Memo to Employees: Keep Your Edges. Conformity is Overrated.

Kevin DonovanSenior Vice President, Otsuka-People, Business Services and Communications

Kevin is the Senior Vice President of Otsuka-People, Business Services & Communications at Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc., (OAPI). He has responsibility for overseeing all human resources functions for the U.S. business. He leads through transformational change and empowers employees to leverage culture to produce business outcomes.

Look around your office right now. Do some of your colleagues go with the flow and maintain a Zen-like position of neutrality? Are others perhaps a bit more outspoken and challenging? Ideally, your workforce is designed with both personality types and plenty in between.What happens when these types collide? If you imagine the various personality and work styles of your peers and even yourself as geometric shapes, you may envision some as smooth circles, three-dimensional squares or even a few prickly trapezoids. Whatever the case, your organizational culture is better off when you embrace your shape–and keep your edges.Many companies are recognizing the importance of individuality. For instance, the HR consultancy Culbertson Resources cited the celebration of individuality as one of the trends to watch in 2017. But how does a company make that possible?Newton’s Laws of Friction dictate that opposing forces create friction be it static, kinetic or rolling. Why is this important when it comes to the workplace? Organizational culture shapes the employee experience. Depending on the personality makeup of your workforce, their interactions, innovations and outcomes can vary drastically. As the workforce continuously evolves, so does the interactive relationship between the employees. They are in constant motion, acting reacting and adapting in accordance with managerial expectations and their own personalities. By offering proper encouragement at the institutional level, this motion can create a healthy friction which can produce unique, transformative ideas leading to new opportunities and effectual results.As we continue to add various edges to our teams, the dynamics become more complex, as do the interactions. The team puzzle won’t fit so perfectly together. That’s okay. In fact, it’s ideal. The puzzle doesn’t need to fit. There will be challenges. That’s ok, too. Some gaps between the pieces will begin to emerge. You guessed it, also okay. When given enough autonomy, your employees will fill those gaps and answer those challenges with their unique individual talents. Employee collaboration, albeit with a certain degree of friction, will create unique outcomes.A primary reason why organizational culture is increasingly evolving is due to the design and expectations of a multi-generational workforce. Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials have been working side-by-side for years now. The cultural differences among various generations are many. Encouraging open-work environments allows workers of all stripes to be collaborative. When you give your teams the freedom to innovate and the right tools, such as emerging technologies, then you’re in a position to address current and future challenges. In pharma, healthcare transformation demands we innovate. From research and development models to eClinical trials to the products and solutions available to patients and caregivers, we are looking to constantly improve. Innovation like this requires a different type of thinking from different types of people to produce a different type of outcome.At Otsuka, we encourage employees to keep their edges. We recognize that there is an art and a science to attracting and retaining top talent. Part of that is allowing folks to be themselves. Bring your quirks and edges to work. Let’s engage in healthy debates and challenge ideas so we can transform healthcare.So, employees, keep your edges. Conformity is boring.
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