Did you hear the one about how the harsh, modern-day pharma environment provides the perfect opportunity for companies to focus on innovation and reinvention? Presumably, you heard it a hundred times or more.

It sounds logical enough. After all, what do the most cliff-weary and pipeline-parched pharma companies really have to lose by experimenting a little? Unfortunately, the answer is “a lot.” Pharma companies have a lot to lose, still.

Implementing organizational change is immensely difficult and requires boatloads of courage, especially in an industry that doesn’t have much of a track record in changing direction and reacting nimbly. This is still pharma. You still have to get it right. There’s still little room for failure.

It’s perhaps not too surprising that “innovation” often translates to “finding the best way to cut budgets,” while “reinvention” can boil down to little more than “finding the best way to get smaller.” But there is something that every company can expand on, and in a big way: their thinking. Sanofi gets this. It follows through on ideas with conviction, aplomb and courage. And it’s a major reason we chose Sanofi to be our MM&M All-Star Company of the Year.

The company entered 2012 hanging over the edge of the industry’s highest cliff. Plavix, Avapro and Eloxatin all lost patent exclusivity during the year, representing $4.4 billion in global sales. The biggest hit, Lantus ($5.9 billion), is still to come in 2015.

Anne Whitaker, Sanofi’s North American pharmaceuticals president—and our cover star this month—admitted the company was holding its breath for most of the year.

However, as Matthew Arnold describes in his cover story (pages 40 to 42), “instead of battening down the hatches, Sanofi set the bar for engagement of external audiences, with innovative digital media programs, a groundbreaking gadget and visionary contests aimed at pulling up-and-coming techies, scientists, patient advocates and non-profits into its orbit.”

Not only has Sanofi shifted its R&D focus and its product portfolio, but it has engineered a new mindset, from the top to the bottom of the organization. In a strange way, the company is crowd-sourcing its own evolution. And that makes perfect sense. “We have a lot of smart people, but we don’t have all the ideas,” says Whitaker. “We don’t have the corner on innovation … collaboration is critically important.”

A little New Year’s self-gratuity

MM&M is used to handing out awards and accolades to acknowledge the industry’s best work and finest organizations. However, we recently received national honors of our own, winning two FOLIO: Eddie Awards—one gold and one silver—for editorial excellence in covering advertising and marketing. This outstanding achievement is, I believe, a testament to the depth of talent and expertise on the team, and to our relentless pursuit of editorial excellence across all of our brands, channels and products.

Like you, we’re not in the business of resting on our laurels and in 2013, along with striving to do the good things even better, we’re also working on a number of new projects, ideas and initiatives, as well as figuring out how to give the MM&M Awards a celebration worthy of its 10th anniversary. We’ll have our work cut out to better last year’s event but, drawing inspiration from the stories of Sanofi and our other All-Stars, it’s a challenge we will relish.

I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year!