How we created an ambidextrous organization – and opened up for rapid innovation and unexpected collaborations


How to make room for innovation within a hospital? A track parallell to the ordinary organization has proven to be a successful. At the upcoming MedicineX Conference at Stanford, Karolinska University Hospital will present how we created such an ambidextrous organization. 

In collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry, we have created an ambidextrous organization around a specific group of patients. This has led to innovation and development, rapid improvement of care for the benefit of the patient – and a fun work environment.
Fredrik Öhrn, Innovation Program Manager at the Center for Innovation and Theme Cancer

In order to develop, create and innovate within an organization, you need to make room. Room for testing and failing, room to discuss and evaluate. You also need to create space to monitor the world around you – everything new will not come from within.

When employees in the standard setting are severely strained, they have no opportunity or energy to go outside the box, to think differently and to change the way of working. To have a team that works hard and have little time, however, is by and large the normal situation for most organizations. Bringing in new technology, try a new method and then implement this into the standard operation is often an insurmountable challenge.

With understaffed and overcrowded wards being a reality in today's healthcare we are constantly challenged in changing, implementing and improving, a lot of the time we are struggling just to keep up.

An ambidextrous organization could be part of the solution to keep the momentum; within development and innovation and at the same time providing high quality care – in line with our core mission.

Meeting challenges with cross-boarder collaboration

An acquaintance of mine, at the time the CEO of a pharmaceutical company while I was Head of International Marketing for a hospital in the same region; once said that "We all (Pharma and Healthcare) want the same thing; for the patients to get well and stay healthy".

We represented two different worlds who actually worked with the same goal. Apparently. The expression however, was a bit strange and is still today slightly provocative when I reflect over it.

But what if he was right? What if we actually do want the same thing and are working towards the same goal – then let's work together for real in a cross-border collaboration and meet the challenges that we and the community, including our patients, have in common.

I set out to create a parallel team to be more agile, with the task of coming up with new solutions and implement new technology more rapidly and more successful than what we are used to – in an ambidextrous organization in the large hospital.

We would create an ambidextrous organization close and parallell to our standard setting and we would do that in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry. We would get all competitors in this particular diagnostic field together and with their input, create conditions for development and faster effect and cure.

Led by the hospital, checking ideas with patients

For a few months now, we have a hugely successful set up through an unconventional partnership, across borders. We have competing companies in the same steering group for a mutual project – to improve care for patients infected by Hepatitis C. The steering committee is led by the Karolinska University Hospital and the patient's best interests in mind. Constantly checking our ideas for development with a former patient of ours.

The project team consists of experienced and motivated nurses who take on challenges and find solutions.

The team is led by Soo Aleman Associate Professor and Deputy Chief Physician at Karolinska University Hospital and Associate Professor at The Karolinska Institute. Dr Aleman has a unique ability to drive and stimulate the development to test new ideas; new ways of working, try new ways to communicate, and explore the best practice in new environments. Dr Aleman has made the project a huge success through her engagement for the patients and her drive for success. Together with experienced nurses they form a dream team within the patient flow.

Unconventional cooperation for mutual success

It was a challenge and sometimes a tough ordeal to land the cooperation and make it possible but now we know that it is possible and how to go about to make it happen.

With an inquisit and positive reception of the four pharma companies; Abbvie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, MSD and Gilead, from global managers and ditto at European level to the Country Managers and lawyers, this became possible. And with the patient support company ICT Health Support we have been given an inside support team from the outside through our cooperation with the pharma industry.

We now have a dialogue and discuss across the boundaries that previously we only reluctantly crossed. 


Fredrik Öhrn
Phone: +46 (0)70-756 22 60
E-mail: Fredrik Öhrn

16 September: Stanford Medicine X

The design of an ambidextrous organization to innovate and individualize the care within a clinical pathwa

 Fredrik Örhn will present at the MedX Conferens, see the program

Follow on twitter: @frohrn #MedX

The Center for Innovation