Philadelphia, PA — Dan Seewald, Director of Worldwide Innovation at Pfizer, was one of the first to take the stage at Digital Pharma East this year. He runs the Dare To Try innovation and experimentation program at Pfizer and believes that innovation comes not only from teaching and story sharing but also from play. He started us out with an old-fashioned paper maze.

A lot of people see there’s one way to solve a problem, but others find alternate ways to do it. 

Or even folding the paper in half.

Dan didn’t tell us the rules, but most of us applied those limitations and restrictions automatically. That automatic assumption of rules is what companies – especially in pharma – struggle with every day.

(Kind of reminds us of the very fun candle test)

Dan also shared a story about the Penny Farthing:

The velocipede. An early bicycle. People loved it, but, because the pedals were attached to the front wheel, the only way to make it go faster was to make the wheel bigger. Which, resulted in all kinds of crashes and accidents as people flew over the front of the handle bars when they needed to stop quickly.

No one in the industry could solve it. It took someone looking entirely outside of two-wheeled vehicles to the world of industrial manufacturing to find a new answer. He was able to take the engineering of the conveyor built to create the modern bicycle.

“Problems cannot be solved within the same mindset that created them.” – Albert Einstein


Our experiences create pattens of behavior and thinking that make it easy for us to make quick decisions and work efficiently. But if you need to create a really unique experience, something new, those patterns hold us back. To do more than go from A to B, we need to break those logical rhythms and patterns.

With a provocation.

Try this puzzle.

  • The challenge: You don’t have enough time to fold the laundry. What can you do?
  • The answers that come to mind are probably logical, things you’ve tried before.
  • But what it, you used this provocation:
  • What if … the laundry washed and folded itself?

The ideas from the audience at DPE were really fun: From a car wash to kids to moving into a laundromat to a new kind of washer / dryer system that automatically washes and folds right from the hamper to smart fabrics that are automatically cleaned by the air.

It was fun, but also real. A team used this same challenge a few years ago to create Washio, now a well-funded startup.

The degree and volume of provocations grows the possibility of new ideas exponentially. Your first idea will never be your best idea.

Dan closed with a few rules to help us all get to those big breakthroughs

Also be challenging: Have a challenge that you’re ready to smash

  1. Have a problem statement in the back of your mind that you’re sleuthing for solutions for
  2. Adaptive recombination: Most ideas are just a combination of other ideas. So where else does this challenge exist?
  3. Provocation: What are the most basic undeniable truths of my situation? What if we change them?
  4. Go beyond the usual suspects: Seek out how different people might solve your challenge in the world

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation and Insights for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for building and scaling a global team of healthcare experts who together help life science leaders better understand the complex lives, influences and expectations of their customers. Specifically, they uncover actionable insights that fuel empathy and creativity; lead co-creation events that let marketers learn from peers, trends, and new possibilities; and help clients identify the most valuable and useful new customer experiences to create.

Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for nearly 20 years.She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she held several leadership roles at our largest agency, GSW.  There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business.

Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes.

A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. This year, she led over 250 experts to experts to focus on the most important changes in the commercial, consumer, marketing, digital and healthcare landscapes. (See reports at

Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice and Top 10 Innovation Catalysts of 2017 by MM&M, Leigh also was recognized  as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.