Prateek Peres-da-Silva, an intern at Thought Leader Select and student at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, recently sat down with Dr. Maher “Max” Noureddine, Thought Leader Select’s departing chief scientific officer, to discuss his achievements at the company, as well as his vision for the non-profit he is launching to improve the professional lives of health care providers. Peres-da-Silva is a junior at UNC, double-majoring in business and biochemistry.
Prateek Peres-da-Silva: Good morning, Max. I’d like to hear some of your thoughts on your time at Thought Leader Select. Can you share a little about yourself and your role with the company?
Max Noureddine: Yes, Prateek. In terms of my training, I am a molecular geneticist with experience in biomedical research. I did my doctoral training in the genetics of cell cycle regulation, and then focused on the molecular genetics of neurodegenerative disorders as well as cancer. I joined Thought Leader Select in the fall of 2007 as the chief scientific officer and director of product development. In collaboration with an outstanding team at the company, I became responsible for the development and execution of the company’s line of competitive services and solutions in the area of key opinion leader assessments and profiling in particular, and in pharmaceutical consulting in general. As CSO, I am responsible for validating the scientific qualifications of thought leaders and ensuring that the highest quality of objective and competitive research is delivered to our clients. I have led complex assessment projects for the top global pharmaceutical companies involving over 16 different therapeutic areas.
Prateek Peres-da-Silva: Tell me about the company’s Innovation Lab, which you helped to create. I’m under the impression that this is more of a virtual state of mind than a concrete place or group.
Max Noureddine: You are correct, Prateek. I think of the innovation lab as a culture of open-mindedness, more than anything else. The team at TLS is one of the most dynamic, outside-the-box group of thinkers that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. The company has fostered an environment that nourishes new and innovative ideas from the moment they are born. Much like a scientific experiment, those ideas or theories are then assessed thoroughly by our internal team as well as external experts, who can provide relevant opinion and an objective evaluation of those ideas. As you can imagine, not all innovation lab experiments work. However, as any scientist will tell you, negative results are always meaningful. In using this innovation lab model, we take the necessary steps to ensure that our innovations are rigorously tested for usefulness and value before we fully develop and deploy them as services and solution for our clients.
Prateek Peres-da-Silva: In your role as chief scientific officer, you were certainly in a position to lead and influence innovations throughout your time at Thought Leader Select. Tell me about “the database,” or what is now known to our clients as Thought Leader Index. What’s the back-story behind this particular tool?
Max Noureddine: That is an experiment that definitely succeeded, and continues to provide utility and value to our clients. The Thought Leader Index was born from our deep understanding of the key thought leader profiling arena and the need to not only compile rich and highly structured research data but also make that data amenable to complex queries. We also wanted to ensure that this tool is available to our clients through a user-friendly, web-based interface that is both powerful and secure, yet easy to use. Just as importantly, this tool had to also integrate seamlessly with other information management systems that our clients are utilizing as well. Thus, the company committed a considerable amount of resources for this goal and placed a lot of faith in me to lead this effort. Truthfully, it was not an easy task, and the challenges came pouring in by the hour. It was a huge learning experience for me personally, having no formal training in IT. But, as they say, leave it to the experts. We truly are lucky to have a superb team of IT experts who developed a highly customized platform. I learned a lot from them.
Prateek Peres-da-Silva: You were a part of the development of a new suite of products in 2010, aimed at mapping the activities and interactions among thought leaders. Tell me about value mapping and impact mapping.
Max Noureddine: These innovations are our way of providing value to our clients, and putting to use the validated data that we collect. Any researcher will tell you that crude data on its own is somewhat useless. However, apply the right hypothesis and models to that data, and now you’re in for a pleasant surprise. When we gather validated and objective data on thought leaders, and marry that data with the right analysis, we uncover a profoundly informative and highly complex professional interaction networks that we refer to as impact maps. Quite often, you see networks out there that are based on one dimension, mainly publication data. As an end user who must incorporate professional networks in decision making and strategy, how certain are you in basing your resources and your conclusions on one-dimensional data? Well, imagine a customizable network that incorporates 4-6 dimensions. Is that better? Will that increase your certainty? I’d say, undoubtedly, yes. Similarly, with regard to value maps, we know that the needs of our clients are multidimensional, and so are the strengths of the experts. Therefore, we rely on thorough and objective data to recommend specific interactions that will lead to favorable outcomes.
Prateek Peres-da-Silva: To conclude this part of the interview, I want to talk to you about the retainer service that you helped to develop. How does this benefit your clients and fit into the values of Thought Leader Select?
Max Noureddine: Any vendor can throw a pile of data at a client’s door and claim “project complete”. Thought Leader Select thrives on building relationships with clients, well after the work has been completed. We want our clients to know what we are here to help them achieve their objectives and use to the fullest extent possible the information that we deliver. We train our clients on using the tools, we assist in data interpretation, and we provide short and long term support to ensure maximum benefit and utility. We recognize that our clients are managing time constraints and deadlines. Our goal is help them achieve goals and reach finish lines. Only then we can see ourselves as a partner, not just a vendor.