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The World of Design Thinking: How It Informs Rethinking Alliance Management for the New Faces and Places of Biopharma Partnering

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Thursday, September 01, 2016

 “Using Design Thinking to Drive Speed, Innovation, and Alignment in Partnering” is a 90-minute, hands-on workshop offered at the upcoming ASAP BioPharma Conference Sept. 7-9 “New Faces, Unexpected Places in Partnering: The Foresight to Lead, the Foundation to Succeed” at the Revere Hotel Boston Common, Boston. Led by The Rhythm of Business’s President, Jan Twombly, CSAP, and Principal Jeff Shuman, CSAP, PhD., the workshop will be taking common alliance problems and advising participants on how to understand and apply an adaptation of design thinking to solve them. This workshop will introduce several different techniques along with multiple examples. In this brief interview, Jan Twombly provides a primer on design thinking and what participants can expect. 

What is design thinking?
It’s a methodology for solving complex problems that’s particularly useful in unfamiliar settings, such as partnering with multiple partners, non-asset based alliances, and partnering with sectors that run on much faster clock speeds. It started out as something used for product design, but the data-driven, user experience-focused practice has become very popular in broader business applications because it centers on innovation and complex problem solving. We’ve adapted it for partnering practices. It zeros in on the user’s needs, wants, and limitations, and makes sure that you are providing an experience they value. The tools and techniques take a user-centered approach to aligning processes and interests between and among partners, especially among new faces. It hones in on core problems so that alliance managers can really understand what is needed to solve for, and makes sure they identify the key assumptions in the proposed solutions to understand the data to be gathered to determine if it’s working or not working. In an alliance management context, the users are primarily your internal stakeholders and the equivalent at partner companies. 

How is it used in alliance management?
If you tie back to the conference theme, we live in a world where we are partnering with new partners and in a time of intense competition to get to market first. More and more in R&D is getting externalized, and to drive efficiency in all these new alliances, we need to evolve how we manage alliances. We can use design thinking to really rethink alliance processes, and thereby drive the speed, innovation, effectiveness, alignment, and efficiency required today. You can use design thinking to ensure that your alliance processes and the way you go about collaborating are providing stakeholders with the partnering experience they need to achieve alliance objectives, given the complexity of the relationships and the fact that there is a race to get the most desirable assets and align with companies that will achieve your objectives. We have looked at various ways to do that—starting with IDEO, which created the methodology that is now adapted and used by companies such as IBM, Google Ventures, Bayer, GE Healthcare, and Novo Nordisk. We’ve studied how they are utilizing it and have applied it to alliances in a method we call Partner by Design. 

You collaborated on an interesting article in the Summer 2016 issue of Strategic Alliance Magazine entitled “Mastering the Speed, Scale, and Scope of Partnering for the Connected Ecosystems of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” How does design thinking fit into the fourth industrial revolution?
Basically, where it aligns is the fact that partnering processes and the way we have been going about partnering have to change and reflect the speed of innovation today. Partnering processes must reflect the needs of the always-on customer. As business people, we increasingly expect to have the same experience when engaging with companies such as Google, Amazon, or Nordstrom. These are companies known for delivering a great customer experience. This means that we need to change the way we go about partnering. The new business models are outcomes-based, where no value is realized or captured until the end customers get their value. That changes the rules of partnering. You can’t use the same best practices we’ve been using forever. The fundamentals apply, but the new environment demands reflection and evolution. 

Tags:  alliances  Amazon  Bayer  ecosytems  GE HealthCare  Google  IBM  Indutrial Revolution  Jan Twombly  Jeff Shuman  Nordstrom  partner  Partner by Design  partnering practices  stakeholders  Strategic Alliance Magazine  The Rhythm of Business 

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