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Beyond best practice – pharma event recap

Beyond best practice – pharma event recap


In October 2023, we ran our first in-person pharma-focused event in Zurich with 25 experts from across the industry. We discussed current challenges, working with agility, and the need to rethink pharma’s GTM approach. Watch the highlights down below, and read on for a more detailed recap of the day’s findings.

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An in-person event to connect, consider and spark

Bringing together friends old and new from across the pharmaceutical industry to connect, consider fresh ideas, and ultimately spark action – that was the goal of our recent event at the Widder Hotel in Zurich. 

We gathered 25 experts from across clinical innovation, medical education, people and culture, data science, digital strategy and more. They joined us from companies including Novo Nordisk, Alcon, Takeda, and Novartis.


“It’s amazing to be at an event with such a great environment, together with colleagues from other companies. We’re all facing similar challenges, sharing similar passions and bringing new ways of working to the industry.”

Toni Dominguez-Cardona, Head of Business Transformation at Takeda 


Following an energiser where we heard that the power and challenge of collaborating in complex organisations was a priority, we settled into the first topic: how to meet the challenge of speeding up safely. There’s no doubt that pressure is mounting across the industry to achieve efficiency and make things happen faster. Yet concurrently, there’s a need to focus on reliability, safety and compliance - we explored how new ways of working can help address this. 

Working with Agility, not ‘Agile’

While powerful, a prescriptive ‘Agile’ methodology isn’t the cure-all it’s often touted to be. Instead, we want to help companies to ‘work with agility’, using a wider toolkit that combines behavioural science, biomimicry, systems thinking, real-world lessons, and some good old common sense. 

To discuss how this “working with agility” methodology makes a difference in practice, Emily Dent, a Partner at &us was joined by Elodie Miranda who led Cell & Gene at Novartis, and Toni Dominguez-Cardona from Takeda for a panel discussion. The three of them shared stories and lessons from real projects at both Takeda and Novartis. The similarities and differences across these two companies helped everyone understand the need for flexibility and thoughtfulness when approaching transformation, making sure it takes hold in a sustainable way. 

"One constant was the leadership shown on both projects; which was a perfect example of driving change from three vital perspectives - the rooftop, the balcony and the dancefloor. Leaders make the biggest difference when they intentionally move between the vantage points of seeing the bigger picture, connecting to the moving pieces of the organisation and also heading down to where the action is. That’s true and impactful leadership!"

Emily Dent

Transforming pharma’s GTM approach

Later in the day, Paul Archbold, one of the &us Co-Founders shared his thoughts on what will lead transformation of pharma firms’ go-to-market approaches. 

Paul said “There’s an enormous amount to benefit to go after across the whole value chain of how brands do go-to-market. On the one hand, driving efficiency for a typical product launch can see a 1% improvement yield $34m of savings. And on the other hand, being innovative when driving advocacy and awareness has massive upside both commercially as well as for addressing the mission of improving health outcomes.”

As part of Paul’s session, we ran a workshop exercise where groups had an hour to:

  • Examine a part of their go-to-market process
  • Prioritise a single design challenge for innovating in that area
  • Create early experiments for ideas that could be tested to drive exploration and improvement.

Miriam Donaldson, former Head of Digital Commercial Transformation at Novartis summed it up well: “The exercise we just did was a perfect example of what &us brings. Putting us in a new, slightly uncomfortable situation for a reasonable period of time, but then realising quickly just how much we’re able to achieve when we’re willing to work differently.” 


“What’s been great is how &us have created a safe environment, which is so important when you work on these kinds of projects.”

Mathieu Gilbert, VP of Strategic Projects at Novo Nordisk. 

Making an impact beyond the day

At too many events, there is little time or space given for people to consolidate what they’ve taken from the day, and plan how they’ll apply it back at the office tomorrow. That’s why, we concluded with a short activity to address that need - a simple period of reflection. During this, everyone filtered through their learnings, and prioritised how these could be applied. The goal here was to give attendees confidence to make change happen in their respective businesses. 

Sam Hariry, Global Head of Clinical Innovation at Novartis said “Being with different companies that have worked with &us and sharing some of the insights from today helped me reflect upon what we can achieve with the help of a company like &us, but also highlighted how different cultures and companies might be operating and maybe some of the advantages we have in our own world we can leverage as we keep moving forwards”. 

Overall, it was a wonderful afternoon, in a fantastic venue, with an even better group of people. We learned lots from the conversations, and are developing more content to address the priorities that delegates raised. Watch this space, as we strive to help clients in healthcare continue to go Beyond Best Practice.