I was struck by this very simple aphorism when listening to an interesting BBC Radio 4 programme recently (catch it here). I have subsequently reflected on the practicality and robustness of such a simple, succinct and (at least for me) appealing philosophy. Having recently set up Astrocyte as a new business, plus coping with a load of family change stuff in 2014, things do feel a little bit ‘impermanent’ at the moment. As I recall it, the mindfulness mantra pretty much suggests you roll with the punches but take time out to consider what is important and, of course, breathe deeply! There is some debate on the validity of my somewhat flippant, and imperfect, summary in the radio programme so if mindfulness is of particular interest then do listen to the whole programme (while it is still on iPlayer).
So, I personally may be happy with lots of change at the moment (big and small) and I’m trying to learn to love the impermanence of life. But is such an approach practical or even desirable as a general business philosophy – especially in healthcare? Having criticised the pharma industry for being slow to change in the last blog perhaps ‘embracing impermanence’ is the answer? Or perhaps not.
Realistically in an industry which must now leap five hurdles in order to get a product approved, launched and reimbursed, planning must be long term (and engender some semblance of ‘permanence’). And, what’s more, the rewards for this effort accrue over the long term (Humira sales continue to grow for example); the blockbuster or even the niche buster must be nurtured and supported at all stages of the lifecycle. Yet we still hear (all too often on LinkedIn posts) that the only constant in pharma is change. The shifting sands of regulation and compliance, the evolving expectations of patients, technological advances and market dynamics are all cited as aspects of change which our industry must cope with. Furthermore we do see example of where the big pharma super-tanker can begin to turn (not least in deal making and support for small biotechs, plus the Ebola vaccine fast track R&D). And yet I can’t help but think that the old model of developing a NME, which is either better than current drugs or fulfils a genuine unmet need, still prevails (and as this article shows can still reap big rewards). Arguably therefore, and for good reason, big pharma continues to embrace permanence and predictability over impermanence and lability.
In summary then, and despite the personal appeal of these two simple words, ‘embracing impermanence’ is not something big pharma will be incorporating into vision and mission statements any time soon. Maybe though it is something individuals and teams can learn from and it can help put patient and other customer expectations and choices in better context. This latter aspect of our changing sector is certainly something Astrocyte Consulting can help with, not through mindfulness training (we leave that to the experts) but we do have some novel market and business planning workshops.
Please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org if these workshops might be of interest.