Doug Drysdale knew from a young age that he'd end up in pharma. "When I first left high school I worked in a hospital lab.
Then I went to university," he says. "Coming out of there, it was hard to see sometimes how you would commercialize a life
sciences degree and how you could actually make a career out of it—what's interesting academically is sometimes difficult
to turn into a career. But the pharma industry immediately struck me as a way to do that."
Drysdale moved up the ranks at small startups but also places such as Forest Laboratories and DuPont Merck before eventually
becoming CEO at Alvogen. Drysdale recognizes that industry has changed and downsized since he began his career, with companies
commonly doing more with less. "That's interesting because in some ways I think my career has followed that kind of path,"
he says. "I started out in Big Pharma and ended up moving into more entrepreneurial roles and into generics. Part of that
has followed the lifecycle of the pharmaceutical industry. When I first started out, pharma had so much money to spend on
R&D. Now times are definitely leaner and every company is searching for ways to get more out of the R&D pipeline while spending
The best way to handle this new environment, says Drysdale, is to focus specifically on areas with the most potential value,
then make swift decisions. In the US generics space, Drysdale says, "Only generics that are more complex, more high-tech,
and have fewer competitors have the real value." Outside the US, he says, the value lies in targeting emerging markets.
Once Drysdale and his team know what to focus on, the next step is to approach innovation from what he calls a "10-80-10"
philosophy. "We spend 10 percent of our time planning, 80 percent of our time executing, and 10 percent of our time reflecting
on what we could have done differently," he says, "whereas a lot of companies spend 80 percent of their time planning and
20 percent executing. They are thinking too much and too hard about what needs to be done; they get paralyzed by difficult
The key to the 10-80-10 method is to foster the kind of environment where employees feel confident making swift decisions
and taking risks. "By taking a different approach and making sure that employees feel there are no repercussions for making
mistakes, I think people are far more motivated and far more likely to bring their ideas forward," says Drysdale.
But the creativity to come up with a great idea and having employees with the power to execute it are not the only key factors,
says Drysdale. "Let's be up front: If I've thought of something or my colleagues have thought of something, the chances are
that two or three of my competitors have thought of it also," he says. "I don't think we can claim to have a monopoly on good
ideas. But we can execute those ideas much faster than our competitors. Having a good idea is not good enough. It's taking
a good idea and turning it into an action that moves you forward—and that comes from speed and decisiveness."