Natural Resistance

May 1, 2002
Wayne Koberstein
Wayne Koberstein

Wayne Koberstein, a 25-year veteran of the publishing industry, is editor-in-chief of Pharmaceutical Executive magazine. In 14 years as PE's Editor, he has overseen the emergence of the magazine as the leading business and marketing publication for the global pharma industry. He has interviewed and profiled more than 150 top executives in pharmaceutical companies, as well as major regulatory and healthcare leaders, around the world. Wayne has also directed the launch of numerous supplements and other ancillary business for the publication.

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Science deserves all the credit it gets, and more, for driving this industry. Still, no science succeeds without a certain application of what we broadly call art. Inside the scientific discipline, many arts apply-the art of experiment, the art of planning, and the art of free association among them.

Science deserves all the credit it gets, and more, for driving this industry. Still, no science succeeds without a certain application of what we broadly call art. Inside the scientific discipline, many arts apply-the art of experiment, the art of planning, and the art of free association among them.

Although the human brain invented science, it has never surrendered fully to its constraint. That may be because one lobe wants to embrace the discipline, and the other wants to fight or flee it. However much we depend on the mathematical rigor of the scientific mind, we cling to the mysterious spontaneity of the human imagination.

Our bicameral brain may also account for the popular dichotomy of science and art. Physics is a science; cooking is an art-and so on. Yet artists have used and reflected science since its inception. And scientists have explored the universe in artful and ingenious ways, relying often on their creative side for turning data into theory, and theory into technology.

But don't tell that to a scientist or an artist-unless you like being put in your place. In method and self-image, scientists and artists tend to follow quite different personal paths. If they share anything, it is their professional disdain for dilettantes who dare compare science and art. And I'm just getting started making such unsanctioned comparisons.

Imagine what would happen if something compelled artists and scientists to integrate their disciplines for some grand enterprise of critical importance to the world. Now take it a step further: Suppose that not only artists but also many other subcultures-lawyers, accountants, business and marketing execs, and so on-had to "hang" with the scientific community, and with each other, for the common good. That, in a nutshell, is the pharmaceutical industry.

It is also a broad hint at why the industry's science-to-business continuum has so many discontinuities. Terms like "cross functional-fertilization" and "interdisciplinary teams" have such a comforting ring to them, just saying them seems to guarantee success. But however rational and appealing the philosophy behind such terms, people can find amazingly creative ways to defeat it. Tough mergers like Aventis amplified cross-functional dissonance. Many others, like Merck, see the effect over longer periods, ending in disappointing pipelines.

Why would anyone want to resist a more harmonious system? Not always for the best of reasons-and not always for the worst. Some people always fight change; others embrace it too easily. Most of us stand between those extremes. We don't like being forced into things, but we respond to appeals for the higher good, as long as it doesn't require the destruction of what makes us individuals. Wise management-an art or a science?-will make better progress toward cross-disciplinary cooperation by applying that simple insight.

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