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Charles Darwin would have made an awesome business leader.

He knew that it is not the strongest or the most intelligent that survives, it is those who are most adaptable to change.

The same is true in business. No more so than for the Pharma industry that finds itself at the mercy of a customer base that has been characterised by large-scale system change. When the Government first announced its plans for a major organisational restructure of the NHS back in 2010, it was at the time heralded as the biggest shake up to the NHS since its inception in 1948. Today we know that whilst there is no denying the impact of this reform on the personal and professional lives of the many thousands of NHS employees who have been tasked with making it happen, it has actually become another part of the cycle of change that has shaped the NHS for the past 65 years. Even now, as we start to see key developments from the new models of care set out by the Five Year Forward View vision, NHS England and Simon Stevens’ attempt to convince us that we are only at the beginning of true widespread, patient-centred change.

For the Pharma industry, this change offers the stereotypical balance of threat and opportunity. A reliance on ‘what’s worked in the past’ will clearly no longer work as new customers emerge and new approaches become crucial. If you do not truly understand who the full range of NHS decision-makers are and what drives their decision-making, how can you develop a brand strategy with messages and materials that truly resonate? Therefore with a key customer base that is changing so rapidly and with different stakeholders, key influencers and decision makers operating at a range of different levels, it is clear that the threat only exists for those who resist change.

Whilst many of these external influences are outside of your control, a pro-active stance can however be taken towards dealing with the challenges of the changing environment and making the right decisions to drive the effective performance of your brand, and most importantly the best possible outcomes for patients. Today’s pace of change in the NHS may not be unprecedented, but it is none the less remarkable. The effective monitoring and scanning of your environment therefore must be at the very top of the corporate agenda. A relentless, daily activity – not a leisurely one-off, but a constant that allows you to adapt effectively and decisively. Darwin’s Origin of Species revolutionised not only science, but how we think about our world. Adapt or die is powerful advice for anyone facing such major change in their customer environment.

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