A Harvard Business Review article dated April 26, 2016, got me reexamining the cliché “let’s not reinvent the wheel.” When one thinks of startups, innovators, and entrepreneurs, we often look west to Silicon Valley, the heart and soul of the technology industry. Many executives from the tech and non-tech industry have traveled to Silicon Valley to learn the secrets of its success. These authors went more in depth to learn about the culture of successful companies. You may (or may not) be surprised what they found!
The authors met with more than 50 carefully chosen CEOs to yield a broad cross-section of insights. The organization types included established high tech companies, midsize companies, and startups, in addition to leaders at private equity funds, venture capitalists, and incubators. A pretty impressive group!
At this point you may be asking yourself, “What has this got to do with health care and health care reform?” Good question. And I do have a good answer for you. But you gotta read through the blog to understand!
Of the conversations about attitudes and values that seemed to explain Silicon Valley’s innovation identity and success, I list a few key themes highlighted in the article, plus my thoughts on how these align with health care reform:
Lace audacity with grit. The kind of innovation that creates new markets always goes against the grain. Successful companies did not shy away from the day-to-day determination to see something through despite near-constant failure was on the horizon or at times common. A commitment to assessing, refining/reengineering, and reintroducing the processes that will make the system work (Disruptive Innovation – Implementing new care delivery models: PCMH; ACOs; Oregon’s CCOs; Medicaid Managed Care; Implementing Alternative Payment Models).
Use strong leadership to enable true collaboration. While strong and visionary leadership is crucial, it’s the ability to tap the collective minds of the organization that drives the business models towards success. “Collaboration” is a term that’s everyone uses, but the best Silicon Valley companies make it happen by creating an environment that fosters and promotes collaboration; a culture where teams self-organize; people from various functions with diverse skills sets come together to work on specific projects. Good ideas gain momentum organically from the people working the project. Regular feedback and tracking progress are essential elements that drive progress (Organizational Culture).
Build platforms, not products. “The more products you sell, the more money you make.” That was the former economy. Silicon Valley doesn’t think in terms of “products,” instead they embrace the concept of a platform where connecting users and interactions is the new trend (Communications; Shared Agreements between Payors and Providers). Silicon Valley companies also think in terms of ecosystems, the power of networks, and sharable services — elements that are crucial to scaling in a thoughtful and strategic manner…and at times scaling very quickly!
Think like engineers and customers. Silicon Valley operates in a way that executives and managers elsewhere find it hard to fathom. In Silicon Valley, companies at all levels of the business from the CEO to cross-functional teams are hardwired to look at problems from the perspective of the customer in order to figure out what sets of processes would create the best experience and deliver the most impact (Systems Transformation; Patient Experience; Health Outcomes). Customers and end users are the focus; teams expected to solve customer and user problems whenever and wherever they find them.
Know that money only gets you so far. Venture capitalists used to be seen as an ATM with an endless supply of cash. No longer the case. Startups and entrepreneurs with great ideas but little business experience need mentoring, coaching, technical assistance and infrastructural support just as much as financing (maybe even more so).
The most successful startups look for venture capitalists that can plug them into broader ecosystems to provide additional leverage, extend and potentially expand their vision and footprint (Partnerships). This is essential, given that not all networks or health care systems are created equal. Understanding how the nodes within an ecosystem or network align with this vision can be the difference between a good idea that sits idle (and remains small scale) and a good idea that scales in the marketplace.
As these lessons show, for all the accolades for Silicon Valley’s technology innovations, the themes highlighted above offer the most meaningful and transformational insights. It goes back to the organizational culture.
But here’s the news! Health care is putting into practice the themes highlighted here! This methodology is being implemented around the country to support innovations in health care, such as, new delivery care models and alternative payment approaches. There is tremendous commonality in the mindset of both startups, innovators, and entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley and those pushing the health care reform envelop. Disruptive Innovation. Collaboration. Partnerships. New care delivery models. Alternative payment models. Patient engagement. Health outcomes. Different environments; same concepts. If this mindset can reap success for Silicon Valley, it can reap success for health care resulting in improved patient experience, improved health outcomes, and decreased costs!