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Blowing the Cobwebs Off Your Mind

November 21, 2013

On Tuesday we held another in our series of “Blowing the Cobwebs off your Mind” events at the Reform Club, this time with a focus on the pharmaceutical industry. These events arose from the joint ideas of Gill Ringland and Laurie Young who sadly died suddenly in September. The main event next January 22nd will be our Memorial to Laurie.

In her introduction, Gill emphasised that the object of much futures thinking is to avoid “cognitive bias”, the tendency of organisations to fail to think widely enough about the future. One technique SAMI have used frequently to help with this is “Three Horizons”.

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The Three Horizons technique is now gaining popularity in places as far away as the Singapore Civil Service and the New South Wales Government.

Chris Yapp took us through his presentation as he had at our October meeting and then reviewed the “Verge” methodology for capturing the effects of change. Each of three table groups then considered the implications for a pharmaceutical company whose Vision was “Improving lifelong health through predictive knowledge”.

Interestingly the three groups were quite close in their analysis. All identified the move towards an emphasis on health analytics, with an emphasis on “wellness” and anticipatory interventions, and the vital importance of building trust.

One group proposed setting up as an arms-length division a “Medical Information Company”, recognising that this meant turning the existing business inside out.  This would need new partners (eg medical sensor equipment manufacturers such as Siemens and Toshiba), new skills (a Pharma university was suggested), facing new competitors like Google and building new payment models.  This faces challenges of data security, regulation (especially in US and EU) and the need to buy in drugs from competitors. However considering the trends of growth in the BRICS, smart cities and ubiquitous technology, the group felt that opportunities in developing countries could be addressed as a starting point.

The second group favoured an “iWell” approach which moves pharmaceuticals beyond “absence of illness” to MAINTENANCE and ENHANCEMENT of health and wellness. Not just through pharmaceuticals but a comprehensive health service provided personalised advice tailored to your DNA, and which gradually built up huge databases which could themselves be used for further research.  They also favoured starting overseas in less regulated markets to build TRUST there first. Products and services are tailored to personal needs – DNA analysis, monitoring your micro-biome – with the motto ““Before the cradle, and past the grave”!

The third group recognised the need for a 20-year approach, and proposed utilising demographic trends by focussing initially on women’s health (as a gateway to the family), particularly those who are pregnant or wishing to become pregnant.

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Human values and the need for transparency would lead to a major shift in mood towards ethical healthcare. The market structure would enable change with the notion of crowd funding, mutuals and spreading the cost outside the industry. This shift in mood would also mean that 3rd world diseases would be addressed at cost or donations not only for charitable reasons but because of the migration threat

There would still be huge organisational and market structure barriers:

  • The vision will require 20 years  to implement yet management are measured and rewarded annual
  • The clinical trials process is complex, lengthy and secret, so the idea of secondary uses of patience trails to develop new drugs is too hard to do with in the current methods

Once again, everyone enjoyed the afternoon and recognised the power of futures thinking techniques to help consider alternative futures, as we gathered again in the splendid setting of the Reform Club bar.

Don’t miss our next event on January 22nd which will be looking at how futures can help develop investment strategies for media industries. Contact Gill at for an invitation.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2014 12:03 pm

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