By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader
Follow Me On Twitter @RfwrightLSL
Have you ever had an experience that forever changed the course of your existence? I know I have. When you think about things such as how you met your significant other or why you are working where you are, you realize the significant role human decision making plays in determining or altering your course. Advocates of predestination contend that free will does not exist based on the assertion that you did not choose to be born. I do not subscribe to this notion that either the destiny of your life or the success/ failure of your organization is preordained.
Chaos theory not only teaches us to expect the unexpected, but more importantly, that small changes made early can often drastically alter outcomes. This principle is popularly referred to as the butterfly effect and attributes the power to cause a hurricane off the coast of Mexico to a butterfly flapping its wings in India. In the business world, I contend the existence of Course Changers — human butterflies who can and do dramatically impact outcomes and alter courses well beyond their immediate environments. To find them, however, you probably need to look outside of your industry. For example, Candy Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) after her 13-year old daughter was struck and killed by a hit-and-run drunk driver in 1980. Since then, Candy has been influential in everything related to eliminating drunk driving, from the passage of laws imposing fines for drunk drivers to the enactment of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984.
While you might be thinking Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are Course Changers, citing their outsider roles and significant impact on the music industry (i.e., Apple/iTunes) and global health (i.e., the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), they had significant financial and social status advantages to get things done. Lightner had no law enforcement, legal, or political experience, and yet with limited financial resources was able to change the status quo.
True Course Changers aren’t just outsiders too naïve to know the rules of your industry, but highly motivated people often moved to action by personal tragedy. There’s no doubt that, with the challenges facing our industry today, we could use a few more Course Changers. They are out there, as I discovered when I interviewed the leadership team of PatientsLikeMe for my feature story this month on page 30. Their story is very similar to Lightner’s. The co-founding brothers Jamie and Ben Heywood were inspired by tragedy (i.e., their brother Stephen’s diagnosis and decline from ALS). They are outsiders, mechanical engineers who aren’t buying into the notion “It is what it is” when it comes to how healthcare is delivered, drugs are developed, and clinical trials are executed. The PatientsLikeMe team has built a data-sharing platform they believe will change the way patients manage their own conditions and transform and align the relationship between patients, physicians, and biopharma. If you want to change the direction of your business and our industry, perhaps it is time you listen to the ideas and perspectives of a few Course Changers, for they do not believe as you, nor do their beliefs require you to agree with them — and that could be all the difference you need.