What do my kids know about collaboration that you don’t?

What do my kids know about collaboration that you don’t?

Collaboration is everywhere these days–especially within the pharma industry. But getting it to work well relies on proper planning and co-operation that spans disciplines to allow better use of, and access to, data.

A while ago we were planning a family trip to an adventure park. However, no one was going anywhere until my two boys had tidied their rooms! Faced with this herculean challenge I was impressed to see the planning that went into the collaboration that would achieve the task. My eldest quickly realized that he could reach high shelves more easily than his brother. While my youngest used the fact the he could crawl under the beds faster to great effect. That preparation helped get the job done more efficiently and successfully.

What’s more, they had worked out exactly what they needed to achieve and had evaluated their individual talents to get the job done fast and well. Once done they were more than happy to gauge their success by sharing their results and then receiving feedback. In turn it brought them a reward in the form of a great family day out.

That’s what I call successful collaboration. And dare I say that the life science industry could learn a lot from my two young ones.

True, the days of going it alone are, thankfully, behind us. Organizations have finally learned to play to their strengths and look outside for specialists with the skills they don’t have. The reason is simple–the job gets done faster with costs firmly under control, all of which leads to far better returns for your investment. What we now have to get past is a fear of using and sharing data with ‘the competition’. Keeping data hidden simply hinders collaboration.

The social media model makes it easy to share the lifeblood of collaboration: facts, information and –vitally – ideas. Adopting that approach means that the sheer number of people who can contribute (once the appropriate levels of interaction have been defined and put in place) can result in conversations that would never have normally taken place.

Virtual interaction also speeds up the process. Thanks to electronic laboratory notebooks, for example, paper becomes a thing of the past, as do transcription errors and misinterpretation. IP can be simply protected at the touch of a button. The right application can then select the correct data and analyze it with complete traceability of input from all parties to make reporting simpler than ever. All of which speeds up informed decision-making, leading to innovation.

Now I’m not saying that internal and external collaboration has suddenly become child’s play. It will doubtless require a shift in the collective mind-set of R&D teams. But if you are willing to share your data and analysis openly so that your findings can be assessed, and if the knowledge you have generated can be easily retrieved, true innovations will get to market faster and more cost effectively.

My young lads have already shown how open collaboration can accelerate a positive result up in their bedrooms. Now it’s up to us to follow their lead to see how we can make it work across the world.