Some collected thoughts on the challenges of Principal Investigators as managers

All opinions my own or of non-Novo Nordisk colleagues, and do not necessarily reflect those of Novo Nordisk.

A few months ago, Uschi Symmons on her blog posted an essay (see link below) on why Principal Investigators (PIs) at academic institutions are sometimes less than optimal as bosses. That reminded me quite a bit of conversations I’ve had over the years with colleagues in research, and spurred me to send out a link to Uschi’s post to them. My colleagues have graciously allowed me to collect our email conversation into this post, where we further explore and discuss the question.

Me:  Nice blog post showing that 20 years on, things haven’t really changed…

http://wp.me/p3I2ru-2n

Colleague Zero: I think a lot of them (PIs) have Asperger’s syndrome, and are very high functioning autistics. Seriously. Think about it.  Continue reading

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The Innovator’s Dilemma in biopharma part 1. Framing the industry’s position

All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Novo Nordisk

h/t to @Frank_S_David, @scientre, and the LinkedIn Group Big Ideas in Pharma Innovation and R&D Productivity for links and ideas

Joe Nocera’s recent column in the New York Times provided a nice dissection of how Blackberry tumbled from the position it once held at the top of the handheld phone/PDA business market.  In a nutshell it encapsulates how Blackberry fell victim to the Innovator’s Dilemma, the paradigm put forward by Clay Christensen about how and why established companies within an industry often fall victim to disruptive technologies.  This happened even though they were aware of the danger and made efforts to circumvent the dilemma.  In the case of Blackberry, one aspect of their fall was a lack of appreciation for the technology creeping up behind: the iPhone and other mobile devices using touchscreens.  For Blackberry one of their advantages and selling points was a physical keyboard which allowed rapid typing and emailing by business customers.  They couldn’t see why anyone would want something less effective for emails and messaging.

In addition, Blackberry felt both secure in and beholden to their customer base, the businesspeople who used Blackberries strictly as tools for work.  Blackberry (Research in Motion at the time) seemed both unable to conceive of the possibility of other markets and, frankly, had no incentive to reach into those markets until it was too late.  By then other phones and operating systems had grown and matured to the point of essentially overtaking the market of smartphone users, of which businesspeople make up just a small fraction.  Too little, too late, and now Blackberry has been trying to sell itself, although recent reports suggest that strategy is also failing.

From Blackberry to biopharma

In this post I’d like to explore the concept of the Innovator’s Dilemma as it might apply to the biopharmaceuticals industry.  Continue reading

When business takes a stand

All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Novo Nordisk.

Texas!

So much of what happens in the US seems to revolve around Texas.  It’s a huge, rich, diverse state, with influence that stretches far beyond its boundaries.  I mean, you rarely hear about how the politics of Rhode Island affect the nation.  I’m just saying.  Don’t hate me, people of Rhode Island! All eight of  you! Which is still about six more people than read this blog…

That’s why, for example, when Texas experiences outbreaks of whooping cough and measles, it makes the news.  The state is a bellwether for certain cultural and societal trends like the anti-vaccination movement.  And it’s in this context that two recent developments in how businesses are interacting with Texas are fascinating.

Let’s talk textbooks and the death penalty.

Continue reading

The short sword doesn’t fall far from the weapons rack

And now for something completely different.  Regular programming will resume shortly.

I’m sitting in my living room on a Saturday night and I’m listening to my son tell me about Pathfinder.  Pathfinder is one of the most recent iterations of the Dungeons and Dragons franchise, and is described in many heavy, rather expensive books that lay out all the rules, characters, classes, spells, monsters, treasures, and other things that make up this flavor of fantasy role-playing.

“I’m going to be a sorcerer,” he’s telling me, “and since I’m also going to be Dungeon Master, I’m going to make a rule that any character who wants to have more than one class and wants to be a sorcerer for one of them has to start out as a sorcerer.  Because otherwise it doesn’t make sense.”

Believe it or not, the phrase “doesn’t make sense” has probably been uttered more often in the context of fantasy role-playing games than in all the articles about the government shutdown combined.  This is because D&D is all about internal consistency, about creating a world, about figuring out why orcs are so grumpy, why gnomes are without doubt the best character race, why only magic swords glow and not magic maces.  This is also because D&D is played, largely, by geeks who love to argue about esoteric things.

As my son continues telling me his theory about how the initial appearance of a sorcerer’s powers would have to occur before a character starts adventuring, I find I’m only half listening.  And that’s because I’m remembering back to when I started playing D&D, when I was his age, growing up in Hawaii. Continue reading

What do labrador retrievers and NFL wide receivers have in common?

All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Novo Nordisk.

A.  They’re both being studied via mobile tech to create their ethograms.

What’s an ethogram?  I had no idea until I saw this PLOSone paper on using inertial sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes to measure the movements and behaviors of dogs, so as to create an ethogram, or collection of behaviors and actions, characteristic of labrador retrievers and Belgian Malinois.  For scientists studying the behavior and action patterns of different species, building an ethogram is essential to studies of animal behavior.  Without a standardized, objective catalog of behaviors, it can be easy for the perspectives of the observer to get in the way.  And it can make comparisons of data among different researchers (or coaches, as we’ll discuss in a bit) difficult.

And just as I was mulling over how that study shows the power of technology for behavioral research, the latest issue of Sports Illustrated came in the mail and I read a short, fascinating article by Tim Newcomb about how eight NFL teams have signed up with the company Catapult to integrate small GPS sensors into practice and game uniforms. This data allows a more accurate, granular and comprehensive view of how different receivers, for example, play the game.  Basically, building the receiver ethogram (using the term rather loosely). Sadly, this article is currently only in the print issue and not online that I can find.  But it’s at newsstands now.  You can go pick one up.  I’ll wait.

So let me delve into each of these articles a little more.

Continue reading