Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Vulnerable Innovation

In the last few blog posts I have been discussing the resources needed within an organization in order to successfully implement an innovative program, product or strategy. We have discussed the attributes that both an organization and a team needs to possess to take the leap and execute an exciting new venture. The final piece is the tactics that you as the team leader can employ to drive innovation and growth in your organization.

As previously stated, I believe that true innovation comes from questioning - questioning assumptions, capacity and ability. And as manager, you need to lead by example and ask the questions of yourself that you have asked of others on your team. What assumptions do I need to challenge? What skills do I need to harness to not only get the job done but to motivate others as well? How can I think outside the box? How can I be both innovative and strategic and how can I coach and inspire others to do the same?

By asking yourself these questions, you are also putting yourself in a position to be vulnerable. And by vulnerable, I don’t mean in a position to be taken advantage of. In fact, I mean just the opposite. Leading through vulnerability means that you are willing (and have the courage) to take a 360-degree view of yourself in order to decide what work you need to do to help get your team across the finish line.

The payoff of leading through vulnerability is that it not only allows you to have what it takes to bring about innovation but what your willingness to be vulnerable signifies to your team. It shows an openness, a collaborative nature, a demeanor that is relatable and honest, and a demonstrated commitment to walking the walk and talking the talk - skills that are invaluable no matter what challenges your company is facing.

Finally, a willingness to be vulnerable is more than leading through innovation. It is about leading through it all. I believe that vulnerability, is a key trait of a transformational leader - a leader that I think we all aspire to be. As a transformational leader, your success (and that of your team) comes from your ability to connect and motivate others. And nothing is more powerful, more inspiring or makes a connection more meaningful than allowing yourself to be “seen” by your team members.

PS: if you want to read more about vulnerability and how it impacts leadership, I recommend this wildly popular (4 million plus views) Ted Talk by Brene Brown.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Don't Let Them Drink the Kool-Aid

As I explained in my most recent blog post, The Next Big Thing, innovation can be the key to an organization’s staying power. The ability to create and implement a new idea, product or strategy is incredibly powerful and exciting. Of course, there are other significant benefits to being innovative as well—the cost savings, opportunity for growth, the ability to help others and a competitive advantage. But innovation is not always easy and it comes with some challenges—the pressure it puts on a company, the ways in which it stretches resources, etc. And so the best way to face innovation head on and chart a course for success, is to be—as with anything—prepared.

Like when preparing for any new undertaking, it is critical to evaluate your team. You must ask yourself: “Do I have the right people in place to help me get the job done. Do I have people with the creative capacity to execute the plan?”

Making sure you have the right team in place is never more critical than when implementing a new innovative program, product or strategy. But what comprises the “right team” is not necessarily what you might think. You don’t want to fill your team with those who, when you begin to discuss a potential new idea, jump up and shout “Yes! Let’s do it.” You don’t want those who don’t think outside the box or take ample time to contemplate the impact of innovation. You don’t want people who are simply wearing the t-shirt or who have drunk the Kool-Aid.

True innovation, I believe, comes from questioning—questioning assumptions, capacity and ability. And so, to get to the point of true innovation within your company, you need those people on board who are going to think outside the box, look at the opportunity from every angle and help not only decide if the next big thing is the right thing but the best way to help the team get there and succeed together.

I have an amazing senior leadership team, full of engaged individuals with whom I can have frank discussions. These are individuals who are not afraid to always ask the tough questions and challenge my assumptions. They look at every decision and every opportunity with a full 360-degree perspective and are always thinking about new ways to maximize our impact as an organization.  I am always grateful for their candor, the level of thought and commitment they put into every decision and their steadfast commitment to JMC. I know that their input and our conversations makes me a better leader and Jupiter Medical Center a stronger organization.

And so, when you are taking stock of your team to prepare for innovation, you need to ask yourself, are you coaching up to encourage your managers to feel that they have the ability to speak their mind in a thoughtful way? Do you have frank discussions at your senior leadership tables where you provide a space for open, honest conversation without worry of retribution? Do you have people who dissect every opportunity and can embrace change after thoughtful conversation?

If the answer to these questions are yes, then you are well on your way to laying the groundwork for successful implementation of a new strategy or idea. If not, you have to think about how you can help team members develop the proper skills and get them to the point at which they need to be in help the organization and the team succeed.  Moving an organization forward and being truly innovative only comes when there are the right people in place to get the job done.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Next Big Thing

The motto for many companies (especially startups) is “innovate or die.” We often take on new projects, implement new technology or establish a new program with the goal of taking our company to the next level. And for some, it’s simply to keep our business in the game. 

When thinking about a new innovative venture, we establish a budget, decide on the team to lead and then implement the project. But before that, we ask ourselves and key stakeholders in the room, “can we afford to do this project, buy this software, build this building, etc?” But oftentimes we fail to examine the less tangible costs of innovation - the drain on staff, the stress on internal resources and the effects this “new thing” will have on other aspects of our business. Innovation is expensive and I am not just talking about dollars and cents.

Of course, there are some tremendous benefits to innovation. It can lead to dramatic cost savings, profitable new products and a competitive advantage. And for many, the primary benefit of innovation might be survival. But with many things in life, you need to look before you leap.
Recently at Jupiter Medical Center, we became the first community hospital in the country to adopt the IBM Watson for Oncology technology. IBM Watson for Oncology is a powerful tool and a cognitive computing platform to provide insights to our physicians that helps them deliver personalized and evidence-based cancer treatment. Purchasing and implementing Watson for Oncology represents a significant investment for Jupiter Medical Center, and demonstrates our commitment to pioneering new approaches to medicine and health care. And it is not an investment we took lightly.

For us, the cost of Watson has been more than sticker price of the technology. We had to coach and onboard team members, focus additional effort and time from a marketing standpoint and we are still working to fully integrate Watson with our other operations. We prepared in advance for this, but there was an additional “cost” nonetheless, though ultimately, the benefits will far outweigh the costs - material and otherwise.

So before implementing a new innovative technology, program or initiative, you need to ask yourself, do I have the necessary resources (money, time, people, etc.) the organizational infrastructure, leadership and culture to support what I am trying to do? In the coming weeks on the blog, I will examine in greater detail all aspects of what you need to do to prepare yourself and your organization for the next big thing.