I recently watched a video on the kitchen-gadget company Oxo. While you may not expect it at first glance, Oxo is widely regarded as a world-class product design organization. It’s the kind of company that routinely thinks of ideas of the: “why the heck didn’t I think of that variety?” The video was on the company’s design philosophy and had a quote that struck me as particularly interesting: “We are a culture of nitpickers; we have to be to get it right.”
The idea behind the nitpicking philosophy is that every product-design decision is put through a firing squad of questioning. Only if you try to poke holes in your own concept will you ultimately create the best product possible—no detail is too small. Of course, most people when pressed would say they loathe working with nitpickers. They slow down the process, obsess over small details and can’t see the big picture are the common complaints. But in pharmaceutical social media, a healthy does of nitpicking might be just what the doctor ordered.
Let me explain. Ask a pharmaceutical executive to describe a typical social media person and you will get something that describes a person long on creative juices but short on strategy and project management skills. This results in an abundance of “big ideas” with little idea of how to implement those ideas or the business drivers that make that a reasonable course of action. This creates false promises and failed programs.
A culture of nitpickers would approach this process differently. Once a big idea is pinpointed, the next question is: “does this make sense given the goals we have (presumably) outlined?” This would be followed by a series of detail-oriented questions that delve into the minutia of a social media engagement. Should we allow comments? If so, should they be pre-approved or in real time? What will the terms of engagement be? What are grounds for deleting a comment? How will we handle adverse events or a disgruntled patient? You get the picture.
Creating a culture of nitpickers is not about stifling innovation—just ask Steve Jobs. Jobs is the Grand Poobah of nitpicking and few would accuse Apple of a lack of innovation. It’s about marrying the “big ideas” with the “little details.” Pharmaceutical social media is too often happening with only big ideas and no concern for the details. Maybe it’s time we start acting like the company that invented rubber-handled potato peelers and become a culture of nitpickers.