Pharma and Marketers: How Do You Elegantly Use What You Have?

Pharma and Marketers alike, as we approach the end of summer, perhaps a little introspection is warranted?

In the latest McKinsey Quarterly, Dan Vasella, CEO and chairman of Novartis, shares his personal approach to management and leadership, and discusses health care reform, the economic downturn, and executive compensation…During the discussion on compensation, he poses an interesting question worth pondering:

“…I think it much more important to ask, ‘How do you use what you have?’ It’s like with talents you have, do you really use them for the best of society? Do you give something? How do you use the money you have? Is it just to have more zeros on the bank account at the end of the year? Or do you do something right with it?”

So in these tough economic times and with healthcare reform looming, might it not be important for each of us to ask:  How does our business, or our brand(s) use what they have?

How do we use our talents to add maximum value?

How do we use our financial and human resources to create maximum benefit with the minimum effort? [loose definition of an elegant solution. For a more comprehensive one: “marked by concision, incisiveness and ingenuity; cleverly apt and simple, as an elegant solution to a problem.”- Webster’s New World Dictionary]

What should we stop doing? What should we keep doing? Do we need to add something to the mix? [Ideally, we choose to stop doing more than we choose to add and we should actively question keeping ‘sacred cows’ in the mix…]

How do we use our budgets to do something right for our customers in addition to generating a positive return financially and/or qualitatively?

During planning, it is typical to look to reach for the maximum budget we can get…we’re all used to thinking that innovation comes from big budgets and big resources…but what if that wasn’t true?

The vast majority of the millions of innovative ideas have zero budget (Toyota is a great example of this).  Looking for the killer app can be a deadly trap if your bias is something other than realizing that the greatest innovations in the world generally spring from resource constraints…

Lesson: if you want to change the world, you need the ability to see extreme resource constraints as the very source of sustainable innovation.Matthew E May Author of Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing

For me personally, across my 20+ marketing and consulting career, the times I’ve innovated most successfully have been due to having the toughest constraints going in…

And by the way, if you haven’t read Matt’s second book, In Pursuit of Elegance, you should pick it up and find out why elegant ideas have four characteristics: Symmetry, Seduction, Subtraction, and Sustainability.

It also has perhaps one of the most elegant forwards I’ve read in a while, by Guy Kawasaki-Author of Reality Check and co-founder of

While brevity may not cause elegance, long-windedness certainly prevents it. In that spirit, here is a 140-character foreword. Why 140 characters? because that’s the limit of a Twitter “tweet.”

“Less is the new more.” Easy to learn: symmetry, seduction, subtraction, and sustainability. Very valuable to do. Step 1: Read Matt’s book!!”

Also for a good summary of Matt’s thinking, read Guy Kawasaki’s interview with Matt:
In Pursuit of Elegance: 12 Indespensable Tips

Any thoughts you want to add?