Case Study: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

A new narrative focused on connection to purpose, energises, empowers and refocuses the senior team at Pfizer’s lacklustre immuno-inflammatory business, taking every team member on an exciting, high-potential journey.

Confronting years of underperformance and rebuilding pride in its mission to reduce patient suffering
  • Shaping new leadership behaviours and enhancing team communication
  • 52% demonstrable increase in positive narrative-linked behaviors
  • Connecting the team to their purpose, enhancing job fulfilment and reducing talent attrition
  • Increased confidence paved the way for bolder action resulting in expansion into R&D through acquisition
  • $6.7B added to the Pharmaceutical’s most undervalued asset.
The business unit leader engaged Open Water – a trusted people & change partner to Pfizer since 2011 – to intervene in the slumping business unit:
  • Creating the narrative that would re-engage and drive momentum
  • Aligning leaders
  • Building trust
  • Creating cohesion


1. Can you revive a flagging team?

The trigger

A $4.8B unit within a market leading global pharmaceutical was struggling with lacklustre performance, creating concern for corporate leadership.

With a significant number of products in the pipeline, senior leadership knew drastic action was needed – or the Unit would miss out on its moment to take the market by storm.

The roadblock

The appointment of a new Global President and new leadership team coincided with FDA news that its product pipeline was in jeopardy. Team pride in the business mission was at an all-time low. The Business Unit needed a cultural turnaround.

The Open Water moment of truth

Open Water worked with the Unit’s newly appointed leadership team, it’s unique diagnostic process unveiling a range of limiting beliefs and urgent need to embrace a new, aspirational narrative.

The first step: to build a strong foundation of trust between the leaders who, due to the pandemic, were unable to get together in person.

Open Water pivoted to design and deliver a seamless hybrid event, blending sound-designed and managed facilitation throughout, to extend the in-person experience so crucial to the bond-building objectives.

The experience focused on building vulnerability-based trust and articulating the early vision for the Business Unit.

The result

The senior team left the offsite fully aligned and equipped to work together with compassion and commitment to the journey ahead.

2. Can you help us articulate a bold new journey of success?

The trigger

The now-aligned senior team needed help to articulate a new narrative for the Unit.

The roadblock

The new story needed to reflect the Unit’s different regions and functions spread across North-America – and it had to happen fast.

The Open Water moment of truth

To frame and accelerate this work, Open Water brought in the world-leading expertise of The Storytellers, now part of Accenture. Using a unique methodology, the leaders were empowered to co-create a simple and compelling 6-chapter narrative which became ‘Their Story’.

Open Water worked with the divisional teams to localise the narrative while remaining aligned with the collective journey.

The impact

The creation of a meaningful roadmap to commercial success and relentless motivation captured in the rallying cry, ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop!’

3. How do we engage our global team and drive momentum?

The trigger

The senior leaders were now equipped with a compelling, relevant Story to take to their teams. The post-Covid world had changed. The senior leadership team needed a chance to show they had changed with it.

A high-impact intervention was needed to bring the story to life, share it with colleagues around the world, powerfully connect the team to the new journey, and kickstart the mindset shift.

The roadblock

2,500 globally dispersed colleagues, remotely disconnected and emotionally drained and in the middle of a pandemic.

Open Water moments of truth

Using green-screen technology, in just six weeks, Open Water crafted a radical and revitalising experience that would transform the Unit’s outlook and kickstart its new journey in a ground-breaking all-team, 3-day virtual global conference.

Side-by-side on the virtual stage, the leaders centred on two chapters of the Story each day, allowing teams to dive deep into the detail of what it meant for their work.

Moments of delight and surprise were scattered throughout to keep virtual guests energised and engaged – from the opening keynote by Pixar’s Chief Storyteller to the personal fireside chats with the SLT.

Space was created for colleagues to share and process the recent grief of the pandemic and rebuild bonds weakened by lockdown.

The Impact

  • 2000 colleagues in 15 global locations, from California to Madrid to Tokyo, united for the first time, to experience the bringing-to-life – by the senior leadership team of the new narrative.
  • All-team engagement was clear and immediate.
  • Impressed by the openness of the SLT, and their honest account of the challenges of the past and opportunities ahead, colleagues were moved to share personal stories which unearthed the profound purpose at the heart of their work – and why they Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop improving the lives of underserved patients.
  • 40% of attendees rated the experience as a 10 out of 10 , averaging 8.4 out of 10 from all participants.

‘Inspirational patient stories give me the drive to continue… the importance of our story… being together virtually…. Seeing the leaders’ support… an incredible experience… WOW!’