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Continuous learning to foster the principles to innovate

Publish Date

27 SEP 2022


Derek Chan


The back-to-school season brings a renewed energy for growth; a mantra of continuous learning encourages creativity and gives curious people the space to innovate.


With everything I’ve observed, watching my children adapt to the back-to-school season while trying to protect and guide them through an uncertain world, I find myself certain about one thing.

Being open to learning new things is one of the most valuable skills a professional can have. Also, one of the best inoculations against the angst that comes with uncertainty.

When you cultivate this environment through culture and leadership, the result is a creatively energized team who is ready to innovate and adapt to whatever’s coming next.


With my team and colleagues there is space for everyone’s viewpoint at the table, and solutions can come from anywhere. We explore everyone’s ideas with equal vigour because we respect their expertise and experience. Ideation is a process of curiosity and collaboration. Ideas are seldom unique light bulb moments but rather collective culminations of information to derive the best possible solution.

The point is to demonstrate that their judgement and critical thinking skills are valued which helps foster innovative diversity. To me, this is the foundation of independent thinking; it shows people a direct result from their effort and encourages them to push further. When everyone on the team is excited by the possibilities and have unique ideas to push the work further, you can get to more breakthrough innovations, faster.


Few things are indeed absolute. We can look at how we have evolved throughout the COVID pandemic. In September 2020, the idea of whether to wear masks was not much of a debate. Two years on, circumstances have changed enough that it’s no longer an absolute. We have new information and new contexts that warrant further interrogation into the idea.

It’s why we continually apply results from our past projects to improve existing and emerging processes, and it’s why we work to continually improve. Nothing is done for the sake of it. I strive to grant my team the license to cross-examine our ideas—including my own—to push for more information. We strive to achieve a better understanding to stay relentless in our pursuit to enhance patient outcomes. Working in a patient-centric culture, when we know there are unmet patient needs, we don’t simply accept it, we search for solutions to make a real difference.


People are resilient, we have seen that time and time again. It is much easier to undertake change when you are in the habit of asking questions and looking for different ways of doing things.

The landscape around us is ever changing and full of contradictions. Achieving innovation is no different. It is garnered through iterative thought and continuous learning coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit.

It’s my goal to foster this environment that encourages a restless curiosity from my team that can help them grow as professionals, but also as people.

The value put on the pursuit of continuous learning and growth on a personal and organizational level at EMD Serono, allows me to create the space for the team to innovate. When they can thrive, they can put their best work forward to help patients live longer and healthier, happier lives.