Decide creative commons game. In Play Decide a group is broken into smaller groups ideally of a mixture of stakeholder types. After reading a short description of the issue that is to be addressed each individual choses a role card. This may not map directly to who they are. For example, a patient could draw the researcher role card. Having to take the perspective of someone else helps to gain a better understanding of that perspective. The person then picks information and issue cards that they think best suit the perspective of the role they have drawn. The small group discussion then ensues with each person getting a chance to speak. The group is then charged with forming a common viewpoint. Play Decide typically then ends with the participants completing a survey that has them choose a standpoint from a list of various standpoints. We take this a bit further and incorporate our skills in facilitating multi-disciplinary/multi-stakeholder discussions. We bring the larger group together and have each table report their common standpoint and then capture the relating aspects that characterize that standpoint. The aim here is to initiate a wider discussion in which all those who attend contribute. Our experience has been this is the case. Instead of having discussion with 2-3 people speaking up and making individual points, we have seen the development of a dialogues that include everyone present. We then facilitate the process of forming this into a concrete action plan by mapping the standpoints onto a collaboration value matrix. The aim is to avoid compromise and identify where there are synergies between the different perspectives.

Production of concrete outputs

One of the biggest challenges of stakeholder meetings, or any meeting where issues are ideas are discussed that they remain too high level. The result nothing happens besides perhaps a better understanding of the issues.

We help facilitate the process of turning stakeholder meetings and dialogues into a more concrete actionable output. This often takes the form of a Think Tank where we take some of the ideas and discuss with stakeholder the formation of a plan and how to implement it. It is in the form that we bring business thinking into play and work with the stakeholders present to collectively develop the value proposition, unique value, and unfair advantage of an innovation project that is developing out of multi-stakeholder discussion or a series of discussions.

Engaging diverse stakeholders in innovation projects

When an innovation project includes only the typical experts and disciplines during the implementation phase there is a loss in regards to the multi-stakeholder co-creation character of the project. A group of diverse stakeholders often includes expertise or disciplines that you would not typically have represented in such projects. For example, a mechanical engineer who is also a patient, or a policy maker who also has expertise in communication. This is most relevant in regards to patients. Patients have a reason to be involved in medical innovation projects. Furthermore, the passion that patients can inspire in project members is priceless for maintaining the motivation of those working on ambitious innovation projects.

We help integrate diverse stakeholders into medical innovation projects. For example, in the U-BIOPRED project we helped patients take part in the operational work package meetings. In this way their perspective was included and they could provide insights that those with more expertise were blind to.

Concept Formation Think Tank

Forming the concept behind a collaboration takes effort and time. Initial ideas have to be iterated and considered over time. Most projects that go on to be awarded grant funding have been in some form of preparation for over a year. Often they have been submitted at least once before. This is largely due to the fact that innovative ideas have to be moulded over time.

It also takes time to get multiple stakeholders engaged. We follow a process of interviewing a sample individual stakeholders (up to6 in total) to gain and understanding of individual perspectives and ideas. Then we form the group around a collaboration canvas, or project framework. These consist of a slide divided into boxes that help to focus the group on the problem they are trying to address, how they will address it, and help to define what the value of what they are trying to do is. This is similar to the business model canvas approach and serves to bring some business thinking into the process of forming a project. This helps to make the ideas and concept concrete rather rapidly. The process is a series of 12 conference calls over a 6 month period. These are attended by a business developer and supported by an executive assistant.

Concrete project plans

Once a concept is formed we can help develop a concrete project plan with work packages, tasks, milestones and deliverables. If a concept has already been developed, then we can proceed directly to the project plan formation. A team of a business developer, project manager, and an executive assistant will analyse the concept and develop a project plan. This includes the write up of the work packages in outline form including the objectives. A Gantt chart showing the timing will also be included. The initial plan will be reviewed with project members in a conference call and revised accordingly.

Detailed proposal formation – 1st stage

Regardless of whether the proposal is meant for a two stage effort or just a single stage a short 10 page version will be put together through an organised process. Based upon an initial template and the concept a version will be created using Google Docs to allow for a collaborative writing process. Individual sections will be assigned to individuals based upon their expertise. They will be assigned the task and a timeline for completing that section. During this time period a weekly conference call will be held over the course of 2 months and facilitated by a project manager. A high level budget will also be formed in order to judge the scope of the project. Based upon the concept a visual abstract will be formed and then circulated for comment and revision. BioSci Consulting will contribute content for the sections that relate the proposal to the call topic, management sections, and the content for the impact section. All other sections BioSci Consulting will revise content provided by project partners for both clarity and strategic considerations. BioSci Consulting will do the final editing formatting and submission

Clinical protocol

BioSci Consulting will support the development of a clinical study protocol using a multi-stakeholder approach. Over the course of 2 months weekly conference calls will be held with a project manager experienced in developing clinical protocols. An existing template will be used and mapped against existing clinical study data standards. A parallel effort will be applied to developing a detailed clinical budget with cost per patient.

Strategic reviews

Often the major challenge is putting the proposal into the proper language for the grant funding program. Furthermore, the impact sections of most grants requires business thinking. It also often difficult to have a view on how clear a proposal is, or what is missing when you have worked so closely with it.

We can provide more focused strategic review of your proposal. This will involve an in depth review of your proposal by a grant proposal expert. You will get an actionable list of recommendations and areas for improvement. We can then provide further support in implementing those recommendations or make the writing clearer after you have implemented the recommendations.

Proposal logistic support

Our team has extensive experience in getting all the elements that you need for a professional proposal organized and completed. This includes chasing partners for input, formatting the document, putting together budgets, adding visuals, drafting a Gantt chart, and the act of submitting the proposal. We can provide varying levels of service in this regard and guarantee that we can make the process of submitting a professional looking proposal more efficient.