by Claire Bull

Due to my own lack of diligence, my recent trip to Bogota Colombia forced me to travel in a way that I tend to avoid these days. I lapse in my typical diligence of aligning flights, lounges, cars and hotels. This is a rare occasion, but it came with a silver lining.

In Frankfurt airport I met a gentlemen what was more engaging than the typical traveling executive I met on the road. He was attempting to FaceTime his children back on the east cost of the US, but really struggled to grasp the difference between a FaceTime Video Call, and that of a traditional voice call on his iPhone.

We got chatting, and found he'd been in the Pharma game for over 20 years, and now lead a key business division of a brand we all know. They had recently invested in an innovation program, but the outputs of the program were as foreign as FaceTime to him. And don't get him started on SnapChat.

As technology keeps changing and competition keeps improving there is a constant need to be more innovative. Optimization of processes that allows them to run better, faster and cheaper requires effective innovation. As pharmaceutical companies deal with the patent cliff and biotechnology firms adjust to lower levels of investment innovation across both industries becomes critical for continued profitability.

“We need a fresh perspective,” a C-level executive ruminates. “I need to bring in some outsiders.”

This powerful myth — that outside people can see a situation anew and deliver crucial insights — has a strong basis when it comes to outside experts. Advisors and consultants with deep knowledge can provide new insights. But the myth that non-experts can make appropriate and powerful changes to an organization can lead to hiring people who take a long time to train so they have the requisite expertise to operate effectively. The worst case is that an outsider can take an organization down the rat hole.

My new Pharma friend was struggling to reconcile the old world and the new. He appreciates the advice of outsiders, but it didn't always hit the sweet spot with his board. Which lead me to explain my gratitude for a scattered and diverse networks of colleagues, peers, advisors, friends and acquaintances. How I appreciate being challenged on a daily basis with things I don't understand nor value. He really understood the frustration. But then I lead him to the possibility that diversity and varied points of view are vital in an abundant world. One might encounter an array of opinions, but the difference between the wise and the informed, is those that use the accumulation of information to refine their own insights. In the past, one's insight could be justified purely on opinion alone. Hence why we see the 'HiPPOs', which stands for "highest paid person's opinion." HiPPOs are leaders who are so self-assured that they need neither other's ideas nor data to affirm the correctness of their instinctual beliefs.

 Doctors are the most highly regarded profession, but we still use Google to second guess them

Doctors are the most highly regarded profession, but we still use Google to second guess them

However, the modern economy is equipped with a utility belt full of endless intel. Turning opinions into fallacy or fact. The modern organisation can still embrace diversity, with the added power of objective measurement. Don't quite believe something your doctor(one of the highest regarded professionals on the planet) said, the modern citizen immediately turns to Google or Web MD to verify. It's the same when it comes to diversity in advice.

Interesting that many of the most disruptive startups in the US today know so much about the market demand for pharmaceuticals, is simply because they are reverse engineering search patterns off the basis that the majority of us Google a drug after a doctor has prescribed it.

It's time most industries learn and appreciate the value of perspective. As it can give one a fright when they realise how the market sees their world.

Innovating was never easy. But it’s more difficult than ever in a globalized world that is struggling to recover from a major economic crisis. Differing voices and viewpoints are powerful factors in steering innovation. If an organization does not leverage the potent weapon of diversity, it risks limiting its creative potential and ultimately losing its competitive edge. In the evolution of leadership, diversity is not defined just by race or gender. It also encompasses the whole human experience — age, culture, education, personality, skills and life experiences. Managed effectively, this cultural diversity offers the flexibility and creativity we need to recover from the economic crisis and confront the many forces challenging us:

  • Economic and social upheavals
  • Major demographic shifts
  • Globalization
  • An urgent need to innovate to renew economic growth
  • Increasing demands for diversity from our partners, clients, customers and other stakeholders
  • The fact is that innovative practices should not be forced on everyone in the production environment. Innovation is simply not for everyone and forcing people to innovate against their will, accomplishes nothing. On the other hand freeing up some amount of time for those that have an interest in doing something different can yield huge dividends
  • Successful innovation requires a new perspective on the work. In order to innovate it is vital to question everything about the way things are currently done.