eyeforpharma Philadelphia Conference VIRTUAL

Apr 14, 2020 - Apr 17, 2020, Philadelphia

FREE TO ATTEND: The world’s greatest gathering of pharma’s value-designers with 6000+ pharma decision-makers from marketing, patient engagement, advocacy, clinical, medical affairs, market access, RWE and IT,

Building an innovation culture

Without the right approach to risk and culture, pharma may miss the big opportunities, says Bayer’s Sebastian Guth



Anyone pushing the frontiers of innovation has to accept that failure is a part of the process. This should not be a novel concept for pharma, yet in some ways it still is.

 

Pharmaceutical businesses are good at it in some domains but not others, says Sebastian Guth, President, Americas Region, Bayer. “As a pharma industry, we spend tens of billions of dollars each year in clinical trials, yet the probability of success for bringing any of those molecules to a patient is well below 50%. When developing innovation using AI, we often talk about significantly smaller investments and financial risks than in clinical trials and somehow we still collectively feel unease about it.”

 

The fear of failure contributes to this this unease. It is an all too human reflex that can paralyse individuals and also efforts to innovate in a corporate context. 

 

Failing fast 

Guth has experienced the pain, as well as the value, of failure first hand as a young entrepreneur fresh out of university after securing venture capital funding for a company that never made it out of the startup stage. 

 

The reason? “We had lots of money, and a good idea,” recalls Guth, “but we failed relatively quickly over the culture we created. We were not a team, we were a bunch of egos.” 

 

It was a valuable lesson in the common features that define success or failure on teams. “In larger corporations, money or the idea are not sufficient. You also need the ability to build teams internally and to be able to partner with folks outside. You need to take the egos to the greatest possible extent out of the game,” says Guth.

 

Innovation succeeds in an environment where individuals are accountable, where a team is able to act with speed and resolve, and where its members are willing, says Guth, to speak with candour. “Sometimes in large organisations a lot of stuff is sugar coated. It doesn’t help.”

 

A healthy innovation culture is also one that is obsessed with the customer as so many successful companies have demonstrated. “It’s the ability to singularly focus on what drives a different customer experience and better outcomes,” says Guth.

 

Another characteristic common to effective teams is their willingness to take accountability across organisational boundaries, says Guth. “The capacity to innovate does not reside in certain levels of hierarchy so it is important to identify the best and brightest individuals who can contribute, whatever their seniority.”

 

The right culture

If team members experience a culture that invites contributions and embraces experimentation, every member will feel they can contribute. “Positive experiences give people the comfort to carry on and try again. In every failure there is something to learn. 

 

“After all, in R&D most of what we start never sees the light of day. We fail and fail and yet it helps us build something really big. In the last 15 years we have gained comfort in taking R&D risks. We have wired our organisations to try to manage those risks to the greatest extent possible.Carefully cultivating a more innovation-oriented approach within the sales organization’s culture and shining a light on the early successes that arise from it is the way to go,” says Guth.

 

For Bayer this approach has resulted in significant investments in machine learning in rare and undiagnosed diseases. “AI can help us bring us get the right patients to the right treatments at the right time,” says Guth.

 

But innovation must be developed within frameworks that enable successes to be scaled easily too, he adds. “As we get more comfortable with those risks we can innovate at great scale and with greater speed. That and the ability to ruthlessly weed out the things that don’t work and move on.”

 

Scaling innovation successfully also requires striking a healthy balance between fostering creativity on a local level while supporting it with well-coordinated central technology infrastructure, he adds. “What we have moved away from is siloed local innovation with everyone investing in their own technology in ways that have not been built ready to scale in the first place. If you look at successful startups, they are all built with scalability in mind.”

 

“We have invested a lot of time and effort in creating omni-channel experiences, with customers in mind. We are also transforming our culture to embrace speed, accountability and innovation. Something powerful is happening there and we are making tremendous progress.”

 

Sebastian Guth is delivering a keynote at eyeforpharma Philadelphia 2020 (#efpPhilly) on April 15th.

 

 

 


Since you're here...
... and value our content, you should sign-up to our newsletter. Sign up here

eyeforpharma Philadelphia Conference VIRTUAL

Apr 14, 2020 - Apr 17, 2020, Philadelphia

FREE TO ATTEND: The world’s greatest gathering of pharma’s value-designers with 6000+ pharma decision-makers from marketing, patient engagement, advocacy, clinical, medical affairs, market access, RWE and IT,