Clive, how has your first 90 days gone and what were your expectations when you started?

My first day with Össur was 11th December and I was resolute that I was joining with no expectations. Rather than expectations, I came with an interest to see how Össur would differ from my past experiences. Compared to my recent roles, running the project management department in a cancer diagnostics company, and the R&D team in a prosthetics start-up, Össur is a much larger organisation so I was intrigued to find out how the upper limb function in Livingston, and Össur as a whole, would differ or indeed, have similarities to these prior experiences.  

In some ways our upper limb facility feels like a stand-alone entity. We research, design, develop and manufacture our products all on this site, and we have a high level of autonomy. Obviously, we work very closely with our R&D colleagues in Iceland, but the day-to-day business, we do it ourselves. This comes with its own pros and cons but what I have noticed is that the full Livingston team certainly feel a lot of responsibility and ownership towards the brand, our outputs, our success, and how we contribute to Össur.

“There’s lot of passion here for always wanting to get to the future and find that thing that differentiates our products. ”

Clive Roberts

And have they changed over the course of time?

The longer you’re in a job the better an understanding you get. I’ve switched industries a fair bit in my career, so I try not to have expectations as more often than not, you end up changing them. The best approach I find, is to start a new project with an open mind, in data gathering mode rather than decision making mode, if you like. Always listen to understand first before jumping in with your opinion.

What surprised you most about the facility, colleagues, product range, and the research and development department?

The building and location are very nice, we’re very lucky to come to work here. I’d say the surprises have been relative to me and my prior experience. At Össur there is a great balance of experience and career maturity in the organisation. I’ve worked at younger companies with some very passionate people but what they lacked were the anchors to direct that passion. Here we have a balance between brand new people to the industry and people with years served and longevity, so they have seen it and done it before and are able to provide guidance, history, and perspective.

What areas of focus do you want to push as a priority?

Coming from a project management background, I focus on the process and how we reach the desired result. Not that this has been forgotten about, but I will be making firmer plans on how we reach each milestone and where those milestones are. It is very good to have goals, but you also need a plan for how to reach them – as the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery put it so eloquently, “A goal without a plan is just a wish”!!

In addition to that, I would like to bring more focus to our users, in particular, how users perceive our products and how they use them. When you’re in a product design job, you can generally empathise to some extent with how it will be used, from your own experience. A good example of this, from my prior career,  is a set of golf clubs, because, if you have played golf, then you can understand how they will be used But when it’s a situation where you can’t have the full experience and appreciation of using a product, such as prosthetics, that’s a different story, as it is more difficult to “walk in their shoes”. We’re generally pretty good at it but it’s so important to understand what people want. We can always bring more focus to the user journey.

What have you’ve learnt about Össur so far?

I was well aware of Össur through working in the prosthetics industry, and prior to that as part of my Master’s degree where I completed a design project for lower limb prosthetics for sprinters, inspired by the Paralympics and the initial use of what would become the Flex-Foot Cheetah. This awareness gave me an understanding of the history and heritage of Össur, how it started as a liner company by the founder Össur Kristinsson in Iceland and how it has continued to develop and grow. It also introduced me to Touch Bionics - the precursor to Össur’s upper limb department - one of the first truly viable myoelectric hands.

It's been interesting being in, effectively, two market leading companies, Össur and Touch and it’s important for me as head of R&D for us to continue to be recognised and maintain our position as a leader in the market from a technological standpoint.

And what excites you most about the future?

There’s lot of passion here for always wanting to get to the future and find that thing that differentiates our products. However, alongside that there’s a pragmatic streak in our people. We realise that, while we need to be looking to the next breakthrough we cannot forget to also focus on iterative improvements and our existing customers. It’s a good balance in our team.

What has struck you as something we’re particularly good at here at Össur?

This is going to sound cheesy but truly what attracted me to Össur in the first place were the company values – honestly, frugality, and courage. The values are unique and carry weight, plus they’re about behaviours and attitude rather than outputs. Because they’re straightforward, people can relate them to their daily work life and really live those values.  

Secondly, what we are doing better here, is promoting psychological safety amongst all our employees. We have various ways people can speak up if they need to, and the organisation is shifting in that direction more and more, plus it’s coming from the top down. This really excited me as it’s something I wanted to focus on in my next role. But honestly, I can say that this is yet another way that Össur is genuinely leading from the front.