From bureaucratic to innovative

Leadership MindsetInnovation MindsetCultural Transformation

The challenge

This global pharmaceutical R&D company (US$33+ billion revenue/57,200+ employees) needed to increase delivery of medicines to the global market in the face of challenges like encroaching generics, onerous legislative hurdles (especially in the U.S. and EU) and shortening patent times.

Our culture diagnostic revealed significant barriers to innovation and to shifting ways to succeed within the culture itself.

Culture transformation through the leadership development program became a key strategy to improve the global turnaround and:

  • Enable more innovation.
  • Leverage knowledge.
  • Increase collaborative efforts.
  • Accelerate speed to market.
  • Maximize partnerships.


The approach

Together, we designed a transformation program to drive behavior and mindset shifts. This global communication and innovation initiative would involve all scientific staff in redesigning everything from operational processes to talent strategy and workplaces.

The Learner-Player leadership development program

Central to this project was Axialent’s Learner-Player leadership development program.

Designed to help leaders model a desired innovation culture, Learner-Player is a blended learning approach that ensures lasting, transferable change. In this case, the program included:

  • Designing a three-day R&D leadership conference, keynoted by Dr. Fred Kofman.
  • Two-day workshops for senior leaders, featuring individual behavioral assessments, Learner action plans, coaching to shift mental models, and acquiring new tools (behaviors and skills) to increase effectiveness in day-to-day management, communication and decision-making.
  • Half-day insight sessions on Learner-Player mindsets (interactive, conference-like sessions complementary to the two-day workshops).
  • Interactive, recorded webcasts every three months: Sessions were hosted by an Axialent facilitator interviewing senior leaders and taking questions from the audience.
  • Development of the Innovation Toolkit: papers, videos, WebEx deliveries and the New Way of Being booklet, used by leaders as a resource to initiate discussions within their teams.
  • Team meetings and self-development.
  • Learner-Player video clips featuring the application of Learner-Player to everyday scenarios.
  • An ambassador program to accredit internal facilitators, ensuring program’s scalability and transfer of skills to the remainder of the organization.

The program is, so far, seen as an unqualified success. About 94 percent of the people who attended feel that they have made changes in how they approach their work, and it is a unanimous view that rolling the program out to a wider audience in R&D will have a positive impact on the culture of the function.
Purchase, Learning and Development Partner for R&D


The impact

In this program, we worked face to face with more than 2,700 leading scientists in Sweden, the U.S., U.K., Japan, China and India, introducing the behavior changes required for the desired culture shift. Meanwhile, our custom information packs reached 10,000+ people, and we trained approximately 70 internal facilitators through the ambassador program.

The Learner-Player: Business Benefits impact study, conducted by an independent third party, confirmed there was a successful transfer of the Learner and Player concepts into the organization — both at an individual and team level, resulting in outcomes such as:

  • Reduced levels of stress due to a sense of control that Learner-Player mindsets create for people.
  • Increased engagement and motivation, and a sense of doing something worthwhile.
  • Visibly higher levels of collaboration and creativity.
  • A positive effect on business outcomes estimated in an independent report at more than $100 million.

Reduced Stress

+ Increased Engagement and motivation
+ Increase in collaboration and creativity

= $100M Positive net effect on Business