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Innovation

Delve Talks: Kevin Conroy, Exact Sciences

June 22, 2020

Delve Talks is a podcast that digs into the challenges around design, product development, leadership and innovation. Our third season continues to explore how leaders help create a culture that supports innovation, especially with the stressors and new opportunities that businesses face during the pandemic.

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Show notes

Dave Franchino and I had the opportunity to catch up with Kevin Conroy, Chairman and CEO of Exact Sciences, a biotech company based in Madison. Their flagship product is a multi-marker test for the early detection of colorectal cancer called Cologuard.

We were interested in talking with him about innovation and how things have changed for him and his company as a result of the uncertainty driven by the Covid pandemic.

In the interview, Kevin shares some very interesting stories and perspectives on health, testing for disease, and working with uncertainty. Below are a few highlights.

What he is proud of: How Exact responded to the immediate change

Caring for each other

  • They focused first and foremost on taking care of each other.
  • Quickly created their own test for Covid-19 with the purpose of using it for their employees.
  • Leadership took pay cuts.
  • Set up a food pantry for their employees.

Nimbleness

  • Proud of how quickly they were able to react and get things done.

Pivot, while staying true to what matters and their core competencies

  • Their Cologuard orders dried up pretty quickly, so they had to pivot. One example of how they did so was by creating a telemedicine offering to help people get their product without having to go to their doctor in person.  

Partnerships

  • Partnered with other local organizations such as Promega, American Family Insurance, CUNA Mutual Group, the National Guard, state government, and health systems to get testing out and available to the community.

What he thinks will endure:

Sense of urgency and efficiency

  • Quickly realized they can get a lot done in a short period of time without any PowerPoint presentations

Cross-functional teams and partnerships

  • Issues we face are bigger than any one person or company

Innovation is our strength

  • In times of uncertainty, innovation shines through

Being present

  • Less travel, being more present, really connecting rapidly with each other

His advice:

  • Don’t throw in the towel
  • Rethink things, even small changes
  • Take care of people, have compassion, prioritize safety

Kevin Conroy
“Innovation shines brightest at times like this, and because of that, we will come out of this.” — Kevin Conroy

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