The Rule of Ten: Innovating Through Crisis

Posted by Rich Corbridge | 24-Apr-2020 11:31:15

“In the next ten months, we will see change that was previously going to take ten years to happen.” 

So I read in an article a couple of weeks ago, sent to me by a friend and colleague. For the last year, I have been in a role where I am constantly working to create what it means to be a disruptive leader of innovation. Suddenly, the world has changed in weeks. No longer am I creating the catalyst for change, but trying to keep up with the change that is happening around us so that we can plan for the future: a future called “the new normal”.

This idea of ten-year change happening in ten months is true generally of life in a pandemic world, but it becomes especially relevant to the change we’re seeing in healthcare. We’ve seen the rapid set-up of the Nightingale hospitals, moving at the speed of light to virtual Primary Care, creating new paper-light capabilities in Emergency Departments and new ways of sharing large sets of information… all happen in a matter of days. Leadership of every type and style has been flexed in a few short days and weeks to ‘fix’ things that previously felt almost undoable.

So, I have a twist on the quote:

“In the next ten days we will make decisions that will see change happen in the next ten months, this change will have an impact for the next ten years of everything.”

I want to adopt this slightly evolved statement as my own personal mantra because I am worried:  we are looking ahead just enough to see an immediate solution to immediate problems, but once we have that solution to the problem we need to also be able to plan for a future normal. But how, when it’s harder than before, with no evidence for what it will be?



Have you noticed as dawn breaks in our new world, the cacophony of birdsong seems so much more amplified? I am certain that some of this is due to less noise being made by humans, but also that birds can hear each other over greater distances. The travel of their “bird news” is much greater; they’re singing from one song sheet.

For us humans, in these new days of innovation at a pace none of us dreamed of, collaboration is now more possible because our “noise” travels more clearly and is focused on a great deal fewer things to achieve. Like the morning bird call, we can hear each other more clearly. Collaborations that previously would have taken legal and commercial teams months to agree on, have been created over text message and suddenly digital change, the disruption for good, is the normal. It’s important that we don’t fall back into our old ways once we’re on the other side of the crisis, but protect the positives that have come out of it.



One of the big tasks for businesses now is understanding what can be unearthed from the old life in the new world, and what will remain unchanged. McKinsey predicts a rebirth of distance and a focus on corporate resilience and efficiency in the “new world”.1 Innovation certainly has a place in these trends, as organisations are challenged to stretch in new ways: to be both resilient and efficient at the same time, and to invest and grow in a considered way.

Meanwhile, businesses also must respond to consumer behaviour changing in this new world too. We had already seen a focus on localisation and personalisation of service, products and experiences beginning to rise to the top of priorities, particularly in retail. In a recent interview with the BBC, Bill Gates also considered what the “new normal” might look like. For him, getting back to a pre-coronavirus world will take many stages, but a unified and coordinated global response must be at the heart of it in order to mitigate any worsening of global inequalities. 

This is yet another area where innovation and disruption can play a part. New ways of increasing the ease of delivering social connectivity and democratising the availability of healthcare has to sit at the heart of a new innovation strategy in the business I am in, and now does. Disrupting the delivery of healthcare in such a way as to offer new capacity and to ease customers and patients into an acceptance of new ways of accessing and receiving high quality treatments, advice and solutions has to be a target for how we work and what our priority has to be.



Recently, the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, Emma Walmsley told CNBC that the pharmaceutical giant would be collaborating with competitor Sanofi in a hugely significant “unprecedented collaboration” in the search for a vaccine, and an answer to the global crisis.2

The two companies had been competitors for leadership in the development of pandemic technologies, but are now creating a relationship that will see them maximise their scale and expertise to deliver a vaccine to millions by the end of 2021. Sanofi’s CEO, Paul Hudson, also commented that “no one company can go it alone”. This one collaborative move sees two huge, wealthy organisations move towards global good on a scale that has not been seen in the industry before. 

It’s a new type of innovation in action, and demonstrates what we now need to do as leaders of change to be truly disruptive. 



Creating the new normal will be a race to create a sense of stability. Predictions of economic shift and flex are so significant that stability is going to be hard to build for anyone and everyone. Our roles in innovation will become more focused on supporting our functions’ and organisations’ survival, then revival.

Strap in because those words described one hell of a rollercoaster ride for the next years to come. 


Rich Corbridge joined us on Chief Disruptor Breakfast Club to discuss his thoughts on innovating through the current crisis. Watch it here, and join us at future Breakfast Clubs below.

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  1. Kevin Sneader and Shubham Singhal, April 2020. McKinsey. Accessed at:
  2. Tyler Clifford, 14 April 2020. CNBC. Accessed at:

Topics: Event reports

Written by Rich Corbridge

Rich is the Director of Innovation at Boots, and a disruptor in healthcare. He has been responsible for delivering nationwide genomics programmes, creating a digital fabric for one of the biggest hospitals in the NHS, leading a country from paper to digital healthcare, creating cloud first ‘permission’ for the EU and pushing the boundaries of a CIO and their interaction with business change. He is a believer in the concept of Collaborative Sensemaking and now is the innovation director for Boots across the UK and Ireland.

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