Episode 11


Episode 11 - 10 May 2018

Disrupt yourself

Head of Strategy, Marketing and Operations for Philips HealthWorks, Darren Adams answers the $64,000 question lurking behind every human endeavor: ‘Why am I doing this?’ ‘What’s the point?’ ‘Who benefits? ‘Why do I care?’ Darren’s creativity and exploratory behavior can go anywhere. And it very often does.

One of the defects of philosophers is that they always seem to assume they know the conclusions before they’ve reached them. But Darren Adams isn’t a philosopher. He’s an innovator.

What makes him a great thinker in business, his career, and life, is that he searches for answers with complete disregard for what he wants the answers to be. He has a particular desired outcome, but his search, although personal, is scientific in its exactitude.

On Philips, he reflects that “Many of the parts of the business are not only dealing with change, but also a highly fluid way of operating.”

“This ambiguity has aspects of operating in a startup whereby you need to be able to carry two mindsets in your head; the short term goals that are required to continue moving forward, combined with a longer term view of where we want to be as an organization.” 

Embrace an unexpected career


Philips is always looking for the people who are excited about turning the world on its head. Those are the people who, if given the resources, can bring about massive changes, which, in health, can mean a world of good.

A true champion of human curiosity: Darren’s creativity and exploratory behavior can go anywhere. And it very often does.

As part of HealthWorks, a startup accelerator that acts as a standalone Philips business, Darren has a unique strategy.

“We worry less about our competitors in terms of number 2 or 3, and we worry more about 8 and 9,” explains Darren.

“These are the small guys working in their backyards who have no legacy. They have no concern about annoying the status quo, because they’ve got nothing to lose.”

“And they are the people who fundamentally change the world.”

Everyone is curious to explore new opportunities, but we’re often too scared to take the risks necessary to really experience them. Fears about the likelihood of our success, coupled with the opinions of others, seem to be perfectly capable of stopping us before we ever get started.

Within this doubting atmosphere, Darren’s voice comes as a breath of fresh air; it throws out a stream of innovative ideas, and it even stops to listen for new ones.

“In order to continuously move forward and learn, a high level of fortitude is required,” he says. By this he means that “you commit to the decisions made as a team, and act upon these, even where you may disagree of have misgivings.”

As Darren tells it, “the choice to stand still and debate can often mean opportunities are lost, and most importantly the opportunity to learn and course correct is missed.” 

“In order to continuously move forward and learn, a high level of fortitude is required.”

And this is precisely the entrepreneurial mindset at work.

“No longer is it appropriate to have process and methodologies,” explains Darren. “It is the mindset that will set not only people but organizations apart.”

Adopting an entrepreneurial mindset


The entrepreneurial spirit combines a customer focus, agile methodology, and the ability to act in a lean manner, Darren explains.

“What is the minimum viable product required to test your theory to learn and move forward? asks Darren. “Being prepared to iterate or pivot depending on feedback, respond quickly to input” are among the key skills required of professionals in their careers today, he says.

Darren cares so much for innovation that as soon as he’s confident one project can guide itself and really begins to take off, he starts up another one. His passion project is a constant stream of other passion projects.

Philips HealthWorks doesn’t operate through taking equity. Instead, it supports upcoming startups through a kind of comradery that could manifest in a number of benefits. It could accelerate thinking, or become an organization that Philips - instead of collecting from - invests into. Or it could blossom into opportunities of joint development.

“I do honestly believe that I can change the world in some way, because there really is no alternative,” he says.

What Philips is doing internally is what Darren does externally; giving people the opportunities to go where their inventiveness leads them. Part of that process is trusting them, and making sure the wind’s at their back.

Darren’s careful to make informed decisions, and he knows from experience that when people are calling him ‘naive,’ he must be on the right track.

How did Darren hone his instincts for a career out of the ordinary? Here are his 5 tips:

  • Be open to change.  We are currently in the midst of massive change within Philips driven not only by the massive disruption that is going on in Healthcare but also as Philips learns to respond to this change and changes the way it operates and builds on the eco-system required for us to tackle a market that is seeing increased disruption from a myriad of players, from startups to tech giants.

  • Ability to deal with ambiguity – The ability to marry short term views and long term goals is incredibly important for the new age of manager.

  • Act with frugality – large budgets and an abundance of resources can actually be the antithesis of innovation, as it does not force you to be creative either in your delivery or problem solving. The absence of a ready solution or the resources to execute can often be the greatest facilitator of breakthrough innovation, embracing this mindset is vital.

  • Entrepreneurial spirit – when we think about the new type of operator within Philips, we often mention the need to have an entrepreneurial spirit or mindset, and lastly tell a great story to bring people along on the journey.

  • Doing is better than debating: As human beings we like to discuss problems and debate possible outcomes. However today, much of our learning is now occurring by doing, as this is the best possible way of determining what the next best step is.

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Listen to the podcast to hear Darren’s story, including a visit to ‘Breakthrough Day,’ how he brings an organization along with him, and the startup mentality.

If you’re interested in a career where you can learn as much from your colleagues as they can learn from you, then it sounds like you could be interested in a career at Philips. Browse our vacancies and see what sparks your interest.

A dynamic career that no one could have planned.
Even you.

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