What Are IDEAs Made Of: The silo, 2

Mike Rea

IDEA Pharma

Pharma isn’t predominantly a solo activity – it is team-based. However, increased ‘silo-isation’ (who said we couldn’t verb words?) within the teams is producing significant challenge. There is an argument to be made that email is disabling the team structures that once existed (you know, back in the days when blockbusters happened…).


“Reducing technical risk by one route may substantially increase commercial and regulatory risk…”

Differing targets and objectives – produce a candidate, deliver a registration, deliver commercial success – mean different priorities are constantly at play within the same project team… Pharmaceutical development is an exercise in trade-offs. In the least innovative companies, these trade-offs are considered in a hub and spoke arrangement, where the hub hears the inputs and decides. Even worse, commercial decisions (‘there is no unmet need for a product that does that…’) are made by non-commercial members of the team (or decided before it gets to the team), clinical considerations (‘the product won’t beat that comparator in a head-to-head’) are pre-judged by commercial teams. In the most innovative companies, the trade-offs are considered by the matrix team as a team (not by rounds of email and PowerPoint exchange).

Ergonomic systems need feedback loops. Ideally, feedback loops are instantaneous. Ergonomics (the study of how humans interact with systems) shows that, in the absence of stimulus, patterns of behaviour become locked in and ingrained – when exploring, you want someone to respond to your ‘I wonder if…’ with a response that helps inform your own thoughts.

Teams that work together can see and understand the consequences of their thoughts and ideas for the other members of the team. Reducing technical risk by one route may substantially increase commercial and regulatory risk, if a team waits 3 months to understand that, the thinking may already be locked in, or it may be too late to change.

When you consider only one option, your role is limited to improving that one option. ‘Improvement’ in that scenario is dependent on your target – registration, commercial success, technical success. These are often conflicting directions. This tension is seen in almost every company in the industry. Relieving that tension is not simply a case of agreeing on a single objective. The resolution can come from evaluation of more than one option. Having several options for one product under evaluation by the team at the beginning of Phase II allows consideration of which options represent a good overall picture, which are better, and which the best.


“When you consider only one option, your role is limited to improving that one option.”

The silo, or departmental, view is like trying to play Battleships without any feedback from the other player. There may well be a direct strike, but it is a lot easier to recognise that when there is collaboration.

About the author:

Mike Rea is a Principal with IDEA Pharma, who enjoys taking a look outside the industry to learn how it can think differently. For direct enquiries he can be contacted on mike.rea@ideapharma.com and for more information on IDEA Pharma please see http://www.ideapharma.com/what/default.htm.

Do you see sufficient collaboration in decision making?