Changes are inherent to the being of things and they shape the history of nature and mankind. As Charles Darwin observed, “It is not the strongest nor the most intelligent of species that survives, but the one that is most adaptable to change”.
The world has been changing radically over the past decades and in recent years it did so even faster. We are now living in a hyper-connected society where changes can be quick and unpredictable. As a recent theory from the post-Cold War time stated, we are immersed in a VUCA environment characterised by Volatility, Uncertainty– think about how much change the global borders underwent in the last ten years and how much our habits, even the social ones, changed with the advent of new technologies- Complexity and Ambiguity. That is the case because there are countless factors that drive change and put things in motion and not all of them are identifiable; sometimes there is no apparent cause-effect relationship and everything seems to be nebulous, confused and “ambiguous”.
We should therefore accept that changing one’s “mind” is indispensible because, as Louis Pasteur put it, “Chance favours only the prepared mind”, and the complexity of the world and human nature definitively requires a certain degree of openness and adaptability towards change.
The famous singer Vasco Rossi even sang about this, “Changing opinion is not difficult. / Changing the world is almost impossible. / You can only change yourself. / It does not seem like much but if you manage to / you could make a revolution”. The first step towards a better society is to start working on ourselves, as people- so we do not fear the future and can seize opportunities- but it is as important to modify the way the system approaches and experiences changes as well.
How to experience change
According to the literature, facing volatility and uncertainty in a VUCA context requires Vision and Understanding (of what was and what is), and facing complexity and ambiguity requires Clarity and Agility.
Our personal and professional experience suggests that it is important to:
Make change meaningful. A crucial question is, “Where do you want to go?” because that prompts you to establish your priorities. There should be a vision, a way to manage things in the medium and long term, an inspiration that enables all the actors involved to feel a sense of pride and a responsibility when working for the common good.
Put people at the centre and look at the world from different angles. For those working in a pharmaceutical company that means putting themselves in the shoes of the patient, the caregiver, the pharmacist, the healthcare worker and the decision-maker. This can be achieved through listening and dialogue, because reciprocal understanding is essential to create trust and value-based changes throughout the journey of care.
Believe and promote solidarity– not meant as a mere list of small individual gestures that benefit a few people in need, but as a lifestyle and a structural attitude. You should care about others because, as Sergio Mattarella reminded us, “Solidarity enables the nation to grow and progress”. During the COVID-19 period more than 64 companies activated initiatives to support patients, physicians, all the people working in the healthcare sector and clinical facilities. 41 million euros were donated to pharmaceutical companies for drugs, goods and services (except clinical trials) meant for the healthcare system and patients. 72% of the companies took social responsibility actions that benefitted patients and employees.
See opportunities and be bold. It is not possible to do important things without feeling a little afraid or to bet on a different future- ideally a better one- without taking any risk. Thanks to the pandemic we learned to reorganise in a more agile manner, find alternative solutions, work in new ways and communicate with different modalities. Virtual communications, local support services, green technologies and digital management of drug production are just some examples of the opportunities that suddenly had to evolve rapidly and that already constitute best practices for the near future.
Build skills. It is necessary to work on the know-hows and the culture with new approaches and attitudes, and to value skills. Training is an absolutely indispensible step for this. You can only apply effectively and efficiently what you know and understand well, so your “toolbox” must always be up to date.
Work together. People and countries need to stay connected. The pandemic made it evident that we are interdependent entities and that the fate of one of these inevitably affects that altogether. Pope Francis warned, “No one reaches salvation by themselves” and Mario Draghi stated, in his keynote speech at the Senate, “Without Italy there is no Europe. But, outside Europe there is less Italy. There is no sovereignty in solitude. There is only the illusion of what we are, in the oblivion of what we have been and the denial of what we could be”. It is crucial that the private and public sectors work closely together to optimise the use of scientific and economic resources and build the relevant processes. The COVID-19 enabled the formation of collaborations that are unique in the history of medicine and if we do not carry on down that road it would be a great loss for the entire system.
Emphasise positive outcomes. The pharmaceutical sector supports the healthcare system by providing organisation of the work, production, clinical research, distribution, scientific information, donations, welfare and much more. In 2019 drug companies brought an additional value to the country amounting to 9.2 billion euros, with a growth of 1.4%, equal to 0.5% of the gross domestic product.
It is crucial that the private and public sectors work closely together to optimise the use of scientific and economic resources and build the relevant processes.
Finally- or perhaps before anything else- it is necessary to smile: the ability to execute a task serenely and proudly, just like in classical ballet, where the beauty of the performance does not lie in the spectacular evolutions or in the most intense interpretations but rather in the ability to complete the hardest steps- the most painful and dangerous ones- with a smile.