What Lord of the Flies teaches us about Pfizer’s approach to empowerment

Pfizer CoinJust how detached some senior business people are from reality is evident whenever a light shines briefly into the recesses of their minds. For Ian Read, the CEO of Pfizer, a moment’s illumination arrived when he pulled a coin from his pocket as he testified to a parliamentary committee on the proposed takeover of Astra Zeneca.  The coin, he informed them, is given to every employee of Pfizer. On one side of each coin is the phrase ‘Own It’, and on the other ‘Straight Talk’. The idea is that the coin empowers staff to place the coin on the desk of a manager and offers the employee ‘the ability to straight-talk’ and ‘have a sense of ownership’. In effect, it performs the same function as the Conch in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, bestowing upon whoever is wielding it a voice and a feeling they have control. That is until the person or people who are really in control decide otherwise.