Archive for March, 2009

&%$@# the Network

March 27th, 2009
When it came time to set up my office with wireless communications for my computer and printer, it took three men and a baby to finally get it to work. First, set up appointments to schedule the technicians to come, and then wait for the required four hours. They never come at the beginning of that time window. Then, when they don’t show up, you have to run outside and stop them from leaving because they always say that they couldn’t find your eight story building with the two foot high numbers on the door.

Shortly after the installation, everything stops working, and everyone has to be called back from the cable company for one more dance. My speed dial is now populated with special 800 numbers that give you 42 menu selections in Spanish and English.

So, my cell phone broke. You’re probably thinking, he’s some big executive, just call the phone staff. Well, truthfully, my name now appears under the Administrative Consulting division as that phone person, too. So, my first stop; the phone store. After waiting for about 47 minutes, someone says, “Can I help you?” “Sure, my phone is broke,” I respond. The technician looks at it and says, “Yes, it is broken.”

He then walks away, only to return several minutes later to say, “We’ll arrange for you to get a replacement phone.” Well, there are no replacement phones in stock anywhere within the greater metropolitan area. “Here’s a rebuilt one, Mr. Jacobs, good as new.” When I ask them to transfer all of my information to the new phone, the attendant says, “No problem.”

About an hour later, she hands me the phone, and I head for home. In about 13 minutes, I realize that my calendar, my pictures, my text messages, my business E-mail account, and my personal writings are all gone, wiped out, erased. My heart begins to beat like a bunny in hunting season.

No calendar, no back-up, no idea even what I’m doing tomorrow. I called to happily discover that the old phone was still there 24 hours later. As I raced to get it, the young woman behind the counter hands me a few pieces of paper, and says, “Good luck copying that calendar.”

It seemed odd that she could transfer 2,800 addresses but no appointments, or pictures, or business E-mail. So, I scribbled appointments, returned to the office, and spent three hours putting them in the calendar. Then I discovered that this phone could NOT read the memory card. I went to the next store, told my tale of woe, and they said, “No problem, we’ll get you another phone.” Well, this time, I explained what had happened re: the kind of effort it took to install the calendar dates. They smiled and said, “We can do that for you, just bring it back.”

Of course, when the phone arrived, I went to the store to have the transfer, waited an hour, and they informed me that it was impossible, but that I could easily set up my computer to do the sync at home. I couldn’t! So, the help line was next from 12:30 PM until 5:30 PM, and five people tried to help from the wireless company, but no luck. “The $%#@$ number you have reached is out of service.”


TED and “me?”

March 20th, 2009

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve been obsessing over TED. If you aren’t sure what TED stands for, it is an abbreviation for (Technology, Entertainment, Design) and TED is an invitation-only event where the world’s leading thinkers and doers gather to find inspiration. It’s in California, of course.

While spending an absolutely delightful weekend a few months ago with several people who were creative, inventive, entrepreneurial, and fun, one of the most highly respected innovators in the world turned to me and said, “You should be on the agenda at TED.” You may wonder what qualifies one to be considered to be one of the most highly respected innovators in the world, but take my word for it, he is. He’s on the faculty of about eight universities, has offices in a couple of dozen countries, and is one of the most sought after creators of innovation anywhere.

Well, little did he know how much that comment meant to me. It shook me up, inspired me, and filled me with excitement. Why? Read that line above again, “an invitation-only event where the world’s leading thinkers and doers gather to find inspiration.” Okay, I’ve been called a futurist, a creative, a right-brained whatever, and several of the things that we’ve done over the years have literally rocked the house (like this blog), but . . . in the world? It always seemed to me that my primary claim to fame was my ability to keep trying when some people not only wanted us to fail, but would probably have like to have seen me personally run over by a cement truck. I was persistent.

I’m not sure where I would fall into that description of the world’s leading anything, but it surely was flattering to have someone of that caliber say that to me. It’s funny, because every time I begin to allow the little ghosts come out of the sewers to pull at my pants cuffs with their negativity, I simply smile and think about our collective accomplishments.

This week alone, our consulting practice has taken me to a publishing company to help their employees begin to create what they would like to have for their future; then to a chain of hotels in New York City where the owner fully comprehends the merits of wellness for his employees; to a biomedical informatics startup company specializing in neuroscience; a nonprofit music group struggling to re-invent itself; and finally to an executive recruitment firm seeking a new business niche.

So, back to TED. If you have ANY interest at all in what goes on there, what gets said there, who speaks there, you probably would be surprised, or not. People like Dr. Dean Ornish, Bono, Bill Gates, Jane Goodal, and former President Bill Clinton have spoken there, but so too has Dr. Alan Russell from the University of Pittsburgh and a hundred other people who have simply made a difference –with extraordinary results. The good news is that, should you have any interest in seeing and hearing any of these speakers, just go to TED Talks on the web, and they’re all there for your inspiration.

For example, in a presentation by Scott McCloud, the cartoonist and comic book artist, we heard: “Learn from everyone. Follow no one. Watch for patterns. And “Work like hell.” Stefen Sagmeister has made his mark by creating public art with sayings displayed in public places like, “Everybody thinks they’re right,” and “Money does not make me happy.” My favorite, however, is “Complaining is silly. Either act or forget it.”

Jill Tarter, astronomer and a world-renowned expert on extraterrestrial life made this comment, “If we are alone, it is an awful waste of space.”

Seriously, take a look at TED and its companion, TEDMED, dedicated exclusively to healthcare innovation. Maybe, in my dreams, I’ll be giving my speech on kindness in the workplace, my 18 minute presentation on life, love, and a kinder more co-operative future.

Hey, we all need a dream. And I, too, have a dream.


It’s All About Transformation

March 13th, 2009

This morning I had an experience that could only be described as Transformational. My presentation to the World Health Care Congress 2nd Leadership Summit was finished yesterday afternoon and it went as well as could be expected. We discussed HCAHPS, Employee Engagement, Patient/Family Partnerships, Evidence Based Design, and how to appropriately staff the various seats on the proverbial bus.

My flight was not scheduled until Friday, so attendance at the morning sessions seemed like a viable option. Listed on the speaker’s schedule was B. Joseph Pine ll, and his topic was “Work is Theatre and Every business a Stage and Authenticity: What Customers Really Want.”

As Mr. Pine went through his 55 minute presentation, my initial reaction was “Yep, knew that; heard that before; understand that,” but then, during the last five minutes of his prepared remarks, Joe hit us between the eyes with that thing that had always been there but had never become completely clear to me during the past two decades.

He asked us what people wanted when they joined a health club, went to business school, or a psychiatrist? The answer, of course, was that they were looking to be transformed. Each and every day for a dozen years, I have watched this process and never grasped the nature of this metamorphosis.

One of the participants made a point of asking why it was that a person could come to a hospital, have open heart surgery that changed or even saved their life yet would not donate even $200 back to the hospital during the annual fund drive? Yet that same person would leave their entire estate to a university that they had attended fifty years earlier? What was the difference? In both cases something dramatic had happened, but in the case of the open heart surgery, it was just seen and presented as a service or at best an experience.

The university however, provided a significant transformation of the life of that person. This simple description explains why so many open heart patients go back to doing exactly what they had done in the past, and end up back on the table two or three more times. It was seen by the patient as a service or at best an experience.

With this in mind, my observations of what happened to those patients who participated in the Dean Ornish Coronary Artery Disease Reversal Program was that, for the most part, they had joined that program looking for a transformation, and that indeed is what they found. Most of the participants who had come there seeking a total change and a new way of living a more healthful life were transformed by the program. They no longer perceived of themselves as being victims of their health.

How does this all play out in the field of healthcare? WalMart is going to produce a commodity, electronic health records, competing with WalMart on any level will prove to be a fruitless journey because they have mastered the world of commoditizing services. The Starbucks experience may get customers in the door time and time again, but what is it that we need to do that will produce grateful, loyal, generous customers or patients forever? Provide a transformation.

For those of us who are getting this, begin to look at your hospital, your practice, your business as more than just a service and much more than an experience. Think of what you do as providing the tools necessary to transform those with whom you are working, and present your product, your passion, your involvement with the client, the patient, the customer as a means of transforming them. Dedicate yourself to helping them reach their goal of changing their life in a positive way forever, and see where that leads you. TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE is what we all seek at some level. The product: To help us make our lives better.


The Not-So-Merry-Go-Round

March 7th, 2009

Dr. Wayne Jonas, President and CEO of the Samueli Institute, a friend and mentor, testified before the U.S. Senate on February 23, 2009 regarding his views for creating a path to health care reform. Dr. Jonas, a well respected member of the Washington D.C. health community formerly served as the Director of the Medical Research Fellowship at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), a Director of a World Health Organization Collaborating Center of Traditional Medicine and a member of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy.

Wayne B. Jonas, M.D.

Wayne B. Jonas, M.D.

It is not my intent to copy this testimony, but only to accentuate some of the salient points contained within his work. Let’s begin by looking at some chilling facts. By 2082, healthcare expenditures will represent 49% of our Gross National Product. This is due to the fact that in 2011, the baby boomers will begin to turn 65 when, in the words of Dr. Jonas, “an avalanche of aging care needs…will bury the current Medicare system.”

Obviously, this is a case where more of the same is not necessarily better and, unless or until the system changes, and we fashion a new vision to create health, we will bankrupt our country. Dr. Jonas then went into the facts and figures that those of us in health care who believe in wellness, integrative medicine, and a holistic approach to healing have known for years. Seventy percent of chronic illness is due primarily to lifestyle and environmental issues, including proper substance use (smoking, alcohol, drugs, diet, and environmental chemicals), adequate exercise and sleep, stress and resilience management, social integration and support, and selective disease screening and immunization.

We are on a not-so-merry-go-round, which has an entire system of illness incentives that are improperly reimbursed, improperly addressed, and inappropriately segmented as if each part of our body was not a component of the whole. It is time to begin to throw the switch and to teach our patients what we already know so that wellness, wholeness, and health can be given a new definition.

Dr. Jonas specializes in Systems Wellness. Dr. Leroy Hood specializes in Systems Biology. We as a country need to demand that our medical schools embrace both concepts as, like indigenous man, we begin to realize that our brains do have something to do with our bodies, as we realize that our commodity driven society does not always promote the BEST food, the BEST exercise, the BEST of anything but, instead, because of the quarterly reports to the stock holders, promotes the most lucrative.

We know that drinking a soft drink with 10 teaspoons of sugar is not exactly healthful. We clearly understand that quadruple cheese anything might eventually catch up with us, or that Uncle Buck’s 72 oz. steak can’t really be good for your arteries. Fried and buttered everything, a total lack of exercise, and more stress than anyone can ever dream of will not extend our lives. There is a reason why most of our physicians die ten years before their patients. Between the battles to get their degrees, the incredibly long hours, the pressure of dealing in life and death issues, and the demands of dealing with a broken healthcare system, they need stress management as much as anyone.

How much further down must we go as a country before we begin to realize that millions of dollars, dozens of expensive toys, mansions, and rich food are not true measurements of success? During a visit to the Netherlands a few years ago, I told my host that I would be back in August. She looked at me, smiled, and said, “Don’t bother. The entire country will be on vacation,” and they were. Many European countries take 52 paid days off per year. Sure, their cars are smaller or they use bikes and generally they may own less clothing, but they are living longer, healthier lives.