think-differently-sean-lennonMarket disruption continues at a breakneck pace. Some companies are ripe to be upended, while others proactively disrupt themselves. 

Allergan-the "Bold, Global Pharmaceutical Company"-demonstrates just how far self-disruption can take you. 

The company made a name for itself with traditional offerings that include BOTOX, as well as best-in-class treatments for the central nervous system, eye care, medical aesthetics, dermatology, and gastroenterology. 

The Dublin, Ireland-based company is now transitioning into a daring new consumer-focused business model. They are aggressively creating unique customer experiences. They are launching new consumer products and services. And at the center of all these changes sits Sean Lennon, SVP and Chief Information and Digital Officer at Allergan. 

Lennon leads the charge to envision and materialize new business opportunities for Allergan, and he sat with HMG Strategy to share his keys for unlocking new digital opportunities. 

HMG Strategy: Sean, tell us about how you and the executive team are tackling business transformation at Allergan.

Sean Lennon: No matter how deep we transform Allergan, we keep our focus on a single insight: Consumers want new experiences. 

The insight is simple, but bringing it to life is not. To give consumers new experiences, you have to reimagine and reinvent your enterprise. Technology plays a role in this transformation, but it is just one piece of a larger puzzle. 

Eric Ries (author of The Lean Startup and The Startup Way) explains this well. He's a bright guy in `The Valley' who explains that many major U.S. corporations are just too stuck in their day-to-day operations to innovate. 

To start to think differently at Allergan, we knew we had to break out of our day-to-day habits. So, we took our business executives out of the office, and on to a road trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts. There, we met with top science and emerging technology leaders and picked their brains on everything from Digital Therapeutics to Patient Engagement to potential new data sources.  

Just hearing these outside perspectives created a huge shift in our thinking. When you are heads-down in your enterprise, it's so easy to only focus on chasing 10%-to-20% improvements by improving outdated processes. But today's consumers are very different than they were 10-to-20 years ago. They don't want incremental improvement. They want bold changes. And our road trip made one thing clear- to create bold changes, we needed to reimagine our business from the ground up. 

When we got back to HQ, we began to ask much bigger questions. 

  • How do we take one of most profitable businesses and grow it three to four times over the next 4-to-5 years?
  • Our best-known products-like BOTOX-produce dramatic results, so why can't we command a much larger share of the market?
  • How do we unlock and break through to all these new potential markets that are sitting right in front of us, waiting to be served?  

New questions like these forced us to think different, and-even more important-to act different. We immediately built a cross-functional committee of business and technology leaders, and gave them a few new mandates... Seek out new opportunities. Reimagine key business processes. Preempt disruption, and find a way to serve our market's unmet needs. 

What are some examples of this type of breakthrough thinking that you're moving forward with at Allergan? 

SL: We made it our mission to think like a startup and first disrupt ourselves where we were strongest-in our case, that meant facial aesthetics. 

We created a small, cross-functional "internal startup" that combined our rock-stars from sales, digital marketing, and technology. We named this team "Moonwalker" and asked them to explore our new world and learn how to operate in its unknown atmosphere. 

From day one, Moonwalker shook things up. They changed our narrative. They shifted our focus to creating new, immersive experiences that would transform our consumer engagement. They uncovered points where we could strengthen our business relationship with the practice. And they conducted a multi-week hackathon that produced over 250 ideas across 25 categories. 

Ultimately, we streamlined these ideas into nine potential ventures, which we presented to our executive team during our own internal "Shark Tank". With our executive panel, we teased out the four to five ventures that offered the greatest potential to bring big new revenue streams to Allergan.  

These ventures are exciting. We're creating a true end-to-end concierge experience for our customers. We're applying Big Data to beauty and facial aesthetics, to curate content for our customers. And we're running human-assisted chats with specialists that help our customers find and book appointments with the best doctors to treat their issues.  

We're now uncovering new opportunities to disrupt R&D. There's a lot of new developments there-from bringing wearable sensors into studies to partnering with data and tech companies to drive faster pull-through of our developing products. We see substantial opportunity to roll self-guided disruption through every function within Allergan.  

How do you define your current role in the organization?

SL: Ever-evolving! We're creating a culture of innovation at Allergan, and that requires a lot of cross-functional work. While, at a base level, I consider myself a business leader who heads our technology division, I suppose there's a lot more to it than that, as my technology group chairs our Digital Leadership committee and plays a big part in developing the strategy. 

It's a little crazy to think about, because all of this started with us just shaking the tree and opening the aperture to new possibilities. But then it grew into a whole program, which has snowballed into a true movement across the organization. 

It's been just tremendous to watch this digital venture unit become a major player at Allergan. This is the most fun I've had in years!

Key Takeaways

  • As Sean Lennon demonstrates, CIOs and CDOs can do more than support new business initiatives. They can also act as the catalyst for identifying and executing on new business opportunities.
  • In order for a company to disrupt itself, it has to shift the mindset completely and be willing to try bold and daring new ideas - to think and act differently.
  • While a CIO or another CXO can lead business disruption, creating a cross-functional team to brainstorm on ideas and provide different perspectives is critical for enterprise-wide buy-in and success.

Sean Lennon will be a keynote speaker at HMG Strategy's upcoming 2018 Southern California CIO Executive Leadership Summit in Huntington Beach, CA on November 1. To learn more about the event and to register for the summit, click here.