I'm in Sweden this week, invited to speak at a pharmaceutical marketing conference.
A few reflections: I haven't been invited to speak at any pharmaceutical marketing conferences in the U.S. lately, indicating a somewhat greater openness over here.
Of course, the timing works well so I can also speak some more to the media about the launch of the Swedish translation of "The Whistleblower," do a book signing, and meet some friends and old colleagues.
That's another difference over here - I'm actually allowed inside some drug companies, right into the corner office. That hasn't happened for a long time in the U.S.
The lecture at the conference appears to have gone well. The organizers were a bit nervous at first, but the public, consisting mostly of employees in the drug industry, appears to have appreciated some of my comments.
Pfizer was one of the few drugs companies that had not signed up for the meeting, but last minute someone apparenly decided to attend. I'm sorry to say that I didn't get to meet this person.
I did, however, have an exchange with one of the PR guys from Astra-Zeneca. He made some strong comments at the Q&A and clearly expressed that he had not forgotten - or forgiven - my stint in Sweden managing the Nordic region for another drug company, when I took half of Astra's market share for Prilosec by lowering drug prices. I was, of course, humbled that I could still elicit this kind of reaction from Astra.
When you go back to your native country you reconize small differences you would never think of otherwise. The same goes for my visit here. I should probably point out that there are no white polar bears walking around on the streets, however, it is true that Stockholm is filled with tall, blonde, women, which may not be a surprise to you.
But I'm not thinking of those things; I'm noticing lots of other small differences. Like the fact that the toilet paper is indeed perforated but there is also a spring-loaded metal piece against which you can cut off the paper.
Or the fact that when you visit one of those drug companies, the interior is decidedly scandinavian and of a just slightly better quality than you may find in the average U.S. office, see below.
These are actual offices, and I just wish a few more U.S. companies would consider updating their dreadful ho-hum furniture. Then again that may take a while; the U.S. may be known around the world for many nice things, good taste, however, is not one of them.
I did also notice that the subway is clean, bright and tastefully designed, and that you can clearly hear the name of every station stop when you take a bus. It's not like the commuter train to New York, where smoke billows from the wheels as old leaves ignite, and the speaker system garbles every word, or the seats appear to have been manufactured in the late 50s. Or like the subway in NY, which looks like a bomb shelter from World War I.
You think I'm exaggerating? Below are a few pictures from Stockholm's subway system . . .