Ken Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co, Inc. | Summary and Q&A

55.7K views
May 18, 2018
by
Stanford Graduate School of Business
YouTube video player
Ken Frazier, CEO of Merck & Co, Inc.

TL;DR

Ken Frazier, CEO of Merck, shares his upbringing, career journey, and the importance of addressing societal issues in business.

Install to Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Transcripts

Key Insights

  • 📣 Ken Frazier's upbringing and early experiences shaped his perspective on the opportunity gap that exists in society.
  • 🖐️ Serendipity played a role in Frazier's transition from being a lawyer to becoming the CEO of Merck.
  • 👨‍💼 Frazier emphasizes the need for businesses to have a broader purpose beyond solely creating value for shareholders.
  • 👨‍💼 Access to opportunities and mentorship are crucial in closing gaps and achieving diversity in business.
  • 🪡 Frazier believes that a balance needs to be struck between capitalism and addressing social inequalities in order to create a sustainable and inclusive society.
  • 🤕 Healthcare faces challenges related to an aging population and the increasing burden of chronic diseases.
  • ❓ Frazier highlights the importance of a patient-centered approach in healthcare and aligning incentives to prioritize patient wellbeing.
  • ❓ He advocates for constructive conversations and nuanced discussions to find solutions to complex societal problems.

Transcript

[MUSIC] Once again, thank you so much for being here with us today. We really appreciate it. >> I'm thrilled to be here. >> As Sarah alluded to in your introduction, you had an upbringing and sought to your career as a death penalty lawyer that was very different to most of your compatriots in the Fortune 500. It's a little bit more about how that ... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How did Ken Frazier's upbringing shape him as a person and his perspective on societal issues?

Ken Frazier grew up in the inner city of Philadelphia and was put on a bus for school desegregation, which made him realize the opportunity gap in society. This experience taught him the importance of addressing the needs of those who are not as privileged.

Q: How did Ken Frazier transition from being a lawyer to becoming the CEO of Merck?

Frazier never aspired to be a pharmaceutical executive, but a phone call from the General Counsel of Merck changed his career path. He initially didn't think being in a corporation would be adventurous, but he embraced the opportunity and has been with Merck ever since.

Q: What does Ken Frazier believe is missing in business education?

While Frazier acknowledges the value of business education, he believes that business leaders should take a broader point of view and consider the fundamental purpose of their organizations. He advocates for businesses to address societal problems through sustainable means and not solely focus on creating value for shareholders.

Q: How does Ken Frazier approach making difficult choices when others are indecisive?

Frazier credits his father for teaching him not to be concerned about what others think of him. He believes in focusing on doing the right thing, irrespective of people's opinions. This approach has guided him in making difficult decisions throughout his career.

Summary

In this video, Ken Frazier, the CEO of Merck, shares his insights on his upbringing and career, the role of business education, the purpose of companies, the healthcare system, societal challenges, diversity in leadership, and more.

Questions & Answers

Q: How did Ken Frazier's upbringing and early career shape him as a person?

Ken Frazier was born on the other side of the tracks and had the opportunity to attend the best schools in Philadelphia through school desegregation. This experience made him realize the opportunity gap that exists in society and inspired him to make a difference and help others reach their full potential.

Q: How did Ken Frazier transition from being a lawyer to the CEO of a pharmaceutical company?

Ken Frazier explains that his journey to becoming the CEO of Merck was not planned. He received a call from the General Counsel of Merck, who wanted to interview him for a position at the company. Despite his initial reluctance, he followed the opportunity and ended up joining Merck.

Q: What does Ken Frazier think about business education and its role in addressing societal issues?

Ken Frazier acknowledges the value of business education but believes that the issues faced by businesses are broader than traditional topics like finance and marketing. He thinks that businesses can address the biggest problems in society through sustainable means but only if their leaders take a broad perspective and consider the fundamental purpose of the business.

Q: How does Ken Frazier weigh different constituents when making decisions as the CEO of Merck?

Ken Frazier explains that there is no formulaic way to weigh different constituents when making decisions. However, he emphasizes that the company's purpose is to help people and that the number of people helped and the amount of good done for them should be the primary metrics. By focusing on helping people, all the other metrics will fall into place.

Q: How does Ken Frazier know when to act when others are being silent or indecisive?

Ken Frazier attributes his ability to make difficult choices and take a stand to the advice he received from his father: "What other people think about you is none of your damn business." He learned to focus on doing the right thing, irrespective of whether people like him or not. This mindset has led him to make brave decisions in various situations throughout his career.

Q: What are Ken Frazier's thoughts on the conflict between capitalism and democracy in relation to social inequality?

Ken Frazier acknowledges that capitalism inherently requires some level of economic inequality. However, he believes that if economic inequality translates into political inequality, where those with money can buy elected representatives, then there is a problem. He suggests that finding a balanced economy where everyone is included without losing the strengths of the economic system is a challenge that requires nuanced conversations and careful consideration.

Q: If Ken Frazier could change one thing about the healthcare system, what would it be?

Ken Frazier says he would make the healthcare system more patient-centered. He believes that the current incentives in the system often drive people away from what is good for patients. He emphasizes the need for alignment around the cost, value, and impact of the healthcare system on society, budgets, and patients by focusing on what is good for patients as a whole.

Q: What does Ken Frazier think about the issue of foreign governments taking advantage of American consumers in drug pricing?

Ken Frazier acknowledges that some countries do not pay their fair share of the cost of pharmaceutical research. However, he also mentions that negotiations between countries on drug pricing are complex and that simply lowering list prices may not solve the problem due to the incentives within the supply chain. He believes that finding a solution requires thoughtful consideration and dialogue.

Q: Why is Ken Frazier passionate about preventing the deaths of women in childbirth?

Ken Frazier explains that Merck's ethos includes contributing to humanity beyond making medicines and vaccines. He highlights the preventable nature of many maternal deaths and the need for better protocols and care. He also discusses the disparities in maternal mortality rates, including in places like New York City, and emphasizes the importance of addressing this issue.

Q: What is the access gap that Ken Frazier talks about, and why is it important?

Ken Frazier defines the access gap as whether people have access to the individuals who can make or break their career within an institution. He shares his own experience of having access to a CEO who believed in him and gave him opportunities. He believes that closing the access gap is crucial and that enlightened leaders can play a significant role in providing those opportunities.

Q: Is diversity improving in boardrooms, according to Ken Frazier?

Ken Frazier mentions that the conversation around diversity in boardrooms is happening, and there is a focus on recruiting women to boards. However, he points out that the selection criteria and the traditional expectations may still hinder progress. He highlights the importance of having diverse perspectives and experiences on boards to avoid groupthink.

Takeaways

Ken Frazier's insights highlight the importance of addressing the opportunity gap and access gap in society, the need for a broader perspective in business education and leadership, the significance of putting patients at the center of the healthcare system, and the ongoing challenges of diversity and inclusion in various areas of society. He also emphasizes the power of taking a stand for what is right and the need for constructive conversations to solve complex societal problems.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Ken Frazier reflects on his upbringing and how being put on a bus for school desegregation helped him realize the opportunity gap in society.

  • He discusses his unexpected transition from being a lawyer to becoming the CEO of Merck, highlighting the element of serendipity in career paths.

  • Frazier emphasizes the need for businesses to have a broader purpose and addresses the challenges of achieving a balance between capitalism and social inequality.

Share This Summary 📚

Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Video Transcripts with 1-Click

Download browser extensions on:

Explore More Summaries from Stanford Graduate School of Business 📚

Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Video Transcripts with 1-Click

Download browser extensions on: