A great dream requires a great team.
Ed Monchen a former colleague of ELP, is passionate about global health and the role business can play in saving and improving lives. This month, Ed began a new role as the CEO of i+solutions where he will use his knowledge and experience to guide this not-for-profit company toward making sure that essential medicines reach the hands of those who need them.
When are you successful in your own eyes?
You are successful when the ‘we’ and ‘me’ purpose are fully aligned. This means that you are working on things that fall under your personal interest, making you intrinsically motivated. For me, that interest is global health. I am passionate about helping organisations improve health for people all over the world and at the same time, developing new sustainable businesses. The first time I realised this was when I worked for the Access to Medicine Foundation. There, I contributed to the global success of the Access To Medicine Index. Now, I started as CEO of i+solutions which I feel has the same potential. Working on this is rewarding. It gives me joy and it doesn’t feel like work at all.
What is the major compass in your life?
Being impactful is my compass. I constantly ask myself: “How does my work contribute to society? How can we improve and save lives, whilst not losing the business perspective?” This goes for both my private and my professional life. In everything I do, I try to see how it can create impact. Unfortunately, some companies have lost track of their purpose, shifting their operations toward simply making as much money as possible. Of course, making healthy profits is a condition for business, but it’s not the ultimate goal! I believe in what I call shared value: creating value for business and society. More and more companies realise this and are starting to transform the way they operate.
What is the breakthrough you have realised and are most proud of? How did this breakthrough impact your life?
The answer to this is definitely my work at the Access To Medicine Index. The breakthrough I realised was that whilst the Index already existed, I helped to make it a global standard for pharma companies. The Index focuses on improving access to affordable medicine for low and middle-income countries. Before the Index, pharma companies operated based on what they thought was right. Now, there is a compass that provides the standard. Based on the Access To Medicine Index report, companies can now get inspired by others’ best practices. For me, working on this put me in a flow – suddenly, work didn’t feel like work anymore. My professional and personal motivations were finally fully aligned. And it felt great!
What do you consider as being the key condition for value creation in organisations?
People need an inspiring vision and a safe learning environment. For value creation, we need a combination of this strong, inspiring vision and practical implementation in a learning environment. A vision without execution power is a hallucination!
How do you create a learning environment that continuously stimulates raising the bar?
My own enthusiasm is the basis for getting people moving. I give people room to make mistakes and learn from them. As a leader, you need to provide the vision and framework and allow people to develop their own way to operate within it. You need to provide trust and guide people when necessary. At times, this can take a lot of patience. To have this patience, I meditate every morning which allows me to be balanced and see other people’s perspectives. I find that this also makes me a lot more creative. But be warned, this doesn’t always work. Sometimes, you need to help people find the right path. Often, people prefer to stay in their comfort zone, spending too much time in the same role with insufficient challenges that enable growth. By me, they need to wake up! Something has to change!
How do you encourage people to make use of their full potential related to an organisation’s purpose while also fostering their personal motivation?
I believe in a clear road map based on a joint vision. If you don’t define common goals, KPIs and deadlines to reach the vision, you will never get there! This is so from the top all the way down to the departmental level. Of course, these goals and KPIs need to be set together in an open conversation where participants feel that they can share freely. For me, this is the ultimate acid test if personal and organisational purposes are aligned! Once this is done, I believe people will flourish as you create the positive learning environment described above. A good way to measure it is to see whether people give constructive feedback. If that does not happen in your organisation, you might want to ask yourself this question: are we really working openly and together or do we keep things to ourselves? Do we really have a learning environment?
What differentiates a leader who makes organisations sustainably successful?
Modern leaders have a long-term vision that they can clearly communicate. They need to be story tellers and be able to touch people’s hearts. I also strongly believe in team players. Leaders need to know when they need to step back and let others do the job and when to step in. They also have to be transparent, including being open about their own mistakes. This makes it so that people are willing to go the extra mile. The time when leaders solely determine the course and path is over, at least in business in the western world.
How do you prepare for your W.I.N. (What Is Next) movement?
This year, I will focus on launching cross-industry initiatives to tackle some of the big issues in global health that no single party is able to solve on its own. I will arrange dialogues with several industries to find solutions based on cross-pollination and new partnerships for clients in low and middle-income countries.
To which intelligence do you want to connect in the coming year?
I’d love to connect with academics and business people who are experienced in (frugal) innovation, social innovation and inclusive business models. In my opinion, many programmes could be much more effective if technological innovation is combined with social innovation, which is often kept out of sight.
What is a question (and answer) we should have asked you but didn’t?
What is the reason that people don’t people follow their dreams?
I think for young people, their dream is not always entirely clear and they are more on an exploratory journey. But if young people have a very clear dream, they will make sure they realise it because the are highly motivated and not yet bound by the golden chains that older people often have. The farther along in their career people go, the harder it is for them to take a risk, in most cases because of responsibilities for family income and general uncertainty. So to really go for your dream requires guts, strong motivation and persistence, and sometimes even a crisis.