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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

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March 18, 2011

Brave New Office

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Posted by Derek

Management fads are truly a bad sign. I don't think that there's anyone out there in the working world who doesn't realize this, on some level, but it's worth keeping in mind. When some higher-up at your company decides "You know, we'd make a huge leap in productivity if we just did everything totally differently than we've ever done them before - I read this great article!", then you really need to hunker down until the fit passes.

Well, some of the folks at GlaxoSmithKline down in Research Triangle are probably looking for somewhere to hide. Because according to this article, the company is (yes!) at the forefront of a movement that's (yes!) sweeping the nation: open office space. No assigned desks, no permanent locations, just everyone floating around in a cloud of happy productivity. Jim Edwards at Bnet is right when he calls this "slightly insane".

Um. . .haven't we been hearing about this wonderful innovation for years now? And haven't several companies tried it and abandoned it, because (strangely enough) their employees didn't like the idea of putting their possessions into lockers every morning, wandering (or scrambling) around for desk space, and being unable to leave the slightest sign of anything personal around their work area? Here are some tempting details:

All employees are assigned a storage unit where they can keep files, a keyboard, a power pack and a mouse. There will also be group storage spaces where files that need to be accessed by more than one person can be kept. Any files that are not accessed regularly will be stored off-site. GSK's document retention policy isn't changing; it just may end up being followed more closely.

Gosh, that does sound like what I've been yearning for all these years. Making the transition to this wonderful environment isn't easy, though:

The larger move will ultimately include an extensive education campaign to prepare employees for their new surroundings.

Employees will work in neighborhoods, each of which includes meeting rooms and quiet areas. They'll attend etiquette workshops, and each neighborhood will adopt a set of policies to deal with hypothetical situations that may come up.

The groups that are moving to the new layout are those whose managers embraced the change. (Admin Shelby) Bryant now sits at a desk directly across from her boss, David Bishop, GSK's director of site operations in RTP.

Bishop said as the move gets closer, more and more departments are expressing interest in unchaining themselves from their desk.

"I don't believe we will ever get to where everybody wants it," he said.

Maybe not! But that'll be their loss, won't it, not having to go through all that education, and attend those etiquette workshops, and then throw out all their stuff. Honestly, I think I'd rather chew on glass than attend a series of workplace etiquette seminars and get re-educated by someone who tells me that I'm not going to have a desk any more. And those meetings to set behavior policies, those will be delightfully excruciating, for sure. What on earth is the company thinking?

Well, they're thinking about how this will allow them to vacate several buildings, because housing the employees this way takes up less room. So once again, this conforms to a rule that has seldom let me down: any question that starts out with "I wonder how come they. . ." can be answered with the word "Money".

Comments (149) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets | Life in the Drug Labs


COMMENTS

1. Chemjobber on March 18, 2011 9:09 AM writes...

This is for the front office folks, right? Not the lab types? (I hope?)

Permalink to Comment

2. GSK-er on March 18, 2011 9:09 AM writes...

yup, this has been "transitioned" for several years now at GSK sites, not only RTP. It even was applied to senior management in the office suite in the Philly area, where they are all to sit in a common area to promote interaction. The area is visible, and remarkably, there is seldom anyone every seen in the room.

It's a concept dreamt-up by consultants for two reasons 1) save money for the company that is sucker enough to buy into it and 2) make money for the consultant and construction groups that refurbish space.

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3. John Thacker on March 18, 2011 9:12 AM writes...

The only companies where I've known anything like this to work are ones that do this only for their substantial number of work-at-home employees, all of whom must occasionally come in to the location but not often. Needless to say, that doesn't really describe pharmaceuticals.

Permalink to Comment

4. Ricardo Ros on March 18, 2011 9:16 AM writes...

I can only add one thing:

http://lib.store.yahoo.net/lib/demotivators/consultingdemotivationalposter.jpg

As I said, sorry to see this practice spreading more and more.

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5. OldLabRat on March 18, 2011 9:20 AM writes...

I've seen this tried before. Those that start the workday early will vie for desks that have good access to necessities, comforts, good mobile phone reception and temperature. In about 2 weeks, the "neighborhood" residents will each be sitting at the same desk every day. A few personal items will appear from a knapsack, etc. in the morning and disappear at day's end. After a month, the storage compartments will be gathering dust as residents start leaving personal effects in place. More etiquette sessions will follow. Add one more non-productive cycle to the workplace.

Too bad employees can't force a recall of bad management practice ala the Miami mayoral recall vote.

Permalink to Comment

6. Henry's cat on March 18, 2011 9:22 AM writes...

This is not 'slightly insane'. This is drooling out of the corner of the mouth, catching imaginary flies-insane.'

When Pharma companies are staffed with robots (they wish) then this sort of nonsense is going to work, but when you are dealing with human beings, I give it two years before it is abandoned.

Permalink to Comment

7. Agilist on March 18, 2011 9:23 AM writes...

No surprises here, a typically cynical take on a genuinely innovative approach to encouraging greater staff interactions. On the one hand, GSK is panned for being overly hierarchichal, yet when it tries to deploy some known levellers, it still gets panned. How about some constructive input!

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8. David P on March 18, 2011 9:33 AM writes...

This could work, assuming that:

# desks >> # people

So I can see why GSK might use it.

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9. Jonathan on March 18, 2011 9:37 AM writes...

And people wonder why NIH wants to (needs to?) help out with the actual business of drug discovery... Everyone at GSK is obviously trying to find out where management put their cheese.

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10. wwjd on March 18, 2011 9:44 AM writes...

A lot of managers at GSK could use those etiquette classes.
Maybe GSK is doing this to make it more difficult to talk to recruiters while at work.

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11. Esther on March 18, 2011 9:48 AM writes...

I wonder if there will be an increase in shoulder and back issues, from carrying the laptop and various things into the office every day? Plus, I bet the storage space is too small for the shower supplies for a bicycle commuter.

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12. anchor on March 18, 2011 9:56 AM writes...

Can I empty my bladder? Somewhere please!!

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13. Rick on March 18, 2011 9:57 AM writes...

Time to dust off the Newspeak Dictionary. Those in Outer Party get to attend joycamps to learn to bellyfeel Newspeak!!! Ownlife is ungood oldthink. Crimethinkers will be sent to Room 101 at Miniluv.

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14. Kay on March 18, 2011 10:02 AM writes...

When I was working at GSK a couple of years ago, they were starting to try this out. It was not very popular. For lab people, I think the idea was to get people to do their work at their bench so they didn't need a desk - laptops were being moved into the labs and we were "encouraged" to do our work in the lab rather than at our desks.

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15. quintus on March 18, 2011 10:04 AM writes...

This is the crap that Novartis has introduced in the so-called campus. What a load of bull it is too, and the Campus

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16. johnnyboy on March 18, 2011 10:04 AM writes...

From #7: "...a typically cynical take on a genuinely innovative approach to encouraging greater staff interactions."

I see. So the key to increasing drug discovery productivity is to have people chat with each other more ?

"How about some constructive input!"

Here's some constructive input for ya: LEAVE PEOPLE ALONE SO THAT THEY CAN DO THEIR WORK !!!

Permalink to Comment

17. Rock on March 18, 2011 10:07 AM writes...

Pfizer did this years ago when they ran out of space in one of the office buildings. They called it 'hoteling'. I hear they are going to try something similar to the GSK model in research. Don't forget the other obvious benefit: Think of all the time saved when they ask you to clean out your office when more layoffs come.

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18. GSKer on March 18, 2011 10:07 AM writes...

I am a fan of not having walls between me and my colleagues. I abhor the idea of not having permanent space! With 8 desks for every 10 employees, it will be terrible. There are two issues here - #1 getting rid of walls and #2 h ot desking. Please do not confuse the two as they do not have to go together.

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19. Anonymous on March 18, 2011 10:13 AM writes...

johnnyboy, don't bother. Agilist is a GSK mouthpiece for the higher ups. See the comments in the following:

http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2011/02/15/noted_through_massive_selfrestraint_with_almost_no_comment_whatsoever.php

Permalink to Comment

20. Rick on March 18, 2011 10:14 AM writes...

Johnnyboy (#16),
Someone sounds jealous that agilist (#7) is doubleplusgood at doublethink...

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21. Derek Lowe on March 18, 2011 10:14 AM writes...

Agilist, I haven't been complaining that GSK's too heirarchical. But I'm not convinced that using "known levelers" is the key to increasing productivity, either.

To be honest, this looks like a way for the company to save money, while putting a New! Better! Productive! face on it. I think that human beings tend to carve out personal spaces for themselves, and that messing around with that smacks of an unpleasant sort of social engineering.

Permalink to Comment

22. fmr-GSKer on March 18, 2011 10:15 AM writes...

I've heard they're using it in other depts at other sites as well, for things like Chem-dev and HTS, where there are relatively large, central lab facilities and separate office space. I haven't heard of it hitting (what's left of) discovery yet, where the cubes and offices tend to be arranged in a long line along next to the (smaller) labs. Have yet to hear joy expressed about this, or that anyone has gotten to know the boss better.

Permalink to Comment

23. Rick on March 18, 2011 10:20 AM writes...

This is NOT just about saving money! It's about increasing productivity! Reducing the denominator of the productivity formula (=output/spending) increases the quotient, ergo productivity goes up. It's called "denominator management" and it's taught at a fine business school near you.

Permalink to Comment

24. Rick on March 18, 2011 10:23 AM writes...

This is NOT just about saving money! It's about increasing productivity! Reducing the denominator of the productivity formula (=output/spending) increases the quotient, ergo productivity goes up. It's called "denominator management" and it's taught at a fine business school near you.

Permalink to Comment

25. Hap on March 18, 2011 10:23 AM writes...

#7: How about not trying something as policy that hasn't been repeatedly tried and has repeatedly failed? That might help.

You want people to 1) take up less space and 2) be more collaborative. You could do 1) by having more computer tools, particularly portable tools like tablets, and by allowing the access to documents to be free - otherwise, people will either have to save lots of paper or will not have access to useful information. From the statement, that seems to be pretty much what you're not doing. Money savings from lower rent are obvious, but the costs to employee productivity are probably real - you may not see them, but they are there. Short-term thinking in a long-term business will not win.

2) is hard, but forcing people to collaborate is pretty well known not to work. If you want collaboration, then you need to structure pay and incentives around team goals (preferably ones that actually matter, rather than just putting through compounds or candidates), but that's pretty hard because you need to assess individuals to see if they're actually doing what you're paying for them to do. You may also not know what matters (general information about a disease pathway or pharmacokinetics might help generate drugs later, but doesn't do much now). Of course, shipping people out the door rapidly is unconducive to having employees play well with others, as well, but you probably won't stop doing that either. If you're not willing to give some semblance of stability (with the risk that people will be selfish and game you), then 2) is not going to happen. Sorry.

Doing what you (should) know won't work so that you look like you're doing something is not managing your way to success.

Permalink to Comment

26. milkshake on March 18, 2011 10:23 AM writes...

Its great to sit next to your boss - they ought to remove the walls in the bathrooms too

Permalink to Comment

27. Agilist on March 18, 2011 10:25 AM writes...

Correction, #19, I'm just trying to bring some balance and perspective. Contrary to what is often written here, GSK is a refreshingly open company where its CEO, Andrew Witty, encourages informality and open debate. Our industry is going through an exceedingly tough time at the moment so it is easy to be negative and cynical but difficult to come up with solutions to the current malaise afflicting our industry!

Permalink to Comment

28. bbooooooya on March 18, 2011 10:26 AM writes...

Hilarious.

I wonder how many shareholder dollars were destroyed planning this crap, and how many more will be vaporized when GSK realizes how stupid this is? Maybe everyone will have been outsourced (I wonder when some moron from BCG or McKinsey will have companies rebrand this as 'right-sourcing'?) to the PRC by then.

It would be fun to sit in on an etiquette class and ask what the correct form is to belch/break wind/clip one's toe nails.

Permalink to Comment

29. Hap on March 18, 2011 10:27 AM writes...

#24: Managing the denominator only helps if you don't reduce the numerator at the same time, or don't reduce the numerator more than you reduce the denominator.

Maybe agilist is overinvested in GSK? At least it's better than Generex.

Permalink to Comment

30. wwjd on March 18, 2011 10:34 AM writes...

LOL Agilist,

When Moncef first took over R&D he said if you didn't agree with him you should leave the company.

Permalink to Comment

31. Rick on March 18, 2011 10:40 AM writes...

Hap (#29),
"Managing the denominator only helps if you don't reduce the numerator at the same time, or don't reduce the numerator more than you reduce the denominator."

The denominator can ALWAYS be reduced more than the numerator on a quarterly or annual basis. Longer time frames are irrelevant to the point of non-existence from an investor relations perspective, which is the only perspective that matters (right?). That's the beauty of denominator management!

Besides, if it doesn't work out, it'll take so many years to realize it that by then the consultants will have been paid in full, the management that implemented the policy will have received their golden parachutes and moved on to their next "improvement" and the new managers will have accumulated plenty of other "externalities" to blame the failure on. No harm, no foul.

Permalink to Comment

32. Chemjobber on March 18, 2011 10:42 AM writes...

a genuinely innovative approach to encouraging greater staff interactions.

Why are the tried-and-true ones not working? Not working or not tried?

Free food, alcohol, putting a white board next to the coffee pot, free time to think, hiring people who can work as a team. All of those, I came up with in less than a minute. They're probably cheaper than the cost of moving all that stuff around.

Permalink to Comment

33. sigma147 on March 18, 2011 10:43 AM writes...

We spend too much time teaching small children not to accept candy from strangers and not enough time teaching the same lessons to managers about consultants. Unfortunately, the outcome in each case seems rather similar.

Permalink to Comment

34. Anonymous on March 18, 2011 10:46 AM writes...

I love this idea! Now no one will ever know which scientists were terminated because there will be no assigned space to remind the survivors that the occupant has disappeared.

We are all just ghosts in the machine.

Permalink to Comment

35. Anonymous on March 18, 2011 10:49 AM writes...

Humans are territorial. We are also possesive. No etiquette class will remove that from our genes.

All this is is some overpaid consultant trying to justify his career choice.

Permalink to Comment

36. anotherlabrat on March 18, 2011 10:51 AM writes...

Folks,
GSK is not exactly leading the way here. Other Pharma like Lilly and Pfizer in research have already done this. It's an adjustment to say the least..

Permalink to Comment

37. Agilist on March 18, 2011 10:55 AM writes...

#30. wwjd, you've taken what Moncef actually said out of context. I was there in April 2006 when he used a phrase similar to what you've quoted and it was definitely meant metaphorically. He was trying to convey a sense of urgency by issuing a clarion call for change and few in the room disagreed with him at the time. Moncef has rarely beeen given positive coverage in this forum but he's remained steadfast in his resolve to reform GSK and implement a principle of subsidiarity where decisions are develoved as far down the line as possible.

Permalink to Comment

38. FriendofMoMo on March 18, 2011 10:56 AM writes...

No wonder chemists are being thrown into the streets and Pharma is in trouble. Look what you focus on, office space!

Now get back to work and make a drug for me that will prolong a erection, and at my command!

Permalink to Comment

39. Rick on March 18, 2011 11:04 AM writes...

"implement a principle of subsidiarity where decisions are develoved as far down the line as possible." buzzword BINGO!!!!!

Permalink to Comment

40. Hap on March 18, 2011 11:07 AM writes...

Maybe pharma management people are all believers in the "world will end in 2012" theory. This makes sense from that perspective.

#38: Well, if you have the appropriate appendages, and your coworkers are attractive, well, the open office space theory might help. It doesn't help the women, though, and it might be a harrassment problem, eventually, but I'm assuming the solution to that problem is "Fire them all, and let the (long-term) shareholders sort it out."

Permalink to Comment

41. Agilist on March 18, 2011 11:07 AM writes...

Derek,
my point about excessive criticism of GSK on this forum was not directed at you, rather at some of your contributors. Your blog is actually highly regarded and widely read at GSK where constructive criticism is generally welcomed.

Permalink to Comment

42. processchemist on March 18, 2011 11:10 AM writes...

@37

In a "naked king" type of situation your opinions are perfect for the court, but totally ludicrous for the rest of the world.

Permalink to Comment

43. Hap on March 18, 2011 11:11 AM writes...

I don't think most people have a particular dislike for GSK. When GSK does stupid things, though, then it should expect to be criticized. "Hoteling" is almost certainly on the "stupid things" list, for the many reasons listed.

Permalink to Comment

44. RB Woodweird on March 18, 2011 11:12 AM writes...

This reminds me of the story in The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars about the quirky Mars upper management who had all the desks of the bigwigs on one open floor.

Interesting read containing lots of real world SPC history and fun chocolate facts.

Permalink to Comment

45. milkshake on March 18, 2011 11:13 AM writes...

You need to understand that consultants are called in so as to support agenda of someone in the upper management. And the agenda is driven by self-interest - productivity or profitability is the stated reason for wrestling out more control over people and money, for sidetracking a rival while covering own ass. It is about sweeping the problems under carpet and identifying the bottlenecks anywhere but at the top of the bottle. Its about demonstrating a leadership and vision where there is none. And for $2000 an hour these bright young men will write it for you so you don't even have to bother inventing the baloney by yourself.

Permalink to Comment

46. johnnyboy on March 18, 2011 11:15 AM writes...

Rick, I believe the more correct appellation is "Bullshit Bingo".

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47. Nick K on March 18, 2011 11:15 AM writes...

This idea was tried out a few years ago at BT in the UK. It was an unmitigated disaster. Dozens of employees fell ill with depression and stress-related illness to such an extent that the company was obliged to hire several full-time psychotherapists to counsel them. I believe BT have gone back to the old system since then. Why does GSK think it will work for them?

Permalink to Comment

48. Simplement! on March 18, 2011 11:17 AM writes...

Agilist, were you the same person who tried to foist the term "simplement" upon us a few years ago? This is apparently a portmanteau of "simplify" + "implement", not sure if it ever gained "traction" but it probably got someone promoted!

Permalink to Comment

49. Rick on March 18, 2011 11:22 AM writes...

Amen to that Hap (#43)! If this blog is indeed "highly regarded and widely read at GSK", then it will have not gone unnoticed that "some of your contributors" (i.e. all them aside from agilist) seem to view this idea with great skepticism (to put it mildly in some cases). Whether or not that is construed as "constructive criticism" depends on your perspective. Those who follow this page and are scientists - which is probably a lot - routinely hear that our ideas are stupid, often from our own mouths or the mouths of our colleagues and deal with it.

Permalink to Comment

50. MIMD on March 18, 2011 11:27 AM writes...

Allow me to be blunt and direct.

Those behind this exercise in "management metaphysics" are idiots.

Permalink to Comment

51. Rick on March 18, 2011 11:31 AM writes...

#48
Actually, simplement is a word, in French. It translates into English as "simple" or "simply". In English, "simple" has a variety of meanings, but the consensus seems to be that there's just one that is especially apt for this management tactic: the one that often has the suffix "-minded".

Permalink to Comment

52. MIMD on March 18, 2011 11:32 AM writes...

Looked at ideologically, this whole "hoteling" mysticism strikes me as having much in common with communism.

Where's the peer-reviewed, RCT-based data showing the justification for such a move?

Turning the workplace into a commune is not the path to profound new drug discovery - unless you believe in the Tooth Fairy, that is.

Permalink to Comment

53. Simplement! on March 18, 2011 11:37 AM writes...

Rick, not sure the guy who asked us to "simplement" projects knew jackshit about French though he was fluent in jargon, he was also an "evangelist" for "agile" project management methodologies! Hmm!!

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54. Anonymous on March 18, 2011 11:43 AM writes...

OMG GSK LOL. This certainly gives new meaning to rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.

Seriously, GSK is run by idiots.

If this even brought up at GE you would be laughed out the front door.

IMHO Pharma is reaping what it has sown. Trimming out older experienced folks within its ranks, it finds itself unable to effectively govern itself.

I'm in my 20's and realize this.

Permalink to Comment

55. Simplement! on March 18, 2011 12:07 PM writes...

#54, Chris Lipinski, he of the "Rule Of Five" fame, termed it as "loss of institutional mememory", he was referring to Pfizer outsourcing but it's just as relevant to other companies. But who needs chemists when you've got the likes of "agilist"!!

Permalink to Comment

56. wwjd on March 18, 2011 12:24 PM writes...

Pharmalot is running a poll on whether an open plan is a good plan, currently its 84-5 against. I know it's not scientific, but maybe GSK should have run a poll internally first?

Permalink to Comment

57. Anonymous on March 18, 2011 12:32 PM writes...

We have used this system in GSK for several years in the UK. I'm an early adopter and was very hostile to begin with, but when implemented properly, it works. We have a lot of smaller offices for private work and team working. I binned masses of rubbish, and wouldn't go back. I guess I'm now clutter-phobic. Those cubicles so prevalent in the US reminded me of battery hens.

Permalink to Comment

58. Hap on March 18, 2011 12:33 PM writes...

Any time one hears the word "re-education", it's probably time to run for the exits or the hills.

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59. Anonymous on March 18, 2011 12:48 PM writes...

Designing areas to encourage greater interaction is old hat. Has been done in many org's including Pharma's. As others note above, it does not often "take" Many other things like culture and incentives have to be changed to create the intended results, and there is no guarantee on getting them. Doing it adjoining labs is even more difficult - lab reconstruction is expensive as hell.

As the above techniques are 10-15 years old, one would think there would be proof of results. Anyone see anything like that documented?

It would probably be smarter to better leverage virtual collaborations, avoiding much of the physical costs, constraints, distractions and morale-killers.

On the down-side: Building on others' comments towards how this is more to set up telecommuting and cost reductions: I have seen this in other industries and it is just the tip of the iceberg of change. Second evolution will come scaling back of physical plants (window dressing to sell off divisions?)

But the third evolution will be even more painful. Other firms/industries did this "hoteling" in order to reform their remaining expensive staff to have a "virtual", "exchangeable" nature. Once the work and collaboration has no physical boundaries or limitations, a professional can be "swapped" for someone less expensive - far more easily. Is this in line with what YOU see as the industry future?

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60. carolinadude on March 18, 2011 1:04 PM writes...

Wow...don't get up to use the bathroom!

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61. Anonymous on March 18, 2011 1:06 PM writes...

I wonder whyu there seems to be little to no proof of the value of these changes. #36 above notes that Lilly and Pfizer have done this. Any results? I know it is far harder to prove causality there no opp. for double blind, but really any proof of increased innovation and collaboration? I recall they did this ages ago at another Pharma and folks avoided the formal collab areas.

On the other hand, IT tech firms seem to have found this to be very successful in stimulating innovation (e.g., Apple, Google, and many others.) What is different here? Is this the proof I wonder about above? If we need to solve harder problems or be more innovative, should we look at other's path to success?

If not why? Are we in Pharma too entangled in a complex process? Are we overly trained to think independently and therefore cannot adapt to co-creation models?

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62. dearieme on March 18, 2011 1:07 PM writes...

@#14: "... and we were "encouraged" to do our work in the lab rather than at our desks." I can remember when we were encouraged to do desk work at our desks outside the lab, so that we didn't needlessly spend time in a hazardous environment.

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63. Anonymous on March 18, 2011 1:09 PM writes...

I wonder why there seems to be little to no proof of the value of these changes. #36 above notes that Lilly and Pfizer have done this. Any results? I know it is far harder to prove causality there no opp. for double blind, but really any proof of increased innovation and collaboration? I recall they did this ages ago at another Pharma and folks avoided the formal collab areas.

On the other hand, IT tech firms seem to have found this to be very successful in stimulating innovation (e.g., Apple, Google, and many others.) What is different here? Is this the proof I wonder about above? If we need to solve harder problems or be more innovative, should we look at other's path to success?

If not why? Are we in Pharma too entangled in a complex process? Are we overly trained to think independently and therefore cannot adapt to co-creation models?

Permalink to Comment

64. Hap on March 18, 2011 1:11 PM writes...

If we are exchangeable (or close to being so), with little loss in productivity, then that model seems inevitable. If employees aren't exchangeable (the replacements aren't as productive), then it will fail badly (because no drugs = no money, and countries without pharma jobs have no reason to spare pharma profit to keep their drug costs high).

Of course, even if your bus goes really fast, it won't do well if the drivers can't drive or benefit from driving it over a cliff. Hoteling doesn't change the quality of management decisions.

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65. Anonymous on March 18, 2011 1:12 PM writes...

I wonder why there seems to be little to no proof of the value of these changes. #36 above notes that Lilly and Pfizer have done this. Any results? I know it is far harder to prove causality there no opp. for double blind, but really any proof of increased innovation and collaboration? I recall they did this ages ago at another Pharma and folks avoided the formal collab areas.

On the other hand, IT tech firms seem to have found this to be very successful in stimulating innovation (e.g., Apple, Google, and many others.) What is different here? Is this the proof I wonder about above? If we need to solve harder problems or be more innovative, should we look at other's path to success?

If not why? Are we in Pharma too entangled in a complex process? Are we overly trained to think independently and therefore cannot adapt to co-creation models?

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66. myma on March 18, 2011 1:18 PM writes...

As someone who now works in an open office, I agree with OldLabRat #5, that after a while people permenently camp out at a particular place, and personal effects do start to accumulate (like coffee mugs and kids pics and cell phone chargers), and a desk becomes de facto assigned.

People really do collect too much shite, and it is an opportunity to clean out all the crap. Who ever really reads physical paper papers anymore? The physical reference books are missing and missed, but they are nearly all my personal ones and I think in these days it is best to keep them at home anyway.

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67. Rick on March 18, 2011 1:26 PM writes...

#61,
You ask good questions at the end of your post (e.g. "IT tech firms seem to have found this to be very successful in stimulating innovation (e.g., Apple, Google, and many others.) What is different here?"). There is probably no clear, one-size-fits-all answer to any of our questions. If there were, a lot of management consultants would be out of work very quickly! Of course, maybe there is and it's in management consultants interests to avoid finding or disclosing it.

There does seem to be a lot cutting and pasting of management ideas from software/IT industry to biotech/pharma. Like you, I haven't seen objective analysis that shows it's worked in pharma. (It would not be in the interest of consultants or pharma execs to share such data if it did exist!) Certainly, the two industries differ significantly in the cycle time and probability of success between idea and marketed product, the difference being about an order of magnitude. From there, one could could construct lots of hypotheses in which ideas that are smashing successes in IT/software would be catastrophes in pharma/biotech.

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68. Chrispy on March 18, 2011 1:34 PM writes...


It seems like collaboration would decrease because you wouldn't know where to find people. After the Sirtris gaffe you'd think GSK leadership would be sensitive to moves which would invite ridicule. Hey, Guys, everyone's laughing again! I feel sorry for the people working there -- clearly management is either not listening or they don't give a damn. That's a sorry situation destined to get worse.

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69. Mutatis Mutandis on March 18, 2011 1:51 PM writes...

At J&J, a facility recently received an award for exploring the same idea. Last time I saw them, they were actively looking for volunteers willing to try it... I fear the worst.

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70. James on March 18, 2011 1:51 PM writes...

It's a mind game folks meant to destroy the worker's sense of place. It informs you in no uncertain terms that you are such a worthless replaceable piece of cr**p that you don't even deserve a desk.

It creates dissension amongst employees who are now envious over who got the best desk 'today'. Hostility grows and now employees are even less cohesive as a group (no Unionization).

This also fragments any notion that the workers are professional and makes them more emotionally pliable and easy to force into unpaid overtime.

But most of all, when people are fired and jobs outsourced the x-chemist leaves no trace at the company.

This is wickedly evil.


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71. James on March 18, 2011 1:54 PM writes...

It's a mind game folks meant to destroy the worker's sense of place. It informs you in no uncertain terms that you are such a worthless replaceable piece of cr**p that you don't even deserve a desk.

It creates dissension amongst employees who are now envious over who got the best desk 'today'. Hostility grows and now employees are even less cohesive as a group (no Unionization).

This also fragments any notion that the workers are professional and makes them more emotionally pliable and easy to force into unpaid overtime.

But most of all, when people are fired and jobs outsourced the x-chemist leaves no trace at the