Summer Reads: What are Pharma Folk Reading?

We found out what pharma experts are reading and what they recommend to others in the industry.

We chat to avid readers Mike Rea, Jill Donahue, Nigel Theobald and Emma D'Arcy Sutcliffe on what should be on everyone's reading list this summer.

Mike Rea, CEO of IDEA Pharma, reads about two books a week, so found it difficult to narrow down his recommendations. IDEA even has a ‘book club’ called ‘IDEA Collider,’ where they invite the author to talk with them about their book. Here’s what Rea came up with from his vast library.

The Innovator's Hypothesis: How Cheap Experiments are Worth more than Good Ideas

By Michael Schrage

This book is an examination of what an idea ‘is’ and the role of ideas in innovation. It also explores how organizations can get the maximum possible value from the innovations they invest in. Rea describes it as, “A whirlwind examination of the role of hypotheses, prototypes and ideas in innovation.”

He adds, “IDEA does a lot of prototyping and ideation is at the core of our work… Lines like ‘If there isn’t a hypothesis, then it’s not a prototype’ are wonderful crystallizations of the way we work, so it’s nice to know that our philosophy is backed up by a Harvard/MIT professor.”

A key take home message from the book is that ideas have edges, and that they need challenge, experiment, and work. Rea says, “It’s a perfect illustration of the need to experiment more broadly in early phases, and only to pursue great ideas into phase III.”

 

How we do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks about being Sick in America

By Otis Webb Brawley and Paul Goldberg

This text is a description of the ways that physicians interact with healthcare in the US, including the role of profit and silos of speciality. It is a personal examination and introspection from a senior oncologist of his own, and the US’s, strengths and weaknesses when it comes to delivering care. Rea says, “It is so insightful, so passionate, and so connected to our work in pharma.”

For Rea, the book offered a reminder that what he, and other pharma professionals do, matters. “That value to patients isn’t an abstract concept,” he says. “When we do a good job, we make a very big difference, but when the system is bad, it is very bad.” Indeed, the authors’ examination of the ‘anemia’ market shows that pharma’s history isn’t something to be proud of.

Pharma talks about ‘the patient journey’ a lot, but it’s usually abstract,” adds Rea. “This book shows why it shouldn’t be. As Brawley writes about a picture in his office (a poster of Robert F. Kennedy sailing a small boat off Cape Cod), ‘I love the image and the RFK motto beneath it: One man can make a difference, and every man should try.’”

A key take home message is that pharma has a moral duty to develop great drugs, to be more transparent, and to understand the system in which they are working. Rea highly recommends How we do Harm because, “It’s impossible to read the book and not pause during every decision we make to reflect on the difference we will or won’t make.”

Jill Donahue, Author, EngageRx, is another bibliophile with a wealth of books from which to choose when making recommendations. She summarizes at least one book a month that she thinks can help us in pharma and publishes them at actionablebooks.com. If she had to choose one for you to read this summer? 

Give and Take

By Adam Grant

A compilation of the author’s research, stories, and ideas on how individuals and organizations can succeed through reciprocity. A new model for relationships with colleagues, clients and competitors is also offered, challenging the notion that we need to put ourselves first in order to make it to the top. Emphasis is placed on helping others and on the success potential of ‘smart givers.’ Readers can establish their own reciprocity style, be they a giver (happy to share their time and energy for others benefit), taker (looks out for themselves), or matcher (happy to give if something will be received in return). Which are you?

A key take home message is that, “The defining quality of a top pharmaceutical salesperson was being a giver” (p. 141).

If Donahue’s review of Give and Take peaked your interest, you can read the full version here or even watch her interview with the author Adam Grant here. You might also enjoy the ebooks she created for us, packed with summaries of her favorite books for pharma folks. You can get yours free here.

The Trust Edge

By David Horsager

“What is the foundation of success?” asks Donahue. “Trust.” And it is trust that Horsager explores in this book, showing the reader how to plant and nurture seeds of trust. He also provides advice on how to build 8 pillars of trust (clarity; compassion; character; competency; commitment; connection; contribution; and, consistency). According to Donahue, these 8 pillars have put leaders like Google on top of their game. “Those who embrace the 8 pillars will enjoy better relationships, reputations, retention, revenue and results,” she says.

A key take home message, according to Donahue, is, “If you are hoping for a quick fix, it doesn’t exist. Building trust is like growing a forest. Many seeds are planted, nurtured over time and then with one small match, destroyed.” Another gem from the book, says Donahue, is that, “Trust, not money, is the currency of business and life!”

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth behind Extraordinary Results

By Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

What if less is more? This question is explored in The One Thing in an effort to demonstrate to the reader that their One Thing will help them achieve tremendous results. The approach taken by the authors is to derail some of the myths surrounding productivity, followed by advice on a simpler path to productivity. The power of the domino effect is emphasized, where if you put all of your energy into the one most important thing, you can shoot for the moon. All you have to do is identify that One Thing.“What is your company’s ONE Thing?” asks Donahue. “If you don’t know, then your company’s ONE Thing is to find out! What if there was just one thing that could move you from ordinary to extraordinary?”

Nigel Theobald, CEO and Founder of N4 Pharma, offers three recommendations and says that all three have really influenced him.

Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life

By Spencer Johnson

“This is a fantastic short book written in a parable style about change and how we react to it,” explains Theobald. It follows four individuals - two ‘little people’ and two mice who react very differently to how change is presented to them, i.e. when someone moves their cheese.

“I read this when I was working for a major UK corporation and it resonated so strongly with me,” says Theobald. “Senior managers had been ‘moving my cheese’ for years but basically playing with me by hiding it in places they wanted me to go for their benefit.” After reading this book, Theobald made a life-changing decision; he realized there was more and better ‘cheese’ for him elsewhere, so he applied for redundancy. It was then that his life as an entrepreneur began. He says, “I’m happy to say that since that day I have come across many different types of cheese and am always looking for more!”

The key message? Theobald says, “I loved the way a simple writing style could get so many messages across, but the overriding message is that there is plenty of cheese out there; just go and find it!”

Five People You Meet in Heaven

By Mitch Albom

This is a novel following the life and death of a maintenance man named Eddie. In a heroic attempt to save a little girl from being killed by an amusement park ride that is about to fall, Eddie is killed and sent to heaven, where he encounters five people who significantly impacted him while he was alive. “It’s a very moving book,” says Theobald, “It shows that we all have an impact on other people in our lives, however small we see the actions at the time. There are also others who have impacted us in the same way.”

For Theobald, the book, “Got me thinking about how other people inspired me in my life, at school, at work, and friends, as well as how their actions, however little at the time, have shaped me into who I am today. Above all, this book encourages you to be reflective, to think about your actions and, as a CEO, how important these actions are for not just yourself but many others too.”

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

By Malcolm Gladwell

This international number one bestseller, examines ‘the tipping point’ phenomenon - that moment when an idea, trend or behavior crosses a threshold and spreads like wildfire. Theobald explains, “I trained as an econometrician, which is a cross between a statistician and an economist. I love numbers, I can see patterns in numbers and trends, and The Tipping Point highlights how small changes can grow and influence others and behave like a virus.” This book brings the mathematics of growth to life with real stories and shows how growth can escalate through the power of ‘word of mouth.’

In the modern world, with access to technology on a global scale, the pharma industry needs to take this point on board. “It will not be sufficient to rely just on the clinician to make decisions and recommendations,” says Theobald. “In the future, patients will behave more like consumers as they research the drugs that they are taking. Therefore, understanding the importance of word of mouth will be important.”

Emma D’Arcy-Sutcliffe, Global Pharma Patient and Physician Engagement and Social Media Leader, ELD Consulting, says, “Asking me to pick a favorite book - or five - is excruciating as I describe reading as my only vice! And as a Medical Writer it's both business and pleasure to read extensively and intensively.”

Books that have directly impacted D’Arcy Sutcliffe’s career are:

The Truth about the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do about It

By Marcia Angell

This book is based on the author's two decades at the New England Journal of Medicine, where she was witness to drug companies straying from their original mission of drug development in favor of profit. In this hard-hitting book, Angell exposes the truth of what the pharmaceutical industry has become, or at least how she saw it when she wrote the book in 2005. She argues for much-needed change within the pharma industry, highlighting that high drug prices aren’t necessary to fund research, and that drug companies need to stop marketing products with dubious benefit.

Conversations that Win the Complex Sale: Using Power Messaging to Create more Opportunities, Differentiate your Solutions, and Close more Deals

By Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer

This book argues that commoditization of a brand is one of the greatest dangers and that the aim of businesses should be to differentiate themselves from the competition - otherwise, quite simply, they will miss out. The authors suggest that the way to differentiate themselves is through customer engagement and that rather than selling their own corporate story, organizations need to tell customers their story - one where they achieve success. A specific methodology for engaging clients through storytelling is provided within the book.

Like Theobald, D’Arcy Sutcliffe is also a fan of Who moved my cheese?

So, what will you be reading this summer? I know I will be spoilt for choice.

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