At Biotech Week Boston for BWB TV Yolla Levitt, Vice President and General Manager, Separation and Purification, Sciences Division at 3M, told us how collaboration, cross-pollination and diversity are all key to innovation.
With the biopharma industry growing how can companies stay at the forefront of innovation?
YL: 'With all the growth that’s happening in this industry, as you’ve mentioned, innovative solutions are very critical for the industry... Change and improve life. At 3M we continue living by founder William McKnight's principles. He started working at 3M in 1907, over one hundred years ago, and he had few principles which are very fundamental to the company. The first one is to hire the right people and you give them the freedom. The second is, if you have a management that is very critical of mistakes, it kills initiative and innovation. And the third one is the 15% innovation culture; any person, especially a scientist or engineer, should spend 15% of the time just working on ideas and innovation. That’s actually how Post-it Notes were created.
When you look at how we come up with innovative solutions, it’s really about: 1) understanding customer pain points and customer needs; really going deep in the insights 2) building on technology platforms 3) collaboration. Collaboration is critical to success... With customer insights you need to look very closely, so when we work with biopharma customers we try to really understand what the pain points are. How can we create more efficiency in the process? How can we intensify the process?'
Why do you feel diversity and inclusion are so central to the biopharma industry?
YL: 'I really feel that in today's environment, where the markets are global, our customers are global, this is very critical to the industry. One of the [BWB Diversity and Inclusion Evening] panelists said it very well. He basically said that having diversity is not just the right thing to do, it's really a business thing to do. If you look at the McKinsey report done in 2015, it said that if you are a company in the upper quartile around women and gender diversity, you're 15% more likely to have a better financial return. That's where the whole business part comes in.
If you look at biopharma and the explosive growth that's happening right now, each company is trying to find the best talent. And the best talent has absolutely nothing to do with what your background or gender. It's about the mind, the thoughts, it' how you come up with innovative ideas. This is an industry that absolutely needs to look at how to build the best teams, no matter the racial or ethnic orientation. It's about best talent. It's about retaining this talent and also making sure that your workforce reflects and resonates with your customer base, which is global.'
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