Diversity Advantage

Well 2012 is now half over and it is a good time for some introspection.  What have you learned this year that you didn’t know on January 1st?  What new skills have you picked up?  Any new ideas surface that you are building into your business plans?  How many new customers have you met or KOLs have you visited in their offices?  What new skills would you be able to put on your resume based on what you did during the first six months of the year?  My bet is, if you are like most of us, you haven’t even thought about this and, in many cases, six months have passed where your career development has been somewhat more passive than active.

The good news is that we are in perhaps the best time of the year for personal development.  For most of us in the pharmaceutical marketing area summer is not quite as hectic as the rest of the year.  Take some time to do that personal inventory and figure out exactly where you are in terms of your development and put some solid plans in place to improve.  In Europe, people take off for a significant stretch of time to think, relax, grow and travel like crazy in order to expose themselves to new ideas and ways of thinking.  In the US, we pretend we are on vacation squeezing in the necessary teleconferences, voicemails and emails while trying to get away from it all.  Try something different.

Looking back over my career, perhaps the greatest growth opportunity for me was when I was asked to join the Warner Lambert Diversity Team.  This was a small group that was charged with really trying to bring all the best thinking in this field into the corporation.  I quickly realized what a huge competitive advantage diversity provides to those who truly understand and embrace it.  For most people, diversity means something like quotas, no discrimination, giving people opportunities but believe me it is so much more.

Take a look at innovation.  Where do most new ideas come from?  Do they come from mainstream thinking or more from the edge?  Do they come from those in your industry or outside?  Do they come from people who have had the same cookie cutter career path or from those who have done it differently?  Think of the impact of the 1960’s and all the changes those outside the mainstream brought to society.  How about how the college dropouts created the personal computer?  Think of what the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Madonna and Lady Gaga have meant to our culture over the last several decades.  Things change from the outside not the inside.  If you want to be innovative, you need to be able to see outside and to have working relationships with a wide variety of people.

The easiest way to learn and grow is to put yourself in situations that are as “foreign” to you as possible.  Volunteer at programs for the homeless, for refugees or for immigrant rights.  Do things with people who try to survive on minimum wage.  Get to know the people behind the political rhetoric.  Travel to places that are out of the ordinary.  Read books on places and people who are different than you.  Figure out what is really happening with the “Arab Spring” or in Syria or North Korea.  Read The Economist cover to cover for a few weeks.  Teach an ESL class or start to mentor kids whose parents speak mainly Spanish.  These are all good things to do, but from a selfish viewpoint you will grow tremendously.

Consider some of these ideas and transfer them over to your work.  When you do a rep ad board pick the motivated reps that complain the most, the troublemakers, rather than listening to those who do everything right.  Secretly call it your Cafepharma ad board.  Instead of using the same KOLs as everyone else look for the most influential doctors under 30 years of age or perhaps do an ad board of only women physicians.  If you want to really learn about managed markets do an ad board with half providers and half payers and learn from their discussions.  Stop always doing the same thing the same way.

Diversity is a game changer for both individuals and corporations.  This is the best kept secret for personal development.  We all know this, as we spend a fortune to send our kids abroad to study and put them into all kinds of situations where they can expand their horizons.  The problem is that we often overlook this when we are working on our own development.  This week go to the biggest most diverse fireworks display you can find.  Look at all the people, concentrate on those who are most unlike you, and try to imagine the number of different ideas they could give you to grow your product and your career.  That is what diversity is all about.

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