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Regulatory Focus recently had a chance to chat with Morten Hansen, co-author with Jim Collins of The New York Times bestseller Great by Choice and author of Collaboration. Hansen will be the opening keynote speaker at 2012 RAPS: The Regulatory Convergence, 26-30 October in Seattle. He is a management professor at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Information, and at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. He is a frequent speaker and expert on collaboration, leadership and innovation. Following is an edited transcript of the conversation.
Regulatory Focus: In your book, Great By Choice, with co-author Jim Collins, you examined the principles of building great organizations. What were the common elements you found that make organizations great?Morten Hansen: We found a few surprises. Take one: Great organizations do not respond to a chaotic world with chaos inside; they respond with fanatic discipline. Fanatic discipline makes you progress and gain confidence even though everything around you seems out of control.
RF: Some of your findings buck the conventional wisdom that taking risks and radical innovation lead companies to more success. Why is that?MH: Take innovation. There is a conventional wisdom out there that innovation is a trump card-that if you're very innovative, you will win. But innovation by itself is not enough. You also need discipline. Being innovative and disciplined is key-to have ideas and execute on them. That's Apple's formula for success, for example.
RF: Are there different pathways to greatness for life sciences companies in the private sector vs. government regulators? Are the essential principles the same?MH: We did not study this difference. I would argue that it is the same.
RF: Regulatory professionals working in medical and life sciences areas typically must manage risk as a core component of their jobs. How can this help them be great and help elevate their organizations to greatness?MH: We found that great companies did not take more risks. In fact, they were more prudent. They had less debt and more cash on their balance sheets at all times, even when they were young and not so successful. They also mitigated risks coming their way. This is a strategy for the long-term. This job is therefore crucial. But it must also encompass other parts of the company-to work with others in other departments to make sure risks are low.
RF: What advice can you offer regulatory professionals about dealing with regulatory systems that can be highly variable and processes that are not always predictable?MH: This is precisely what we studied-how do you prepare for a world that you cannot predict? All the factors that we cover in our book and that I will talk about are aimed at creating a resilient organization that can withstand unknown shocks.