Pharma (and Everyone Else) Asks: What Would Steve Do?

The passing of Steve Jobs has been an opportunity for just about everyone (okay, maybe everyone) to assess his significance and ponder the lessons he taught. Blogs (like this one) seem to see it as an obligation to weigh in. And it's safe to say that every company, in every industry, is today looking at itself through the lens of Steve Jobs: If he were in our shoes, what would Steve do?

It's a healthy obsession: How would he innovate? How would he fix our problems?

Pharma companies and professionals are going through precisely this exercise. (Jobs, of course, is already indirectly transforming our industry—see here about Pfizer’s use of the iPad on the plant floor, for example.) Here’s a sampling of what's being thought and said in our world:

In "A Steve Jobs Lesson for Pharma," John LaMattina, former president of Pfizer Global Research and Development, notes: "Steve Jobs had little use for market research. He felt that the public didn’t often realize what they wanted, that it was hard for people to envision that they would want something that didn’t exist. I believe a similar phenomenon exists in the pharmaceutical world."

Xconomy.com’s Christopher Bowe has written “The Essential Steve Jobs for Today’s Pharmaceutical Executive.” He writes: “Can any big pharmaceutical company leader . . . redirect internal resources towards a core of innovation that results in reverberating, disruptive value? The lesson from Jobs is that despite a crowded, distracting, and even commoditized market, focusing on disruption trains an entire company to know its purpose—and to seek much more than incremental value."

And in a memo yesterday to all Novartis employees, "In Memory of Steve Jobs," Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez stated, “Today a great man has died. . . . In his memory we commit today that more than 80 percent of Novartis Pharmaceutical field forces around the world will give up their PCs . . . Let’s use our positive memory of Steve to do some more good in the world. I know we can.” (Here's the direct link to the memo, courtesy of Pharmalot's Ed Silverman.)

Maybe Pharma already has its own Steve Jobs? One LinkedIn group is asking just this question. Early nominees include Daniel Vasella of Novartis and Lloyd Mager of Abbott.

What does Steve Jobs mean for Pharma? It’s a question being asked throughout the industry. What are your thoughts? Email me at pthomas@putman.net.

 

--Paul Thomas

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