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5 big questions on innovation

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Wendy Mayer , Vice President, Strategy and New Business Innovative Pharma, Pfizer

Wendy Mayer , Vice President, Strategy and New Business Innovative Pharma

Wendy Mayer is Vice President, Strategy and New Business Innovative Pharma for Pfizer. Mayer joined Pfizer in 1997, and has had various roles across the commercial organization. Prior to her current role she was Connecticut State Director within Primary Care, responsible for approximately $200 million in revenue. Prior to that she developed a Quality Management System blueprint to embed quality by design principles into…
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How is your team changing the game within your industry sector?

You have to have that enthusiasm and drive from the kind of grassroots level of the organization, but then they have to be supported and feel as if they have the ability to take action on those ideas from above. And so it’s the combination of those two that really enables, I think, productive activity across an organization.


What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your organization or industry sector?

I think a big one that people very often talk about is the fear of failure. The best innovations have really iterated and require actually a lot of failure and learning from that failure in order to deliver successful innovation. And so, if people feel as if there is no tolerance for failure, or that that is a mark on their reputation or on their career path, that will kill innovation right in its tracks.

The other thing I think is the funding aspect. If funding is only available for projects that have a demonstrated ROI, then that will also kill the ideas. If you’re comparing new ideas to established proven tactics or strategies, the innovation and the new idea is going to lose every time. So depending on what sort of metrics or bar you’re holding up as a success measure, that could very often, if you don’t have the right one, be a barrier to innovation.


How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture, and how is it being optimized?

I think [CIO] titles vary across organizations. To me, the point is that there is an element of getting out from under the business and influencing strategy, even organization, at a senior level. And so, there’s been a lot written about the importance of having [the] innovation function reporting high into the organization. I think you also need to be strategic around where you innovate. Organizations need to be thinking at a high level strategy standpoint, as to what’s the innovation ambition. Do I think you need to be a chief innovation officer? No, not necessarily. Obviously that’s not my title, but I think it’s more to the point that it needs to be a high level role, and one that can influence and be comfortable amongst senior leaders within an organization.


What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

[Big data] changes the game in a few ways. Internally as an organization, it presents a lot of information you have accessible to you, as well as new channels and new opportunities and ways in which you could use that data. So, it can become fodder for innovative ideas. The second thing is just the evolution of computing power and technology, and accessibility to data. This is the democratization of innovation where beyond the walls of expert organizations, this information is available, and people have the ability to use it to develop new products, to come up with insights and offer that up to some of the more traditional organizations. 


Can you share a specific innovation strategy you’ve recently encountered which you find compelling?

Our CEO has been very active in the program that we’re working on now, and has been extremely vocal in sharing across many forums across the organization to tell people: this is a priority capability for our organization, and this is going to be required for our future success. 

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