Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Eli Lilly CEO on “America’s Growing Innovation Gap”

In “America’s Growing Innovation Gap”, WSJ, July 9, 2010, Eli Lilly CEO John C. Lechleiter, Ph.D. writes that:

“…the most important elements are the seeds of innovation, which equate to talented people and their ideas.”

He then suggests these people are “highly skilled immigrants” abroad.

In my own circle of friends, I know American pharma industry cast-offs who are both brilliant and talented. One with dual MS degrees in mathematics and computer science from a major university, one a skilled bioinformaticist I've had teach my healthcare informatics students as guest lecturer, one a brilliant programmer who could be considered the grandfather of computer image manipulation, another with years of expertise in pharma knowledge discovery.

Then there's me – former Director of a Merck R&D support group and of The Merck Index - with degrees in medicine and post-doctoral specialization in biomedical informatics and information science, plus I'm an extra-class amateur radio licensee who understands complex technology at a level far beyond that of the usual pharmaceutical company worker.

Yet no donuts for us. In recent years the pharmaceutical industry won’t grant any of us the courtesy even of an interview.

However, in Mar. 2009 as I documented here, I did receive an email solicitation from Lilly that read as follows ("sic's" are mine):

“Your Help Is Requested for a Eli Lilly Career Opportunity! (sic) I am a member of the Staffing Team at Eli Lilly. I were referred to me (sic) as person who specializes in pharmaceutical based informatics. I wanted to reach out to me (sic), to see if you maybe able (sic) to recommend anyone that could qualify for the below position (sic)."

I was not exactly inspired by this solicitation, perhaps written by one of the "highly skilled immigrants" Lechleiter covets.

Nor was I inspired by the earlier solicitation I documented at my Jan. 2009 post "What, Me Worry? Lilly Fined Over Zyprexa, Should Be Fined For eRecruitment Inanity As Well?"

I suggest if Mr. Lechleiter wishes to close America’s purported "innovation gap", he spend some time away from the executive castle and perhaps review some resumes – and the job solicitations his company proffers – in his HR department.

A cause of the "innovation gap" may be leadership xenophilia, at the expense of the American born-and-raised scientists the pharma industry is so fond of discarding.

-- SS


Anonymous said...

You're too harsh. What could be more innovative than Lilly's widespread and well-documented off-label marketing of Zyprexa?

Mark B. said...

Is some of this trend motivated by immigrants willingness to accept lower pay, or is it simply a drive for diversity gone too far?

MedInformaticsMD said...

Is some of this trend motivated by immigrants willingness to accept lower pay, or is it simply a drive for diversity gone too far?

It doesn't matter, as the outcome is the same.

Then there's Grey's law:

"Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice."

Truth be told, there's enough American talent without importation. It's just been marginalized.

Anonymous said...

It's offshoring within our borders, plain and simple.

neilmaccallister said...

"Easing immigration" was only ONE of the three items Mr. Lechleiter chose to advance as answers to an "innovation gap".

Do you agree that there is a gap?
What is your solution?

I don't particularly approve of Mr. Lechleiter first writing, "the burden for innovation remains on enterprising businesses", but then asking for money and legislation from the government in all three of his "answers".

But his pointing out that innovation requires a supportive "ecosystem" sounds right on the money!

So why are you and your 3 friends not working at Lilly? Did you answer that email with the offer of yourself?

Personally, I think that America's past successes have led us to a comfort-state where we think "I only want to work with people I like". Therefore, teams are thinned out, work-product takes second place to work-appreciation, and our only goals are enjoyable retirements.

Btw: Immigrant workers don't care who they work with, "Just let me work!"

Let's put away our "casual Fridays", "employee-of-the-month" parking spots, and "Summer Solstice" company dance parties -- and get back to valuing work teams based upon their ability to proffer new and profitable products.