Measured Innovation, Productive Paranoia and the Twenty Mile March
by Lisa Kersey
At the recent Forum for Healthcare Strategists conference in Orlando, I had the opportunity to hear from Morten Hansen, co-author of Great by Choice. He described the key attributes of leaders who were able to lead companies in some of our country’s most volatile industries to succeed when others failed. It’s no surprise that healthcare was one of those industries.
However, most of the company examples he shared came from outside the health sector –including Southwest Airlines, Microsoft and Progressive. As hospitals and health systems continue to dig deep for new business models and practices to position themselves to succeed in this unprecedented season of reform, they would do well to continue looking outside their industry when it comes to best practices. The following are just a few of the “great by choice” attributes as I would apply them to healthcare and how these attributes can provide passage from volatility to prosperity.
Collins & Hansen found that great organizations include innovation as part of their recipe for success, but that too much innovation is actually detrimental. While healthcare providers must embrace communication changes such as social media and other tools outside of their healthcare comfort zones, a Facebook campaign or creation of a blog is not the answer to every problem. Truly great companies evolve their strategy by revising selected elements, while keeping most of their practices intact. For healthcare, that suggests there is still value in an appropriate application of more traditional forms of marketing and public relations, such as press releases, grassroots advocacy and media relations. The key is not to replace every tactic. Instead, selectively test new applications, then proactively align and integrate successful innovative elements with your tried and true tactics. This approach results in measured innovation that will yield success in uncertain times.
Another mark of great leaders is a practice Collins & Hansen call “productive paranoia.” PR and marketing professionals need to keep one step ahead when it comes to changes in the industry and being market competitive – but don’t think you have to carry that weight alone. Become bridge builders within your organizations. Whether it’s being aware of increased transparency with cost and quality data; employee unrest and union legislation; physician dissatisfaction with access to care for their patients; service lines offering new technology, services, and unique procedures; or, understanding how demographic and economic factors might impact your service area – make sure you are in the relationship business. This will lead to productive paranoia versus reactive paranoia, which results in a waste of talent, time and money.
According to the research, Hansen explained that great organizations placed an upper boundary on their growth goals –even when the market suggested that the “world was their oyster.” Similarly, they demanded achievement of the lower boundary growth goals, regardless of market dynamics. As healthcare marketers, we are often asked to be all things to all people – to promote a program that doesn’t have adequate capacity to meet expectations; to promote every service line equally, diluting results for all services; to reactively market a particular procedure or program because your biggest competitor just advertised theirs. I have three words for you: Don’t do it! Building brand is not a sprint but a marathon; or what Collins and Hansen would refer to as the Twenty Mile March.
Sure, sometimes you will have to grease the squeaky wheel, but 95 percent of the time, stick to your strategy. Put your strategy in writing and share it with your executive team on a regular basis. Share your successes and milestones achieved to help limit reactivity and what I call “Jackson Pollock marketing.” The more purposeful you can be about your strategy and activities, the more poised you are to choose greatness for your organization. Are you ready to lead your organization through the Twenty Mile March of healthcare reform?