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Intuition In Pharmaceutical R&D


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Research study of the importance of intuition in pharmaceutical research

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Intuition In Pharmaceutical R&D

  1. 1. 1. Introduction Intuition and Innovation is at the bottom line, and based on the pharmaceutical firm’s ability to manage creativity. Although creativity is a most contested and polymorphous research: the case of construct, here it is used to represent new ideas AstraZeneca and thoughts that precede an innovation. Madjar et al. (2002, p. 757) write: We consider employee creativity to be the Mats Sundgren and production of ideas, products, or procedures that are (1) novel or original and (2) potentially useful Alexander Styhre to the organization. The authors One central issue in research on creativity in organizations is the ability to clearly define ideas Mats Sundgren is Executive PhD Student and and thought that are considered creative or are Alexander Styhre is Associate Professor, both at the Fenix Research Program, Chalmers University of Technology, proven to be creative. The dominant approach is to Gothenburg, Sweden. treat creativity in a functionalist and instrumental manner, that is, to conceive of creativity as Keywords something that occurs or happens during certain conditions that can be arranged or managed. This Pharmaceuticals industry, Drugs, Design and development, Intuition, Organizational innovation rationalist view has been the dominant perspective in contemporary management theory. Gephart Abstract (1996, pp. 95-6) writes: Rationality has been the driving force of modern The role of intuition receives little attention in the literature on management. Rationality has begun to dissipate in organizational creativity. This paper describes a study of the role postmodernism, to become a cacophony of local of intuition and its implications for organizational creativity rationalities, but we need to decentre rationality, within pharmaceutical research. The study applies French not abandon rationality. We need to place philosopher Bergson’s philosophy of intuition. The study is based rationality alongside other human faculties – on a series of interviews with employees in pre-clinical research passion, love, hope, and intuition – in our effort to (discovery) in a major pharmaceutical company; in this context, understand and shape the future of management creativity is defined as an organization’s ability to bring forth a and history. new candidate drug in the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular therapy areas. This paper concludes that intuition is a resource Although rationality remains as one of the main that facilitates new drug development. Pharmaceutical ingredients in management practice and theory, it researchers perceive the roles of intuition and creativity as is important to be open to alternative perspectives. intertwined in ground-breaking innovations. However intuition is Management is not simply the application of a controversial phenomenon in the organization because it several rational principles, such as those suggested opposes reductionistic and analytical forms of thinking, which are highly prized in new drug development. Bergson’s by Frederick W. Taylor; it also draws on “passion, philosophy may form a fruitful foundation from which intuition love, hope, and intuition”. For example, creative and its relevance for organizational creativity can be exploited. work is based on highly technical and specialized knowledge within a particular field, but it is Electronic access simultaneously dependent on commitment, The Emerald Research Register for this journal is communication, and experimental thinking. available at Jeffcut (2000, p. 125) writes: [T]he creative process is sustained by inspiration and informed by talent, vitality and commitment The current issue and full text archive of this journal is (i.e., a need to create rather than to consume): this available at makes creative work volatile, dynamic and risk- taking, shaped by important tacit skills (or expertise) that are frequently submerged (even mystified) within domains of endeavor. Hence, the crucial relationship between creativity and innovation (i.e., the process of development of original ideas toward their realization/ consumption) remains unruly and poorly understood. European Journal of Innovation Management Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · pp. 267-279 Creative work is never solely an outcome from the q Emerald Group Publishing Limited · ISSN 1460-1060 instrumental application of a set of management DOI 10.1108/14601060410565029 principles but must always be open to what 267
  2. 2. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 Gephart calls “other human faculties” such as other human faculties. More specifically, we make passion or intuition. use of the notion of intuition developed by the This paper presents a study of the role of French philosopher Henri Bergson. For Bergson, intuition in new drug development in the intuition is a key human faculty, capable of pharmaceutical industry. New drug development “thinking movement” rather than “solids”. While is a highly specialized activity that involves concepts and well-known facts are always expertise in biosciences, such as biology, synthesis appearing as fixed points and positions, the faculty chemistry, medicine, and pharmacology. So new of intuition is the ability to think about change and drug development depends on formal knowledge movement between such points. So for Bergson, and expertise in relevant scientific domains. New intuition is part of all sophisticated, creative drug development is based on formal management thinking. procedures and on factors that remain somewhat tacit: creative solutions to practical problems, unexpected applications of taken-for-granted knowledge, novel forms of thinking, and so forth 2. Creativity in organizations (Dorabje et al., 1998). These various minor innovations and procedures draw on what we refer Many organizations strive for these capabilities: to here as intuition – or to use a popular metaphor: creativity and innovation, i.e. the generation of “what is in between the dots constitutes the line”. new ideas and the ability to translate the ideas into While what Gephart calls rational knowledge is action (Mumford et al., 2002). However, from widely known (and not contested facts, the dots), organizational and practical perspectives, gaps intuition is not well known. Intuition has a shared exist between theory and practice when attempting regime of representations; essentially, it is still to understand creative-action organizations (Ford epistemologically contested or slippery. In other and Gioia, 2000). From a theoretical perspective, words, intuition is between the well-known facts myths and romance with creativity somewhat and procedures in scientific discovery. Intuition influenced much of the previous research on facilitates the ability to apply scientific knowledge creativity. The myths may oversimplify and to see consequences of various experiments explanations for events and attribute great before formal proof is acquired. So intuition is very achievements merely to individuals. More recent important for creativity in new drug development. research questioned the validity of the personalized Studies of scientific work (e.g. Knorr Cetina, approach to creativity, and instead stressed the 1999; Pickering, 1995; Lynch, 1985; Latour and importance of the productive interplay between Woolgar, 1979) show that scientific work is never individuals and the ecosystems of individuals, i.e. as linear, homogeneous, and one-dimensional as organizational design and reward systems (Ford, one may think. Instead, controversies, alternative 1995a, Gioia, 1995). explanations, empirical inconsistencies, and local According to Ford (1995b), creativity is not an interpretations always characterize production of inherent quality of a person, process, product, or “scientific” facts. In short, a certain degree of place. It is a domain-specific social construction heterogeneity exists within scientific knowledge. that is legitimized by judges who serve as Pickering (1995, p. 70) writes: gatekeepers to a particular domain. Furthermore, [S]cientific knowledge should be understood as most of the creativity research pays no attention to sustained by, and as part of, interactive organizational or professional concerns (Ford, stabilizations situated in a multiple and 1995b). So an important step in understanding heterogeneous space of machines, instruments, creativity in an organizational context is to take a conceptual structures, disciplined practices, social more holistic approach, i.e. to take a systems actors and their relations, and so forth. approach and apply the concept of organizational So scientific and laboratory work is never the black creativity (Ford, 2000; Woodman et al., 1993). box it is treated like in common sense thinking. This leads to focus on the potential source of Instead, intuition – the ability to anticipate results creativity and on increasing understanding of and to see broader pictures on the basis of creativity in organizations. Another aspect of empirical observations – is a highly useful skill. traditional creativity research is that the different Drawing on a series of interviews in a pre-clinical distinct foci of creativity, such as the creative organization in a major pharmaceutical company, person, place, process, and product (e.g. Amabile, this paper suggests that intuition is very important 1996; Boden, 1996; Ekvall and Ryhammar, 1999; for new drug development. The new drug Eysenck, 1996), do not facilitate useful development process requires standard operating understanding of how creativity works in an procedures and routine work plus creative and organizational context. So organizational creativity inventive thinking. Formal rational systems are can be seen as a concept that accounts for the thus always entangled with intuitive thinking and organizational context, interactions, and history 268
  3. 3. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 between the individual and the collaborative abandoned until the end of the century. At the start nature of creativity and links different subsets of of the new millennium, interest in Bergson’s intermediaries of creativity (Andriopoulos, 2001; philosophy was revived (see, e.g. Linstead, 2002 Drazin et al., 1999). and Wood, 2002). To discuss Bergson’s view of Intuition is an important but rather neglected intuition, one must recapitulate other areas of subset of organizational creativity. Previous Bergson’s thinking. So the notion of intuition is research on creativity has acknowledged the role placed within a broader ontological and intuition may play in the individual creative epistemological framework that gives sense and process (Policastro, 1999). However, some meaning to the notion of intuition. For Bergson, the researchers consider the scientific study of basic ontological principle is that world consists of intuition impossible. The major reasons are that processes. Processes and movements constitute the intuition is either considered an esoteric world that we can experience – not entities: phenomenon, such as ESP, or just erratic nonsense In reality, things are events of a special kind, (Policastro, 1995). Empirical studies that link temporary crystallization of images; it would be intuition to creativity in an organizational context proper to say that, for Bergson, movement is the are scarce (Agor, 1989). Previous research on real and original stuff the world is made of, whereas intuition in an organizational context mainly the picture of the universe as consisting of distinct focuses on leadership and decision making material objects is an artifact of intelligence. These (Bechara et al., 1997; Wilson and Schooler, 1991) ideas – the logical and metaphysical priority of events over objects – was to be subsequently taken or as an intersection of psychology and cognitive up and developed in detail by A.N. Whitehead science. So intuition is an important factor when (1968), probably not without inspiration from trying to understand the management of Bergson (Kolakowski, 1985, p. 45). organizational creativity. Literature on innovation management research This ontological principle is also an barely acknowledges the role of intuition in epistemological principle. But being in the world is organizations. There is an ongoing debate on the not based on a series of succeeding points but is dominant lack of realism about the cognitive instead based on what Bergson calls duree ´ nature of technological change; and here, the (duration). Moore (1996, p. 55) explains: prevailing assumption is that problems are fixed It is not that we start from discrete items of and known in the beginning of innovation experience spread out in time but somehow processes (Nightingale, 2003, 1998). From this threaded together like beads on a string of consciousness. Rather we start from the experience perspective, Roberts (1998), Saviotti (1998), and of temporal flow. Temporal structure is not a Nelson (2003) acknowledged and stressed the matter of putting together given discrete items. On important role of tacit knowledge in technical the contrary, so-called discrete elements are only change and how scientific knowledge is used in apparent when we have a need to pluck them from innovation. Nightingale (1998) demonstrates the our continuing experience. vital role of tacit knowledge in science-driven Linstead (2002, p. 101) further clarifies: organizations and emphasizes that for new drug Bergson argues that human experience of real life is development, the elusive nature of innovation not a succession of clearly demarcated conscious depends on learned, tacit conceptions that cannot states, progressing along some imaginary line (from be reduced to information processing and thus sorrow to happiness, for example) but rather a demonstrates that tacit knowledge is important for continuous flow in which these states creativity and is not easily captured or codified interpenetrate and are often unclear, being capable (Leonard and Sensiper, 1998). In this sense, tacit of sustaining multiple perspectives. knowledge can be seen as one of several Human beings do not experience time as a overlapping subsets or characteristics of intuition. mechanical stepwise movement from the past to However, it is reasonable to believe that tacit the present and into the future. Instead, they knowledge and intuition resonate rather than experience time as a continuous series of events cohere or correspond with each other. based on simultaneity – past, present, and future are never entirely separated; instead, they are always related in experience. Massumi (2002, 3. The concept of intuition p. 200) writes: The basic insight of Henri Bergson’s philosophy . . . This section examines Bergson’s notion of is that past and future are not just strung-out intuition. Bergson is one of the most important punctual presents. They are continuous dimensions contemporaneous to every present – philosophers of the twentieth century. During his which is by nature a smudged becoming, not a lifetime, he was very influential in politics, art, and point state . . . Past and future are in direct, philosophy. After his death, the fashionable topological proximity with each other, operatively Bergsonism fell from grace and was essentially joined in a continuity of mutual folding. 269
  4. 4. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 ´ In summary, Bergson’s notion of duree refuses to have to live in the world of excess of our needs, and treat human experience as a mechanical, in excess of the self-presentation or immanence of spatialized experience that consists of clearly materiality, to collapse ourselves, as things, back ´ into the world. demarcated solids brought together. The duree of a human being is always recalling the past into the Ansell Pearson (2002, p. 124) argues: future to anticipate the future. According to Bergson, the abstract intellect, which ´ While the notion of duree is primarily a construct has evolved as an organ of utility and calculability, that explores the psychology of humans, the idea of proceeds by beginning with the immobile and continuity and what Bergson calls spatialized simply reconstructs movements with juxtaposed thinking is very important for his theory of immobilities. By contrast, intuition, as he conceives it, starts from movement and sees in immobility knowledge. Just as what Bergson calls mechanical only a snapshot taken by our mind. clock time tends to break down the continuous ´ experience of duree into isolated points and So intuition is what breaks free from language and positions, concepts and representations perform sees what is outside of the concept, outside of the the same operation for knowledge. Language, the language that we use to denote the world. Here, primary medium for thinking and knowledge, is language is not only everyday concept, but is also based on concepts that are generally thought of as equally the regime of representation that denoting certain events, essences, or practices. For dominates the world of natural sciences and the Bergson, concepts can only capture a subset of biosciences. While language is a prosthesis for human knowledge because they represent thinking (just a tool), thinking that draws on “cinematographic thinking”, that is, snapshots of intuition abandons such a prosthesis in favor of a events and occurrences in a continuous more free form of thinking. Whitehead (1968, intrinsically moving reality. Concepts are thus p. 49) says “language halts behind intuition.” formed as attempts to glue a world in motion into n summary, Bergson develops an ontology and certain positions and fixed points. Bergson (1992, epistemology of movement and becoming; p. 137) writes: processes rather than solids and entities constitute To know a reality in the ordinary meaning of the the world. So the human experience does not word “to know” is to take ready-made concepts, consist of single instances stacked on one another apportion them, and combine them until one but is based on the simultaneity of past, present, obtains a practical equivalent of the real. and future. In addition, Bergson’s theory of He continues: knowledge separates use of ready-made concepts Every language, whether elaborated or crude, that are used as tools for thinking and leaves many more things to be understood than it is communication and calls that which is positioned able to express. Essentially discontinuous, since it between concepts (solids) intuition. While concepts proceeds by juxtaposing words, speech can only help us see the world as a series of demarcated indicate by a few guideposts placed here and there instances and events, intuition makes us think in the chief stages in the moment of thought (Bergson, 1999, p. 125). terms of movement and becoming. Intuition is thinking that lies between the known and the Concepts are thus ready-mades that are applied to represented. Intuition is thinking beyond language. cases; they represent “classified thinking” In terms of creativity, and more specifically, (Bachelard, 1964, p. 75) and are therefore incapable creativity in terms of new drug development in the of seeing movement. In brief, concepts are “solids”: pharmaceutical industry, intuition is thinking that According to his [Bergson’s] account, concepts are uses what is already known – solids of verified formed on the model of spatial solids, and it is knowledge or facts provided by the research efforts consequently impossible to think about time and laboratory work – to anticipate what is not without importing into it some of the features of homogeneous space (Mullarkey, 1999, p. 19). known and established, negotiated, and agreed on as facts. Intuition is thus thinking that goes beyond Thinking always uses concepts, and concepts can or passes what is already known to enable new never entirely capture the movement and solutions and findings. As the empirical material becoming of being; although they are still useful suggests, this form of thinking outside of the solids tools in understanding such as world. For Bergson, is highly valued in pharmaceutical research. intuition enables for understanding of movement. While concepts consist of solids are based on cinematographic thinking, which make us unable to see what is outside of ourselves, intuition is the 4. The pharmaceutical industry faculty of thinking between the solids. Grosz (2001, p. 175) writes: This paper presents a study of intuition in pre- Intuition is our nonpragmatic, noneffective, clinical drug development and describes how nonexpedient relation to the world, the capacity we intuition can increase knowledge about 270
  5. 5. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 organizational creativity in a modern is intertwined with the company’s ability to pharmaceutical industry. The focal company is generate knowledge and expertise over a wide one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the array of knowledge domains that can produce world and a manufacturer of medications in many NCEs, patents, and finally new medicines that are therapy areas. The company’s three largest therapy capable of becoming marketable products (see, areas are cancer, cardiovascular, and e.g. Roberts, 1999). The high-tech, science-based gastrointestinal. The company’s research and pharmaceutical industry differs from other development (R&D) centers in Europe and the industries with similar R&D intensity and use of USA employ more than 10,000 people, and its new scientific concepts and technologies because 2003 R&D budget was US$2.7 billion. Today, the pharma: company has more than 50,000 employees . must operate in a highly regulated worldwide. environment; Briefly, pharmaceutical industry research . has long development cycles – up to 15 years; (which also applies the focal company) is divided and into two major processes: discovery (pre-clinical) . assumes a high degree of risk during research and development (clinical). Discovery is the most (Pisano, 1997). critical process in new drug development. The pharmaceutical industry invests a significant Discovery’s primary objective is to generate ideas amount of its sales into R&D (in the focal company for disease relief (modification of disease-related more than 20 percent). Over the last decade, the problems and complaints) or in the best case, for a cost for large clinical trials has increased disease’s cure – by using a new chemical entity dramatically (Zivin, 2000). (NCE). Discovery begins by defining a disease The pharmaceutical industry has had a long area and a target to manipulate. This target should tradition of scientific breakthroughs and have potential for altering the disease or its innovations (Horrobin, 2002). However, the symptoms in a preferred way. The target (e.g. a industry currently wrestles with many issues; some receptor or an enzyme) is tested against many of the most serious are rapidly increasing costs of chemical substances using in vitro systems or R&D coupled with only small increases in output biological models (Lesko et al., 2000). The aim is during drug discovery (Schmid and Smith, to establish a chemical structure for a biological 2002a). During the last decade, the industry has activity relationship, which in the successful increased its focus on incremental innovation, on project leads to a candidate drug (CD). The CD is decreasing time to market, and on reducing then further tested for putative toxicity and if bottlenecks to optimize the length of the product’s found safe, an application for approval of testing in patent (Tranter, 2000). Many pharmaceutical humans is submitted (investigation of a new drug, companies have turned to rigorous project and IND) to drug regulatory authorities and ethical portfolio management to make the research committees. Discovery is a complex process that process more effective (Schmid and Smith, involves a multitude of scientific disciplines and 2002b). Furthermore, extensive efforts have been includes many factors that could influence a made to implement technologies in pre-clinical successful outcome. It normally takes three to five research (discovery), such as computer-aided drug years to produce a CD (Pisano, 1997). After design, combinatorial chemistry linked to high approval, the development organization takes over throughput screening (HTS) to increase the CD to start initial studies in humans. innovative output. To conclude, based on the Development’s objective is to transform and current situation in the industry, there is validate pre-clinical models for human concept pronounced concern about how to balance tests. During development, the CD is further organizational creativity and economies of scale – tested in clinical trials to clarify if the drug has the to produce radical innovations (Horrobin, 2001). desired therapeutic effects (i.e. proof of concept). The present study was conducted at one of the These trials are followed by larger clinical trials to Swedish R&D centers, which is also the largest in meet medical, ethical, and regulatory standards the company – plus a skill center for several and commercial demands (i.e. proof of principle). technologies, such as like HTS and computed- The development process often takes four to six aided drug design. years. The pharmaceutical industry is renowned for being knowledge-intensive, and new product development activities are long-term investments 5. Method in terms of time and capital (Yeoh and Roth, 1999; Roberts, 1999; Heppard and Blasick, 2000). The This qualitative study (Strauss and Corbin, 1990, pharmaceutical industry’s competitive advantage 1994; Silverman, 1993) is based on interviews 271
  6. 6. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 (Kvale, 1996) with ten senior researchers and in the study were divided into three categories. The senior managers in AstraZeneca R&D. The first defined and positioned phenomena in the discovery organization at R&D center was the focal context of pharmaceutical research. The second point. Qualitative methodology facilitates investigated how intuition plays a role in drug investigation of complex issues through narratives. discovery research and its relation to organizational Rather than selecting a few variables on a creativity. And the third dealt with different pharmaceutical research project, we integrated organizational factors, such as technoscience and several interrelated questions and issues that are leadership and their relationships to intuition. For important for the drug discovery process. The aim example, how different sophisticated technologies of the interviews was to encourage respondents to and technoscience influence interaction with describe their drug research experiences in relation phenomena. to intuition and organizational creativity. Here, organizational creativity is defined as the organization’s ability to bring forth a new candidate 6.1 What is intuition in the context of drug in the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular pharmaceutical research? therapy areas. A narrative approach does not seek Because intuition has multiple connotations, it is what Bruner (1986) calls a “logico-scientific mode important to specify its meaning in the context of of knowledge” whereby an explanation is achieved pharmaceutical research. Policastro (1995) through the recognition of an event or utterance as suggests two complimentary definitions of belonging to certain category or as following a intuition: one based on a metaphorical perception general law. In short, a narrative approach strives to of phenomena and the other on a tacit form of present contextualized narratives to make sense of knowledge. One of the respondents expressed this complex, ambiguous, fluid realties – and not latter form and emphasized that intuition in nomological knowledge (Habermas, 1968). The pharmaceutical research is a combination of broad respondents in this study cover the most important knowledge and competence: disciplines involved in drug discovery: medicinal Intuition comes from broad competence together chemistry, pharmacology, biochemistry, and with extensive experience in a special area. For me, computational chemistry. The respondents also intuition is the ability to predict things with pretty represent important roles and managerial levels in good precision on the basis of the competence the R&D organization, for example, disease area platform somewhere in the background . . . yes, it’s leader, senior scientific advisors, and project like a limit between intuition and not yet proven knowledge is floating as a chemist. I mean, you can leaders. AstraZeneca R&D, Molndal was chosen ¨ show a chemist a structure and say: “Do you think for the study because it is one of the most successful that this will be potent?” And then he has a much pharmaceutical sites in the company. Several better opportunity to answer yes or no to the blockbuster drugs, the basis for the financial question than another chemist who has not worked performance of the company as a whole, have been in our project. He can’t point it out because that developed at the site, which makes the company a nitrogen is there or there. He can look at the relevant object of study in terms of drug discovery structure and say: “No, I don’t think so.” It is probably doubtful. It is obvious he can point out and organizational creativity activities. The certain things, like: “I think the chain is a little too interviews were made at AstraZeneca R&D in long.” Or something like that (Pharmacology, 2003. person 1). Another respondent defined intuition as a feeling and expressed a significant amount of vagueness 6. Intuition in new drug development: the and thus correlated intuition with risk taking: case of AstraZeneca I think that intuition is a kind of feeling. It is like what vision is for planning. Intuition is a type of The study investigated different aspects of capacity that comes with experience. I actually think that intuition is very important in the whole intuition and its relation to organizational research process – particularly in early discovery creativity in pharmaceutical research. phases. Because intuition is correlated with risk- Pharmaceutical research in the discovery taking, it’s difficult to base decisions on intuition organization is based on sophisticated for clinical programs, which is of course ethically technoscientific laboratory work. The search for correct. But in early phases in discovery, it’s simpler NCEs and their further development to finished and easier to take intuitive decisions about different products occur in distributed knowledge systems in things, like in toxicity studies or choices of methods (Biochemistry, person 2). which several different areas of expertise are integrated. NCEs are the outcomes of joint efforts One researcher stressed that intuition represents a by medicinal chemists, biologists, and dichotomy that is rational and sensible and pharmacologists. Questions and issues addressed irrational and impossible to communicate: 272
  7. 7. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 Intuition is something that summarizes experience and broad knowledge play an important role that for better or worse, because sometimes it’s rational may lead to important solutions for scientific and other times it’s irrational. I believe that many problems. experienced researchers have some kind of touch of recognition to identify new situations and put them in relation to something they have experienced 6.2 Does intuition matter in drug discovery before. I think that often, you see that intuition is research? something that you cannot put into a list. I believe On the rather broad issue of whether intuition in this method or in this molecule because . . . And plays a role in drug discovery research, all you can list carefully researched facts about it and respondents claimed in different ways that maybe refer to different parts, and there you have it very clearly why you recommend one. But many intuitition has a major, but complicated, influence. times it is a little weaker. Maybe you have made One respondent explained: some calculations that are not very clear, but you Of course, it’s very important. But I firmly believe have made others and maybe have seen earlier cases that intuition is a summarized picture you get from that remind you of it, but you cannot really put all the experience and the knowledge you have. So I your finger on what it is. Like when it’s more vague don’t think that intuition is hocus pocus or but you anyway feel very strongly that this is the something that you should be sceptical about. It’s a one you believe in (Computational chemistry, gut feeling. Very important. And I think that it’s person 6). based on things that are inside you and that you should absolutely trust it (Computational An organic chemist described intuition as the chemistry, person 7). ability to make combinations and explain how chemical structures can be visualized into a type of All respondents expressed in various ways that harmony: there is a relation between intuition and creativity. Many respondents claimed that intuition and For me, intuition is almost emotional; it’s like that things look good. For example, if I have a synthesis creativity greatly overlap. In some cases, two that I am working with, I can get a feeling that “this respondents thought that intuition and creativity should work” . . . it’s something that is very useful in are basically the same concept. But they what I do, because it has to do with combining emphasized that intuition cannot be controlled earlier pieces of evidence – call it intuition. But it is and creativity can, for example, through imagination and an ability to make combinations. imagination and domain knowledge: It’s like you feel intuitively that it’s right (Organic chemistry, person 4). You cannot do something if you don’t know the tools: the carpenter must know his tools. One respondent emphasized the strong One researcher provides a concrete example of relationship to knowledge and pointed out the how intuition links to creativity: ambiguitiy of intuition in the research process and Intuition and creativity go together. It’s not so easy how to handle it: to separate them. You also must have intuition; it’s Intuition is based partly on the experience of not always that it must be that way. For example, having being a part of and seen many examples and entrepreneurship need not always lead to getting then being able to connect the experience with . . . there the quickest way. There can be other people But also being able to digest many different signals who help make a decision. It’s exactly the same into a conclusion – that’s some kind of partial thing that you do in the lab. You might have a target explanation of what intuition is, I think. The molecule but a lot of different ways of getting to it. difficulty is that if you look at calculation methods, Not only using intuition but a combination of intuition is like neural networks; there is no intuition and experience, in any case; one person explanation. You can train yourself in calculation maybe chooses a way that leads to being able to models, calculating responses that you see are make the substance more quickly than the others, pretty good, but you do not have the vaguest idea of for example. That you really can produce it how the algorithms have come to that result. But (Organic chemistry, person 4). that there are other robust calculation methods that are more rational, where you can understand the Another respondent gave this example, which coefficient that appears. And man’s brain has an points out that intuition can also be an obstacle to ability to weigh in all types of information and creativity: backgrounds and experiences into something Yes, the connection is probably complicated. I’d say that is a decision or an intuition or whatever you that creativity can be damaged by too much can call it. And it is good when it is rational. It is less intuition and especially this unconscious intuition. good when it is irrational. I think we are colored by Then I’m worried about getting stuck in a rut. That many irrational things (Computational chemistry, in some way, it may be wrong to say that it person 6). quantitatively obstructs creativity, but it stops it, I think there is a risk that it stops creativity In conclusion, all respondents expressed to varying qualitatively in a narrower niche. If you dare to degrees that intuition in the context of challenge and question your own intuitive solution pharmaceutical research is an intinsic ability to to problems, then you maybe broaden your produce various associations for which experience perspective and come to – I would not say more or 273
  8. 8. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 less creative, I mean not fewer or more creative worry, like: “Damn, I can’t put this thing aside.” solutions – but you may reach other qualities, and You can’t fall asleep at night, and you don’t really they in turn are difficult to evaluate, which is better understand why you have that worried feeling. It or which is worse? (Computational chemistry, must be some kind of intuition that you have. But at person 6). the same time it’s actually – you can actually describe it like you have broad competence. I think Although the notion of intuition is percieved as that the people who are good researchers are the something important, almost all respondents said ones who have the ability to store information in that intuition is rarely or never discussed in the their heads and bring it out and remember that: organization, for example: “this doesn’t really go together with the article I It [creativity] is discussed at times. I am one of read seven years ago”, and they get it out and look at it. Okay, it must be because of this. That ability to those people who makes just these, if you could do be able to store that information and retrieve it rational methods for working instead, uses (Pharmacology, person 1). experimental design, thinks through why you do an experiment and so on. Many people say: “Yes, A specific example of how intuition plays a role in when we’re designing drugs, we must let the drug discovery research is given in this example. chemists use their intuition, you know?” And that The researcher, in organic chemistry and makes them say: “Yes, but I’ve darn well been working with synthetic chemistry for 20 years, and computational drug design, was involved in a I get a feeling that if we put an amide group here, screening project that was looking for a new then there will be higher activity”. And then the cardivascular drug compound. The task was to discussion comes directly into: “Yes, to what extent invent a pathway for how to synthesize a new should we let the chemists use their intuition?” And chemical structure. Computational chemistry is of course, it does happen that structures that you based on computational technology being able to find out are good have been intuitively designed. visualize and simulate the way in which drug And then you can ask yourself if it’s what we call molecules and targets (e.g. large proteins or an serendipity and how much serendipity is colored by enzyme) may interact: intuition that someone has through experience. But research can be maximizing the chance to have . . . it can be small things, you might get something serendipity, although where intuition is maybe a back – you work in a project, you get back data and positive factor. Sometimes anyway. I think it’s very get the feeling that something is wrong. It’s just not important to be aware of intuition. Going on right. You look at the pattern and see for example intuition without knowing it yourself. It’s like what structures are active, what are not active, you analogous to being unaware. Lack of knowledge is look at the pattern and you feel that “no, this is not pretty safe, but not knowing about your own lack of right.” And what do you do then? Of course you try, knowledge, unawareness, that is not good. And I for example, you screen them again, you test them think it’s the same with intuition, except in the one more time and find out that it is wrong, other direction, because intuition can be a good everything does not really work the way it should or thing, especially if you understand it and deal with that it really is what it looks to be, and then there’s it in a healthy way (Computational chemistry, still something that is not right and then you must person 6). go further and then maybe it has something to do with the mechanism. You must keep on working Here, a researcher contrasted the role that and modifying. You have to maybe get to the intuition might play (although it is a vague, less bottom of the thing that is not right. The picture is controllable concept) with the present not completely clear. And you proceed in that way and discover something else. Yes, you get the organization and its strong emphasis on cost feeling that this is not quite right. And you work on effectiveness, detailed project plans, and a it, make sure that you go on trying to get to the controlled drug discovery process: bottom of it. I have had that experience in projects The drug development process is not so damned (Computational chemistry, person 7). rational as a lot of people would like it to be, instead intuition can prove to be extremely significant. And In conclusion, all respondents express the notion intuition comes, I think, you can make it easier for that intuition in different perspectives and them by having a long-term view in the disease disciplines plays an important role in drug discovery area. I think it’s much easier to follow your research. In addition, most of the respondents intuition if you have worked within a specific argued that intuition is strongly linked to creativity. disease area for a long time than when you have more general intuition about different things. It’s like a feeling when you just read a scientific paper 6.3 Intuition and organizational aspects you feel that this – sometimes you can have some To make the research more effective and increase kind of worried feeling – you feel that this is innovative output, the influence of various important for our work, but you don’t know what. technologies (e.g. high throughput screening and And then you can’t let it go. And sometimes then the whole thing gels and you realize: “Yes of computational drug design) is now an important course!” And then if you have even more luck, it can part of pharmaceutical research. These new lead to success. And without what you could define scientific screening methods represent an attempt as intuition that gave some person that feeling of to use various forms of what Bachelard (1984) 274
  9. 9. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 ´ ´ calls phenomenotechniques, “technologies of for continuity too, but they have not done that visualization” that enable faster identification of anyway. I mean, the press gets harder and harder NCEs. The technologies involve a completely new on the organization too. There must be more and more targets, there are projects and so on and so way to manage scientific data and information. forth. I mean, there is hardly time for being able to These technologies might make routine work more sit down and think. You must put together reports efficient but may be an obstacle to scientific for different levels all the time. You are driven by creativity (see Thomke and Kuemmerle, 2002, having to have something positive to say at these p. 631; Cardinal, 2001). However, as a meetings, and you focus on coming up with representative for top management pointed out, something for them, but that maybe is not really the increasing role of intuition might have to what you should be doing after all, but maybe you should work a little, little more long term, and you bridge that gap: miss that with this type of project (Organic . . . if you can use technologies in routine work and chemistry, person 5). make things more quickly and perhaps more precise, get more reliable results like a lot of these Another aspect of intuition is that it is seen as robot systems can do than if you are doing it something mysterious, and subsequently manually then it is a great advantage, which should unprofessional or nonscientific; a chemist also actually give people more time to think explains: creatively. Many successes in automatization make it possible for us to have access to completely new There are prejudices. I mean that intuition is built amounts of data that we can treat in a completely on – like I said, what I believe – earlier experience. different way than before, because we have so much And you can easily be led to believe something that more data. We can see patterns and other things is a preconceived idea and that directs you too that maybe would otherwise be completely much, and you don’t look at the facts that exist impossible to identify. You should look at these (Computational chemistry, person 7). technologies as tools and then there is always a The importance of leadership and intuition may human factor when you are looking at data. This not be obvious. However, a respresentative from evaluation, you have to put it into its context. Is it actually reasonable? Should we choose this senior management pointed out the need for chemical structure that had a signal in this high management attention in relation to intuitive throughput screening? Or is it perhaps completely dimensions in drug discovery: impossible to do, modifying it so that it can be Yes, because as a leader, the point is not only to optimised. We don’t have a really good selection push your own ideas, you know, but to listen to the system yet. Instead, we have certain filters so that ideas of the person who is the most recent you can take away characteristics and other things employee. I think it would also send the right but it’s still up to a creative evaluation by an signals if even higher management can accept, so to experienced chemist, and it’s also based on – not speak, the newest guy’s view of the business. As it just knowledge but also on intuition. I think that looks through others’ eyes, too. They come from intuition and research are incredibly important the outside (Discovery senior management, when it comes to seeing that this is darn important. person 3). It may also be creativity. It’s a question of definition, you know, but having an intuitive feeling In conclusion, although intuition in drug discovery about this being the right way and this is an research is claimed to be highly important, the important result (Discovery senior management, respondents argue that it is something that is person 3). seldom or never talked about in the organization. Most respondents disclosed problematic factors Furthermore, the common notion from the when dealing with intuition in the organization. respondents reflects different concerns about how One factor was the way in which intuition is intuition is exploited in the current rationalized increasingly affected when planning and managing drug discovery process. drug discovery research. This is illustrated by one respondent: The organization today is in such a streamlined format in some way, it feels like. The way it works 7. Discussion with us anyway, you maybe work for a period of months with a target and then that is the end of that Pharmaceutical researchers claim that the human and you start on something new and it can in and of faculty of intuition represents thinking that goes itself be very stimulating, but after that time you beyond the strictly rational and representational; have learned what you have started to work with intuition is claimed to be emotional, a gut feeling, and then you must stop and start on something drawing on experience, and vacillating between new. I don’t know – in that way I have a little bit of being rational and irrational. Intuition is a mode of a hard time thinking that we’re working in the right way somehow. There must be continuity in some thinking that accounts for what is not really proved way in the organization and it is a little too divided in scientific terms, but still is valuable knowledge into parts in some way. Yes, I think that it actually in the process of drug discovery and development. feels like that sometimes. I hope that there is room In addition, the faculty of intuition matters in new 275
  10. 10. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 drug development. Intuition is a type of thinking coherent theoretical framework developed for use that is captured by metaphors such as “thinking when studying such events and occurrences. So a outside the box” or “seeing the broad picture”, Bergsonian view of intuition could be fruitfully that is, metaphors that depict intuition as the developed within this literature. Rather than ability to see relationships, causalities, and other conceiving of some forms of thinking as being associations for which there are not yet proofs of merely “original” (one trait of what we tend to such relationships. New drug development is a deem as creative), Bergson’s thinking offers an highly specialized activity that consists of many ontological and epistemological model that can different scientific disciplines, and authorities examine what this kind of originality consists of, regulate the process. Consequently, effective for example, if originality in solutions will make management of operations must support new drug interesting and new syntheses of what is already development. If intuition is regarded as the known. At the bottom line, Bergson may be a capacity to make decisions under time pressure – useful ally when criticizing the technical- without complete information (i.e. being subject to instrumental rationality that serves as the bedrock what Herbert Simon calls “bounded rationality”), for all management activities. Standardized then intuition is a highly useful resource in new management solutions for engagement with an drug development. But intuition is, as some of the external world (e.g. calculation, reduction of interviewees pointed out, by no means an extra- continuous realities to discrete events and entities, rational or super-rational capacity that can be and enactment of stable and predictable invoked in cases for which complete information is relationships between different actors) are mostly unavailable; intuition is always at stake because it analytical in nature; the management mentality draws on experiences and emotional faculties. So establishes a world that is manageable (Gephart, invoking intuition is a political issue because by 1996). This works fine as long as such definition, it goes beyond formal decision-making reductionism is applicable. In many cases, systems that are provided. In short, intuition is an management practice cannot rely on its analytical individual and organizational resource that is apparatus and needs to develop practices, complicated to manage and not like new techniques, and systems that can deal with fluidity, technologies, such as HTS, which do not rely on the experiences and emotions of pharmaceutical movement, and change, in brief, when speaking of researchers but rather on automation of the Bergson, what cannot be fully captured by the identification of new chemical substances. rational thinking of the intellect. Grint (1997, p. 9) The pharmaceutical researchers emphasized writes: that intuition is an important resource in new drug Like many other forms of thought, [management development activities. Yet the concept of intuition theory] does tend to rationalize away the paradoxes, chance, luck, errors, subjectivities, is not fully examined in the organization creativity accidents, and sheer indeterminacy of life through literature. If one follows Bergson in conceiving of a prism of apparent control and rationality. intuition as thinking that is “pre-representational” and operates outside of the favored regime of In the case of new drug development, perhaps representation (e.g. mathematics or a scientific what occurs between analytical systems of HTS vocabulary), then intuition has a rather clear and other technologies are never regarded as meaning and role vis-a `-vis more conventional and anything more than such chance, luck, and errors. analytical forms of rationality. For Bergson, So intuition may be representative of a form of rational thinking is analytical in terms of being able thinking that goes beyond these reductionism to reduce a complex matter to a signifying system, modes of thinking. Arvid Carlson, a 2001 Nobel but intuition is synthetic in terms of being able to laureate in medicine with extensive new drug see what is outside of the signifying system. When development experience, testifies to this need for using the metaphor of “single dots constituting a taking the consequences of what one may already line”, then rational thinking is the individual dots know: which we know are there, while intuition enables Especially on the discovery side, it is like walking in synthesis from the line and substantiates the claim a labyrinth, you face many decision points and the that the spaces between the dots are not just voids thing is not to jump in the wrong direction too but are regularities that constitute the line. many times. The first thing you need is luck, and Consequently, it may be argued that the literature then it is the other, what people call intuition . . . And then there is the question: what is intuition? on organizational creativity has not been very Intuition is probably just that, of having a very concerned with the pre-representational forms of incomplete, a very fragmentary basis and of being thinking represented by intuition. It is common to able despite only having fragments to see a pattern address extraordinary contributions and that leads your decision in a certain direction individuals in this literature, but there is no (Carlson, 2003). 276
  11. 11. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 Being able to theorize the fragmented, incomplete reproduce knowledge in the pharmaceutical world inhabited by pharmaceutical researchers industry offers limited latitude for creating new remains a challenge for the organization creativity knowledge; and this could be why the industry literature. lacks radical innovation (Horrobin, 2002). We argue that the role of intuition is an important subset of understanding organizational creativity 7.1. Implications for management and a rather unexploited platform for creating new Implementation of a more rationalistic approach knowledge, which demands receptiveness to a to become more effective has been the dominating more critical view of traditional knowledge trend in many large R&D organizations. Many management theory. pharmaceutical companies have turned to rigorous Creativity in the context of the pharmaceutical project and portfolio management to make industry is an ambiguous concept (Sundgren and research more efficient (Schmid and Smith, Styhre, 2003b). The predominant notion of 2002b). One could argue against the trend to creativity stresses something that is purposeful; implement policy that is too rigorous. This study something that other scientists have not done suggests that intuition is an intrinsic part of the before. Creativity must always be based on creative process in drug discovery and thus an accurate knowledge of the specific domain. Thus important organizational resource (Sundgren and organizational creativity in new drug development Styhre, 2003a). The study’s narratives suggest that demands an organizational capacity for becoming intuition and creativity are poorly institutionalized masters of a specific scientific domain, while in research-based organizations. So here, enabling an overview of an area of science. rationalist approaches that draw on A clear message for senior management is to be technoscientific practices (e.g. HTS) would open to discussion within the organization benefit from being supported by continuous, regarding ways in which intuition plays an widely shared narratives on how research, important role within drug discovery research. innovation, and creativity materialize in daily This would enable better understanding of activities in pharmaceutical and other research- organizational creativity in which intuition is not based organizations. The narrative view of seen as a fuzzy concept, but as an asset that could organizational practices (see, e.g. Czarniawska, be in balance with the rationalistic thinking. 1998; Gabriel, 2000) suggests that the process of We argue that intuition is needed, because organizing is embedded in story-telling and joint creativity is an ambiguous concept. As Deleuze sense making of events and occurrences. Narrative and Guattari (1995, p. 18) write: studies of organizations, such as Orr’s (1996) study of copy-machine technicians, Boje’s (1991) In any concept there are usually bits or components that come from other concepts, which study of an office supply firm, Bryman’s (2000) corresponded to other problems and presuposed examination of technology-based firms, and other planes. This is inevitable because each Humphreys and Brown’s (2002) analysis of concept carries out new cutting-out, takes on new organizational identities from a narrative contours, and must be reactivated or recut. On the perspective suggest that the institutionalization of other hand concepts also has a becoming that vocabularies, standard plots, speech genres, and so involves its relationships with concepts situated on forth, support and reinforce organizational the same plane. practices. So this study suggests that an ongoing Acknowledgement of intuition’s role in new drug narrative on intuition and creativity would development would: facilitate more effective research practices. Being . enrich contextual thinking that broadens able to tell stories and share experiences from scope through radical thinking and enrich the highly specialized, sophisticated research-based concept of organizational creativity; work remains as one of the key mechanisms that . increase an organization’s ability to move underlies excellent organizational performance in between different scientific domains within the pharmaceutical industry. Thus, telling stories new drug development; and about intuition and creativity is an integral, yet . enable management to increase the probability somewhat neglected component of the of capturing ideas in an early phase, which pharmaceutical researcher’s skills set. could result in scientific breakthroughs. From the rationalist view within contemporary management theory and from a pharmaceutical industry perspective, the rationalistic view of making research more effective somewhat parallels the dominant knowledge management tradition 8. Conclusion (Styhre, 2002). This tradition tends to manage and distribute knowledge in organizations as fixed and This paper presents a study of the role of intuition ready-made. This trend to codify, integrate and in pharmaceutical research. Conceiving of 277
  12. 12. Intuition and pharmaceutical research: the case of AstraZeneca European Journal of Innovation Management Mats Sundgren and Alexander Styhre Volume 7 · Number 4 · 2004 · 267-279 intuition as being the ability to synthesize on the in managing research and development”, Organization basis of available information, intuition is Science, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 19-36. contrasted with reductionistic and analytical forms Carlson, A. (2003), personal interview, January. Czarniawska, B. (1998), A Narrative Approach to Organization of thinking. Even though the interviewees argued Studies, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, London and New Delhi. that intuition is a highly useful human faculty, it is Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1995), What Is Philosophy?, Verso, still somewhat controversial to use intuition as the London. basis for decisions. Because intuition was more Dorabje, S., Lumley, C.E. and Cartwright, S. 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