This weekend on the cable talk shows, I heard a lot of discussion about birth control. Congressional panels that included all men and the government taking away freedom of religion. I don’t want to talk about all of that, but I was very impressed with one point in particular.
A commentator talked about the importance of our internal point of view and how that determines our imagination, which in turn controls our ability to innovate. The internal vision determines our starting point about any argument and really does control the direction of future thinking. Take for instance, if you were to ask people what they thought of “work”, a variety of images would occur depending on the person. For many, work is a way to support the rest of their lives. They work to live. For others, their work is their life and they live to work. I am making no value judgements here but if you were to then ask how work could be improved, the innovative thinking would be quite different depending on the starting point. Interesting, huh?
This is foundational to the pharmaceutical marketer, in that so many internal points of view are based on an industry as it was years ago. If I was to ask about the role of the sales representative, too often the view is what it was like when the marketers were in the field. If I ask about medical education, again, it is often the view of education several years ago. We often think of physicians as having the ultimate control over prescriptions, when in reality the payer is often “the decider.” These internal biases or points of view need to be constantly updated as situations change. How can a marketer’s imagination come up with innovative ideas if the starting point is stuck in a different era? A further concern is that others in the department, often the leaders and mentors, are even more removed from the situation due to their greater tenure away from the field and other home office duties.
I can’t tell you how often a product manager comes back from a ride in the field and comments on how few calls to physicians were made and how little time they had on each call. They say things such as, “With somebody from the home office coming don’t you think the rep would have done a better job planning the day so that it was better than normal?” What is scary is that in the new reality, where reps are given little time and in many cases are not even allowed in a high percentage of offices in their area, that day with the PM may actually be as good as it gets!
We need to constantly be resetting our vision of the world and fine tuning our internal picture in order to understand the reality that is the starting point of our innovation.