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Q&A with SVP, Innovation: Simon Wilson

Simon Wilson, SVP, Innovation Director

First published in PMLive.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?
FOMO (the fear of missing out). There is an urgency to that kind of daily approach. Today could be the day you discover something amazing, so get up!

What’s the best thing about working in healthcare comms?
That’s easy, the opportunity to contribute to both the heath and the creativity of the world.

What’s the worst thing about working in healthcare comms?
The lack of risk-taking. It is our duty to communicate as effectively as possible and effective comms requires new and exciting methods and sometimes risk. Too often we get asked, “We want innovation that has been done before.”

What’s your favorite bar or eatery?
The Witchez in Brighton. By day it is a photo design shop; in the evening it is quite simply the best restaurant in Brighton. It’s an odd combination of businesses in the same space, but somehow it works. The food is simple, cooked to order and delicious.

Which buzzwords/office jargon get on your nerves?
‘Can I share this with yourself?’ Misapplication of the rules of grammar in an attempt to sound smarter. You don’t sound smarter, you sound silly. Stop it.

Which book/film would you recommend above all others and why?
I would never recommend just one thing. A high diversity and breadth of interests is what make life fascinating. I’m always looking for new thoughts and ideas. Watch as many films as you can; I watch at least one a week. Read as much as you can possibly manage; I usually have 5 or 6 books on my bedside table. At moment they include Interviews with Francis Bacon and A Confederacy of Dunces. This shows the range I’m talking about.

Which person, living or dead, do you admire the most and why?
I admire polymaths such as Stephen Fry, Oliver Sacks and Bruce Dickinson. Great men and women that excel in many widely differing fields are frequently at the heart of society’s most outstanding inventions and creativity. The junction between two diverse fields of study is often where the most exciting innovations come about.

Who is your healthcare comms hero/heroine?
I met Dr. Christiaan Barnard many years ago (the surgeon responsible for the first human heart transplant). He made a special journey back to his hotel room to retrieve pictures of cancerous lungs. He wanted me to stop smoking. What a communicator.

What has been your career highlight to date?
Well, I’m hoping it hasn’t happened yet but, if pushed, I would say the Flu Vaccine campaign for GSK. It was creatively rewarding, long-running and helped save lives.

What’s your golden rule/piece of advice for someone starting a career in healthcare comms?
Set out with change in mind. Nobody ever got very far by doing the same things everyone else does.

Interested in continuing to pick Simon’s brain? Send him a message on LinkedIn.


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