The Sandbox Challenge

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Joined: 01/20/2010

Several PhD’s and MD’s in the pharmaceutical industry survey+ singled out Academia as the source of the industry’s unproductive behaviors. Colleagues in academia tell how the behaviors of their colleagues reminds them of kids misbehaving in a sandbox. They throw sand in each others eyes; they knock down each others sandcastles; they soil the sand with bodily fluids. It was as if these esteemed professors of higher education at times regress back to their early childhood.

These behaviors carry over into the pharmaceutical industry. At one large pharmaceutical firm I was sitting in a team room when a group of scientists came in asking to borrow the room for a meeting. All the other rooms were taken, and since I had nowhere else to go, I offered to sit quietly working in one corner while they held their meeting. The leader of this group kicked off the meeting: ‘We’re here today to discuss how to get the work done.’ There was no discussion. The biggest kid in the sandbox proceeded to tell the other kids how they were going to help her build a sandcastle. You could see the revenge forming in their eyes. It was clear the other kids were going to find a way to sabotage that sandcastle and that the big kid was going to end up really mad. The challenge is we can’t just sit the kids in each corner of the sandbox. Sure each will build his or her own little creation. Only together can they build a winning sandcastle. This is the sandbox challenge.