In an era of rampant disruptive innovation, there is a certain comfort in knowing your company adheres to best practices. Whether your business is in health care or retail or technology, the idea that it carries out its work while adhering to high industry standards suggests a level of competence and commitment that is both laudable and desirable. This is especially true for health-related organizations that deal with patient safety and quality of care.


Disruptive innovation

That said, a company can have a sterling record on best practices and still fail. All it takes is one regulatory change, unexpected competitive challenge, or worse yet, a disruptive technological innovation that is not rapidly addressed to lead to disaster.

Technology companies realize this fact better than most because they live with the challenge of constant rapid change. But, in today’s fast-moving world, disruptive change is a constant threat to almost every company, especially those in the relatively conservative business environment of healthcare.


Change in healthcare

Change is coming at healthcare organizations from many different angles, including, but not limited to these:

  • Consumerism, empowered consumers, and participatory medicine
  • Big data and predictive analytics
  • Precision (personalized) medicine
  • New delivery models, such as ACOs and telemedicine
  • New reimbursement models, in particular, value-based payments

All are significant disruptors in healthcare.


Predictive analytics

Let’s take big data and predictive analytics as an example. These tools are already being used by your bank, your grocery store, and, of course, by Amazon.

They are also providing a new foundation for the future of healthcare—a future based on more efficient processes—highly developed systems for delivering information and targeted therapies. This, of course, leads to two other disruptors: Precision medicine and Consumerism. They are intertwined.


Change requires a focus on the future

I’m not suggesting that companies abandon best practices, which obviously add value and help maintain quality. However, best practices are a backward-looking discipline. Dealing with change requires a distinct focus on the future.

Best practices are highly compartmentalized (i.e. accounting best practices, patient safety best practices, workforce best practices, and on). Disruptive change doesn’t recognize compartments and often bypasses them altogether.


Change enablers

Photo credit: | BobSmith

In my work as an executive coach and organizational development consultant, I have come to respect the ability of certain mid-level employees to facilitate and enable change within organizations. These are people who have a unique set of skills and abilities that are hard to quantify and seem to defy standard descriptions.

They may be engineers who are curious about finance, CPAs who are fascinated by medical research, lawyers with artistic leanings, distribution managers with interest in sales, or doctors whose interests span both medicine and technology. What is key is that they do not feel constrained by corporate boundaries.

They are not corporate anarchists; they are simply curious, open, and adventurous. If given sanction, they can often find solutions that escape those who feel more comfortable in a compartmentalized world.



I am not alone in championing these often overlooked heroes, people I call Boundroids. In his book, A Whole New Mind, author Daniel Pink notes,

“While detailed knowledge of a single area once guaranteed success, today the top rewards go to those who can operate with equal aplomb in starkly different realms. I call these people ‘boundary crossers’. These are people who develop expertise in multiple spheres, they speak different languages, and they find joy in the rich variety of human experience.”

What this all suggests is that a successful modern company should continue to adhere to best practices. But, it should also cultivate those employees who do not feel constrained by best practices and delight in jumping department walls in search of the next breakthrough or strategy.


Unusual Intersections

On September 27, I will be joining Esther Dyson, Dr. Jordan Shlain, Rohit Bhargava, Dr. Alejandro Jadad, Mick Ebeling, Daniel Walker, Brian Roeder, Larry Kopald, Roberta BaskinMark Brand and David Beebe at a new conference that will bring together leaders from diverse industries to learn from one another in order to solve common problems. The conference is called Unusual Intersections.

Dr. Gautam Gulati, a globetrotting expert on innovation, is hosting the event in partnership with TEDxMidAtlantic. This event is 100% participatory and designed to cross-pollinate ideas from divergent industries.

I will be talking about what healthcare can learn from exotic cars.

Want to know more? Please come and find out.


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