The Third Man on the Moon…
By: Badri Narasimhan
Practically every American aged 10 or more, and perhaps a good chunk of people around the world can name who the first man on the moon was. A search on Google for “first man on the moon” returns 809,000,000 results.
A much smaller portion of that crowd can tell you who the second man on the moon was – even though he was barely a few minutes behind Neil Armstrong. Yes – that was Buzz Aldrin. Can you tell me who the third man on the moon was? Don’t answer…you don’t have to. Pete Conrad may be ok if you don’t know him, but he was amazing and deserves a lot of credit too.
My point is this – in business, you have two choices. You can be a pioneer, a fast follower or a wanna-be who watches others innovate. Some innovations fail – no question about it. But if you let your fear stop you, sooner or later, there will be an innovation that will vastly limit the potential for you to regain your position in the market. Ask the folks in the Blue and yellow video rental company if they remember something about online movie watching when it first came out. P.s – the blue and yellow company is no more!
That is not to say that you jump on every new innovation and have a hap-hazard strategy. You do have a core business and sometimes, sticking to your middle of the fairway has a lot of advantages. I would caution you, however, that there are exceptions to every rule. When there is a threat to your way of doing business, that makes it substantially easier for your customers to access similar services, be very careful about wanting to be a fast follower.
Sure, you do not have the kind of budget that NASA does to be the pioneer. However, there are a lot of ways to experiment. Yes, there are a lot of competing projects, but if your customers leave you in droves because someone else made it easier to do business with them, you will be left without money to fund those cool projects.
The business gurus and strategy think tanks that write about innovation go back to a world where the next operational challenge does not encumber them. You have the real world where you have to balance your budget and weigh where you spend the time and energy of the organization. Even so, access to your customers, the front door to your business has to be a crucible of innovation.
If you have to tell your customers that you are trying something because you want to learn how to make it easier for them to do business with you and you fail, your customers will, in all likelihood pardon you for miscues. If you conduct 17 meetings to decide on the color of the wall paper and very rarely take a chance on being ahead of the pack, it is unlikely that in today’s world of fleeting customer loyalty, you stand a chance in the long run.
I say this from personal experience – I am in the business of taking a new method to increase patient access to health systems. That industry, not unlike many others, has innumerable challenges. Some would argue that the challenges are more now than ever, they are unique, there are pressures, regulations, etc. I agree with all of them. However, that which holds you back also holds your competitors back. If you take a chance and innovate, you will be setting yourselves apart even better.
The competition to healthcare delivery is unlikely to come from another health system with a different color building across the street. It is more likely to come from an entity that has made it easier for the patient to do business with the system. The competition for taxis did not come from a different color taxi. It came from individuals who took the power of wanting a taxi on to their own phone. The taxi industry had as much (some would say more microscopic) regulations as any other mainstream industry. The power of a large number of individuals took down the barriers. I know you can name the biggest app-based ride-hailing company. I am going to guess you can name the second biggest one as well…who do you think is the third? Don’t worry about trying to Google to find out. I have hopefully made my point again.
This brings me back to the 3rd man on the moon. Pete Conrad did not have the ability to buy his own rocket to get to the moon ahead of Neil Armstrong. You, as a health system, have the opportunity to find small innovations to experiment with patient experience. You have the capability to think different. Don’t be the third health system to innovate inpatient experience in your market. Frankly, second place is no good either. I hope you go out and try things and fail and learn and try again. Your patients demand that you do – they are constantly looking to make their lives easier – you better offer that experience to them. Or you will be like the 3rd largest ride-hailing company in your county that no one knows about.
Contact Badri Narasimhan [email protected] and make it easier for your patients.