High-Risks to High Reward - Pharmaceutical Executive

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High-Risks to High Reward

Pharmaceutical Executive


Lessening Human Risk

While the reduction of business risk and legal uncertainty plays a large part in mitigating sources of conflict between team members, human interactions always contain the potential for tension and discord. Drawing on Lilly's expertise in neuroscience and psychiatry, we have developed tools that help participants manage their way through various situations and deal with the differences in outlook and opinion that invariably exist in group settings.

One such tool is a short video we created to demonstrate how quickly situations can deteriorate under certain circumstances, when the stakes are significant and emotions are running high. After viewing the video, the question for team members becomes: How can we prevent this from happening to us? The ensuing discussion is always valuable, as we talk about ground rules for respectful interaction, the importance of reliability and trust, and techniques for staying objective and on-task.

Another tool we have found extremely worthwhile is the use of structured listening, in which one person is chosen to speak for each team in a particular discussion. This method is effective especially when the subject matter is complicated or opinions—even among the same team—diverge widely. By funneling communication through one person, each group must achieve consensus on an issue before presenting its case. Structured listening has the effect of forcing each side to actively hear the other's opinion and respond to the content, not the delivery, of the message.

Minimizing Risk = Value

Effectively managing alliances is no easy task, but it can and must be done. Over the last decade, we have seen firsthand how a redefinition of our group's role—from facilitating relationships to mitigating risk—has made a positive impact in strategic collaborations at all levels. Whether the nature of the services we provide is proactive (contingency planning, decision documentation, and conflict management training) or reactive (crisis management and problem solving), our methods aim to reduce business risk, human risk, and legal uncertainties.

Most significantly, our approach and efforts serve to remind everyone on the team that working together to minimize risk and mitigate potential conflict will help us achieve our common goal of generating a valuable product.

David Thompson is the Chief Alliance Officer at Eli Lilly. He can be reached at

Steven Twait is Director of Alliances and M&A Integration at Eli Lilly. He can be reached at


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