Blog | July 27, 2015

How To Build A Corporate Culture Of Sustainable Innovation

Source: Life Science Leader
Rob Wright author page

By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
Follow Me On Twitter @RfwrightLSL

How To Build A Corporate Culture Of Sustainable Innovation

Shortly after the April 2015 publication of Guiding Bayer’s Global Innovation Engines To New Heights, an article I wrote featuring Bayer board of management member, Kemal Malik, I received a phone call from Valerie Bowling. The executive director for the Conference Forum and producer of one of my favorite events, Disruptive Innovations to Advance Clinical Trials (DPharm), Bowling said the article sparked an idea. She said the conference, which has consistently been growing in popularity, has typically focused on how to be more innovative in executing clinical trials, but had never focused on the importance of leadership’s role in creating a culture where innovation is able to thrive. Bowling asked if I would be interested in moderating a panel at the upcoming event in Boston, September 2015, and if so, to put together a wish list of folks I would want to participate. I recently received an email announcing that not only was Bowling successful in putting together a stellar panel, but it will be the opening keynote panel for DPharm 2015. Here is a little insight into the panel we have put together that focuses on helping you build a culture of sustainable innovation.

Building An Innovative Culture Is No Small Task – Even For Big Pharma

In the biopharmaceutical industry, building a corporate culture that encourages people to embrace and act upon the various forms of innovation is no small task. Perhaps even more difficult is the process of changing a Big Pharma company culture away from the “that’s not how we do things around here” mindset, to one that fully embraces sustainable, incremental, as well as game-changing innovation. Why, then, do companies like Bayer and J&J continue to be recognized for their ability to innovate? This is why two of our keynote panelists hail from Big Pharma. Camilo Cobos is the VP of human resources at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a J&J company. Cobos has nearly 20 years of HR experience and not all in pharma. Chandra Ramanathan, Ph.D. is the senior director of innovation strategy & global lead of external innovation at Bayer AG. Ramanathan, with nearly 20 years of discovery experience with the likes of BMS and Wyeth prior to Bayer, was recommended to me personally by Kemal Malik for this panel.

To Be Disruptive Requires Bringing In Some Outsiders

One thing I have always enjoyed when attending past DPharm events is hearing speakers from outside our industry. For example, I recall a speaker from NASA discussing how when, looking to make helmets safer for Astronauts, they turned to the monster truck industry, as these drivers experience very similar G-forces. In keeping with the true spirit of DPharm, I asked Bowling if she could round up a few industry outsiders for the panel, starting with an academic. Now, many people may think it easy for a professor to be at a university to be innovative. After all, they are surrounded by young minds all day long and can spend their time reading and working on theoretical and outlandish ideas. While some of this may be true, for those who think it soooo easy for academics to be innovative, you obviously haven’t experienced the bureaucracies that exist in many of our institutes of higher education.

To bring academic insights to this year’s keynote panel, we have David Shrier, managing director, connection science & engineering at MIT. But Shrier brings much more than just an academic’s perspective. Having developed $8.5 billion of growth opportunities globally with companies including GE/NBC Universal, D&B, Wolters Kluwer, The Walt Disney Company, Ernst & Young, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, he specializes in unleashing organizational potential. 

The final member of the panel hails from the energy industry — perhaps the last place you might expect to find innovation. What can an executive from a power company know about the challenges faced by biopharmaceutical companies in getting a drug approved by the FDA? Well, imagine you are attempting to create a sustainable business that is going to generate power from garbage, while successfully collaborating with 50 individual state regulatory commissions! The final member of this keynote panel is Kathleen Ligocki, CEO for Harvest Power. Rated by Fast Company as one of the world’s 50 most innovative companies in 2014, Ligocki brings to panel a very unique perspective. Not only is she the current leader of a company that has been growing at a rate of 20 percent per year, but she has headed up a number of other small start-ups and was also a former executive at Ford and GM.

Although many company founders will tell you that corporate culture often begins with the CEO, most CEOs will also tell you that trying to create a corporate culture of sustainable innovation single-handedly, even from the CEO seat, is daunting, if not impossible. It requires all of the panelists we have assembled — a CEO with the skills to set and communicate a vision, executive leaders to challenge the CEO and help execute the vision, a strategic-thinking HR executive who will bring on the top talent that meshes with the corporate culture being created, and often, an outsider like Shrier to help unleash your organization’s true potential. If you are seeking more innovation in your clinical trials, you can register here, and if you enter the code – LSL15 – for a limited time you can save 15 percent.  Hope to see you there.