Pharma Strategy Blog

Commentary on Pharma & Biotech Oncology / Hematology New Product Development

One of the biggest challenges in the Pharma world is meshing strategy with execution in a timely and effective manner. 

My experience in big Pharma taught me that the environment is often full of Thinkers, who sit on their 100,000 ft cloud plinking on their harps contemplating ideas, with little regard the practicalities of execution and Doers, who are focused on execution and chopping down trees, without necessarily asking if they are in the right forest or chopping down the right trees.

It's also the classic Global versus Affiliate wars, although not always.

Great teams come together and either have a nice balance between the Thinkers and Doers or have smart people who can do both.  When those scenarios plays out, something magical happens and the organisation reaps the benefit of a well organised and well executed strategy that truly makes a difference to both patient outcomes and market performance.

Is it as rare as it seems though?

Sometimes organisations become bogged down in analysis by paralysis or paralysis by analysis.  The way forward is to shake things up and bring in decisive leaders who break through the consensus thinking to drive goal driven execution based on real customer insights.  They challenge the team to find the nuggets and focus on what's important.

A thoughtful client recently asked me: "What are insights and how can we teach them?"

Taking a look at the Princeton Dictionary we find:

  • insight – penetration: clear or deep perception of a situation
  • insight – a feeling of understanding
  • insight – grasping the inner nature of things intuitively

If we relate this back to Pharma, insights ultimately come from the customer and consumer:

– How do they feel about your brand, their disease, your competitors? 

– What do they really want and need?

– How can you help them meet those needs?

Sometimes you may need to be more creative and find new ways of looking at data in order to see things differently, much like the facets of a diamond and how they reflect different patterns in the light.  Insights are the same; they help you see what really matters at the heart of something more clearly. 

Other times getting out of your dreary corporate office environment can also help.  Personally, I used to love impromptu small team meetings in a coffee shop or on the terrace of a hotel overlooking a golf course.  Being out and about in a more relaxed environment seems to shake out the cobwebs and get people chatting more informally about the topic and issues at hand.  Several heads are always better than one for such a think tank session.

Perhaps also it is the lack of Powerpoint replaced by sketches on napkins or scraps of paper that brings out the childhood creativity in people to simply be free that makes the difference sometimes.  Certainly, I've seen more creative and effective ideas come out of those loose relaxed meetings when someone said a seemingly isolated and random thought that focused and stimulated the team on a whole new idea. 

That's insight right there – often buried deep inside us and all we need to do is find ways of letting them bubble up or the key to unlocking them.  The challenge is to close off the left brain logical control and let the right brain loose on concepts, creativity and connections between the team members.

Those A-ha! moments are priceless.

Ultimately, social media is more about right brain thinking than left brain logic.  It's about communication, empathy, interaction and engagement, all things that make logical, scientific-driven Pharma extremely uncomfortable.  The key to achieving balance is to use both sides of the brain to create a whole brain strategy.

What does this mean?

Well, it is possible to use the left brain analytical side to evaluate and monitor your market or competitors for useful data driven intelligence to enable the team to develop actionable insights.  Then utilise the right brain to create new ways of engaging and interacting with doctors and patients that improve the all round experience for all concerned.

It doesn't have to be scary if you Think and Do, but in the long run the Pharma companies that crack this dilemma will be bold winners in the race to superior customer engagement.  The losers will still be focused on dying out traditional methods of selling in a brave new conceptual and digital age.

Do you want to be a winner or loser?

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5 Responses to “Thinkers and Doers in Pharma”

  1. ellen hoenig

    Yes the best strategists and marketers use both left and right brain, do and think! Too often people think that they can stop doing and just think when they get promoted, but it never works… I also love your focus on insight–everything that touches the customer should be based on an insight, an a-ha moment, that your brand or company can help answer or support in a unique way!
    You are so right…the million dollar question for pharma: How to create more moments to let those a-ha insights emerge and flourish? 😉

  2. MaverickNY

    Hi Ellen, thank you for your kind comment. I do think that finding time, space and a looseness of feeling is what stops left brain thinking and allows the right brain to speak out uncluttered by noise.
    After all, how many of us have some great ideas while in the shower or bath, while barely lucidly asleep/awake, or doing other activities away from the problem at hand?
    The challenge is learning to capture those thoughts and allow them to flourish.

  3. Jeanne Male

    Sally, thanks to @shwen for tweeting your post. I’ve seen the global vs affiliate as often as the parallel universes of lumbering giant bureaucratic “thinking” big pharma vs the agile entrepreneurial “doing” biotech and small pharma. Plenty of pros/cons for each. Loved your point about a relaxed environment. There is a lot of data to support the creativity that arises when people are comfortable and better still, having fun. I’d be satisfied with just eliminating the political posturing of most formal meetings. In my 25+ years, that’s the think/do buzz kill.

  4. MaverickNY

    Agreed, Jeanne, there is nothing worse than endless formal meetings, they kill the spirit and creativity.
    One thing I tried to implement when I was on a launch team was reduced meetings on the grounds that we were too busy working to hold then, but anyone on the team could call an ad hoc meeting. The catch was, they got to organise it (max of 1 hour only), draft the agenda and circulate no more than 1 page of minutes with action points, responsible persons and due dates.
    The end result was fewer meetings, more productivity and greater focus on the real issues that needed to get done. Insights and creativity flowed, as did the spirit of sharing instead of playing power games.

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