Death by myopia … literally

The last few days it seems I’ve pulled into the world of cross-pollination. It’s kind of like I’m Alice spiralling down the infamous rabbit hole … only to told by the Cheshire Cat (I actually think my daughter has one) that any way I go is the way I’m going – it seems my solution to any problem.

Cross-pollination in the business world is when a firm utilizes the expertise of others outside the firm’s industry. A big example of this happened in the ’90s when John Sculley replaced Steve Jobs at the helm of Apple Computer (as it was called then). Sculley was a chief executive with Pepsi – and Apple’s board thought he would provide a fresh marketing perspective to ignite the fire under Apple’s sluggish computer sales.

They were wrong. Sculley effectively drove Apple Computers to graveyard and had them dig. Fortunately, the board begged Jobs back into the corner office. We all know what happened next … as I write this on my MacBook Pro listen to “Raise Your Glass” from Pink, which I purchased from iTunes.

Corporate death

Cross-pollination took a hit after that. All skeptics had to do was bring up the Sculley debacle to win their battles to keep their companies “pure” – void of any outside influence or “alien matter.”

Well this myopic blame was unfair. There is only one Steve Jobs. And he was probably the only person that could have done what he did with Apple. But more than unfair, this myopia is dangerous … and dangerous in more ways than financial. It could kill you.

Presently the number one topic of discussion on the economic front is the issue of health care reform. It’s broken and how do we fixed it. We can’t stop the rising costs. We can’t stop the declining quality. We can’t stop the fraud. And we can’t figure out how serve the masses that can’t afford insurance.

Recently I witnessed the system first hand as my seventy-six year mother had back surgery. Every step of the way, there were missteps. Not was the problem necessarily ineptitude, but rather lack of communication between different offices and functions, and even within the same offices. This lack of communication resulted in months long delays in setting appointments and excessive unnecessary changes to insurance companies, insurance companies that believe or not – didn’t seem to matter paying.

And at no time did any one of the components care about the overall outcome … only their little part – if even then. The end result, my mother becoming functional again – having her life back, wasn’t even on their radar. At no time was there a discussion, by anyone, of what was the “Perfect World” goal of the whole process. It’s as if a modern-day Tower of Babel sprouted up in the middle of Billings, Montana. “Communication … that’s heresy.”

Well, in all my cross-pollination revel, here’s my idea, my solution to the health care crisis.

My idea is a “Health Care Concierge” (HCC). The function of HCC is to coordinate all the disparate groups involved in a procedure, such as a back surgery.

Once the procedure is decided upon and approved, the HCC would come into play, interacting with the patient, doctors and all other relevant parties. They would set appointments, the procedure itself as well as follow-up and rehabilitation. Their eyes would be set on the end goal … not just getting the patient out the hospital opening a bed for the next unsuspecting soul. They would also look for the most cost-effective means of care delivery, such as generic drugs and ongoing preventive care. Can you say nutrition consulting?

The position of the HCC is not that different from what you would see in a production manager in the corporate world. You could even equate it to a casino host for a “high roller” where their job is to make sure the gambler has a great experience – from time they arrive in town to the time they leave, ultimately providing profit and customer retention for the casino – or in the case of health care, cost reduction and reduction of patient revisitation.

Unfortunately, due to the presence of insurance, there is a “financial responsibility disconnect” – a chasm, between the patient’s care and the providers. The goal of a Health Care Concierge would help bridge this chasm.

Health care is just one industry where I believe cross-pollination would provide great benefits. Too often a business and even an industry doesn’t know what they don’t know. They go down a road because, well … it’s the only road they know. The fear of unknown, the fear of change, is just too big of an obstacle to overcome. “What if we hired the next John Sculley?”

No longer is change avoidance an option. It’s only the postponement of the inevitable. Change is going to happen – either voluntarily or not. Cross-pollination is change. I used the example of the health care industry because it is so relevant for everyone who reads this. But health care is not the only application where cross-pollination could be a game saving solution. I’m sure your industry – whatever it is, could use some new blood. Someone will bring it in. The question is, will it be you … or your competition.

Will you and your company be declared dead by myopia … literally?


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2 thoughts on “Death by myopia … literally

  1. I think you’re right. Health care needs to find ways of having people work better together. However, what really got my attention in this post is your point that many industries are at risk of death by myopia. Boeing–three years late and counting–still can’t get the 787 into customers’ hands. The advertising industry, enthralled with its ability to produce 30 second TV spots that people don’t watch, is being taken over by digital new-comers. And when’s the last time somebody excitedly anticipated a new Microsoft product launch?

    What these three companies have in common in addition to size is specialization. And I think myopia is specialization’s evil twin. Highly qualified professionals don’t intend to be myopic, but they’re proud to be specialized. The down side of being specialized is that one’s specialist lens filters out data perceived to be extraneous. When specialization works well we get break through discovery. When it doesn’t, we get myopia…failure to connect the dots.

    Your concierge idea has promise because it’s mission is to integrate specialists. In aerospace that job falls to the Program Manager. In other industries, it a “Change Manager”. The success rate, however, is spotty because, in my opinion, the culture of specialization is too strong.

    1. Thanks for insight Rick. Your takeoff on specialization being the “evil twin” is interesting. If I may add … it may be even more than a sibling. Specialization might indeed be the parent of myopia. Think about it.

      Specialization is the product of a focused effort to learn and become proficient at one discipline. This focus rules out spending virtually any time or eexposure on anything else.

      The idea of being a “Renaissance Man” is mocked as being a “jack all of all trades – master of none.” Our education system doesn’t help either. Often early on, in high school, pressure is put on a student to be a doctor, or lawyer or engineer. Once down this path, it’s almost impossible to get off.

      Well, it may take years or even generations to change the perspective of the Renaissance Man as a viable life option … it doesn’t need to take that long to change a company. A single hire or two in a small or medium sized business can significantly alter the firm’s DNA through the introduction of cross-pollination from other industries.

      It just takes the desire to do it. That, my friend is the issue.

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