John Abele: Medical Devices to Conference Centre – The Connection

John Abele, co-founder of Boston Scientific spent the better part of 4 decades pioneering the field of less invasive medicine.  With the undeniable success of Boston Scientific John has since pursued philanthropic endeavors including promoting science literacy for children and projects in social innovation.  John also purchased The Kingbridge Conference Centre & Institute in Ontario, Canada.

So, why a conference centre?  It seems an unlikely progression, medical devices to meetings, but for John the link is clear.  The current edition of Briefings Magazine published by The Korn/Ferry Institute features an article by accomplished author Glenn Rifkin exploring this very connection –  “Growth Through Collaboration: John Abele’s Vision”.

The article highlights how after years of working to convince often ego driven medical professionals and a bureaucratic medical industry to make change and ‘try something new’ that the key to success was collaborative approaches featuring innovative meeting techniques.  One of the most notable outcomes of these efforts is the still widely used Live Demonstration Course.

(Full article here)

In the following video John summarizes in his own words his vision for The Kingbridge Conference Centre & Institute and it’s roots in his experience with Boston Scientific.

Why Purchase a Conference Centre? from Kingbridge Conference Centre on Vimeo.

Playing at work: The key to productivity and innovation

In today’s climate of fast moving technology, heavy workloads and constant connectedness through mobile devices the vast majority of us have left play to the children and replaced it with work and responsibility.

So, we don’t have time for play anymore, it is only for kids….right? Wrong. There are umpteen studies on the benefits of play for children but now we are discovering that continued life-long play into adulthood is equally as important for our creativity, problem solving abilities, new skill development and emotional health.

Play is a doorway to innovation. Play stimulates our imaginations, helping us adapt and solve problems. Play arouses curiosity, which leads to discovery and creativity. In addition, the rewards of learning or mastering a new game teach us that perseverance is worthwhile. Perseverance is a trait necessary for innovation, and it is learned largely through play.

Play is also a powerful catalyst for positive socialization. Through play, children learn how to “play nicely” with others—to work together, follow mutually agreed upon rules, and socialize in groups. As adults, play continues to confer these benefits and has the ability to vastly improve working relationships.

Many of us are working longer and harder, thinking that this will solve the problem of an ever-increasing workload. But we are still falling behind, becoming chronically overwhelmed, and burning out.

Work is where we spend much of our time. That is why it is especially important for us to play during work. Without some recreation, our work suffers. Success at work doesn’t depend on the amount of time you work. It depends upon the quality of your work. And the quality of your work is highly dependent on your well-being.

The Kingbridge Insight for this week: In short, make some time to play at work. Anything can be gamified with a little consideration – leader boards for certain activities, task timing etc. Even a short break to play a game completely unrelated to work has been proven time and time again to relieve stress and trigger creativity or allow a problem to be seen from a different perspective. Play at work may be perceived by some as ‘wasting time’ but in reality it increases overall productivity.

Advancing ‘Social’ Technology Improves Healthcare

With technology you have access to information on just about anything and you can collaborate on a myriad of projects and tasks across the globe. Yet, we have virtually no access let alone involvement in our own personal health information and management?

Doctor Leslie Saxon, Chief Cardiologist at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine envisions a medical system where patients and doctors become partners in health management.  As Founder of the Dallas CPR Classes and Center for Body Computing, an innovation think tank dedicated to wireless health Saxon believes that advancing digital tools in the medical industry could make tracking heart rate and blood pressure as simple as opening an app on your iPhone or checking your e-mail.

Many patients today, particularly those with cardiovascular distress, are provided implanted digital devices that track heart rate, blood pressure and sense abnormalities.  The information stored on that device however can currently only be read when the patient comes to the hospital to ‘download’.  After which all information is review by a physician and not made available to the patient.  A costly and inefficient system.  Saxon, has taken that technology one step further by partnering with medical device developers to add the ability to access the readings from implanted devices on mobile devices.  Basically, you and your doctor can get real time information anytime and anywhere.  It would be like having an office visit everyday and a complete physical every week without the considerable cost and time.  The data available could predict future injury and allow for preventative action customized to the individual.

The possibilities are endless.  Saxon is also working with BMW to develop a heart rate sensor within the cars steering wheel that will check the drivers vital signs.  Imagine, you get into the car, you are stressed and exhausted, the biometric readout in the car senses this and automatically plays calming music!

The Kingbridge Insight this week is taken from a well known principle of adult education which is that an adult learner requires engagement in both the learning process and the establishment of outcomes.  Lecturing and giving orders without providing the why is rarely effective.  Learning and development professionals have known this for decades and have made great strides in reforming organizational learning.  So why has medicine not done the same?  The doctors hold all the information and serve down dietary restrictions, exercise orders and make out prescriptions without providing adequate information to the patient as to why this is necessary and more importantly without involving the patient in the decision making process, and then are baffled as to why so many patients don’t follow these regimens they have been assigned.  That is not to say the doctors are to blame, the system is flawed.  We know this, and Einstein said it best when he so wisely described insanity as continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results.



You don’t have to be a flea!

We all have some – or many – unhealthy habits that we have tried to kick.  Perhaps with some we have been successful and others not so much.  And for those that we have been struggling with often we settle for acceptance.

Like the fleas in this video we become trapped in a pattern of behaviour that is not only difficult to break, even when a solution (or escape) is presented to us.  This not only applies to poor personal health habits but to harmful organizational habits as well.  And much like the fleas these patterns can spread to the entire group.

With all the information available to us today on the dangers of unhealthy behaviour and more importantly the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, why is it still so difficult to change?  In a recent article from Harvard Health Publications “Why it’s hard to change unhealthy behavior – and why you should keep trying”  one of the main hurdles to healthy lifestyle changes is that they are all too often motivated by guilt, fear or regret.  While experts who study behaviour agree that in order to achieve long lasting and meaningful change, self-motivation and positive thinking are the keys to success.

Studies have also shown that one of the many limiting factors to change is the nature of our goals.  A specific goal such as ‘I will walk 20 minutes every day’ is far more likely to be reached than the ambiguous ‘I will get more exercise’.  But don’t give yourself too many goals all at once or you may become overwhelmed and fail to achieve any of them.

Our Kingbridge Insight this week is an extrapolation of changing unhealthy behaviours to changing workplace mindset.  If we are not mindful of our behavioural habits we run the risk of falling into the ‘this is the way it has always been done’ trap – and it is contagious.  So ask yourself, does your behaviour encourage or stifle creativity and innovation?  How can you work towards changing or improving those behaviours?

When did failure become such a bad word?

One of life’s most rudimentary lessons, ingrained in us from birth, is that we learn from our mistakes.  Why then as adults in the business world are we conditioned to look at even the smallest failure as grounds for rebuke?

Professor James Patell at Stanford Graduate School of Business has dedicated himself to challenging this mindset through a groundbreaking graduate course called Design for Extreme Affordability.  The course challenges the students to design low-cost products that can solve tough problems in the developing world. Forty students from across Stanford’s schools – engineering, medical, business and others – pair up with global partners who have concrete projects to tackle. The goal is to deliver nuts and bolts solutions, a way to implement them, and the means to sustain them over the long haul.  Over the last 10 years his students have been wildly successful at innovating some life changing products, and the key to success – encouraging failure!

Patell teaches his students the art of rapid prototyping, where the idea is to develp often and fail often thus allowing them to learn from all of the the large and small errors that occur at each stage to produce an end product that not only works but has been tested throughout its development.  Patell believes that many failures are a means to a great solution.  And the evidence suggests he is correct.  Some of the most notable innovations to come out of his students work include low cost d.light solar lanterns for villages without electricity, a childhood pneumonia treatment device (AdaptAir) that provides a custom fit for babies of all sizes to receive oxygen and the widely publicized Embrace blanket for premature infants.

So the “Kingbridge Insight” for today is a recommendation for a shift in mindset among business leaders.   Rather than measuring success as an absence of failure perhaps resilience and the ability to recognize failure as an opportunity to improve should be the true measure of business excellence.

Service Innovation Creates Customer Loyalty

Being inspired and inspiring others is an invigorating experience. One of the many things I love about my job is having frequent opportunities to engage with creative, forward-thinking movers and shakers who challenge me to think differently. These types of conversations ignite passion within me and they open my mind to a whole new world of possibilities. I would like to share a story with you that might inspire your thinking.

Last week over lunch I had the great fortune to engage in a stimulating conversation with, Lee-Anne McAlear, Program Director of Schulich’s Centre of Excellence in Innovation, consultant, training specialist, and speaker.  Lee-Anne challenged me to re-think how we describe our business purpose and client services at The Kingbridge Centre. My initial response was, “We are a residential conference centre that offers venue space as well as providing effective meeting engagement strategies and services to our clients to help them expand their thinking.” Lee-Anne encouraged me to think deeper. She then asked me not to start by defining “the what” we do but instead start by defining the “why” and “how” we serve the clients. When I answered these questions in a different order I had one of those ‘aha’ moments. I realized that we aren’t just a conference centre that provides meeting space to clients; we are a solutions centre. In fact, our “Specialness”, our differentiating mojo, is in the “How” we create the customer experience.

I also realized that we are more than hospitality service providers. We are connectors, linking our clients to the right people, the right space, the right expertise, the right experience and the right solution. We have created a place where the ideal conditions exist for new possibilities to bubble up when people and ideas collide. I paused for a moment after answering the questions differently and noticed Lee-Anne had a huge grin on her face. I asked her why she was smiling, “When people hear the word “innovation”, Lisa, they invariably think of product or technological innovation – they think of Apple, for example. While 75% of innovative efforts are indeed in the product/technological space, all that effort delivers only 10% of the value in the market! It is the other types of innovation – process, business model, and SERVICE innovation that deliver the big value. And what you have just captured defines why Kingbridge is a different kind of residential conference venue. You are “Service Innovators” dedicated to continually innovating your clients experience for better business solutions!”

For those of you interested in learning more about Lee-Anne’s methodologies for innovation, here is an article she shared with me or visit her website.

Experiential Learning – Simulated!

We all know that the best way to learn something is to do it.  That’s why doctors have 5 year residencies and mechanics and plumbers have appreticeships – you need practical experience to recognize symptoms, identify the problem and act accordingly.  The same is true for learning to manage group dynamics, promote innovation and practice culturally preffered leadership skills.  You need to experience the situations and practice your response to get it right.

Simulated experiential learning has long been in practice for medical, military and business training but is a relatively new initiative in organizational development training.  However, group simulation activities can lead to efficiency, effectiveness, and risk reduction in the workplace let alone the potential to garner new skill sets.

We have all sat through the endless slide shows and overly simplified dramatizations commonly used in ‘culture change’, ‘leadership’ and ‘how to be innovative’ workshops – none of which allow learners the opportunity to practice the principles and skills in real life situations. Simulations use real life parameters but often with an element of competition to keep groups engaged and ensure optimal performance.  Rather than heading back to the office with a set of principles, the participants leave having experienced implementation of the principles with opportunity to learn from their mistakes in a risk-free virtual environment.

If you want to check out one of the leading organizations in the production of workplace simulations ExperiencePoint covers topics ranging from practicing social resposibility, customer service practices to leading innovation.

simulation pic (2)

The Collaboration Curve: Continuous Learning for Continuous Improvement

“Collaboration curves hold the potential to mobilize larger and more diverse groups of participants to innovate and create new value” 
~ John Hagel III, Harvard Business Review

We have all heard of the experience curve and the effects it has on reducing costs and time while increasing accuracy in product and service development- it’s logical.  However, the inherent flaw in the experience curve model for business is that once you reach a certain level of expertise the costs, time and accuracy continue to improve only marginally until a new innovation is introduced.  And it is with the collaboration curve that the innovation increases.

“We’re seeing the emergence of a new kind of learning curve as we scale connectivity and learning , rather than scaling efficiency”

The more participants you have working on a design or project and the more interactions between those participants in a carefully designed collaborative environment, the more the rate of performance improvement goes up.  Essentially, because with continued collaboration comes continuous ideas that translate into continuous innovation.  It eradicates the lull in performance improvement that occurs in the experince curve model.

Take Apple for example.  They are experienceing a seemingly never ending cycle of expansion through the applications for their devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod etc.)  The reason of course is that they crowdsource.  Apple doesn’t think of the hundreds of application ideas and advertise them, they merely offer the platform and software neccessary for their users to develop apps based on their own ideas – and because of it the App Store is massive and Apple continues to gain revenue, reputation and offer continuously evolving product.

So I urge you to consider how you are applying the Collaboration Curve learning cycle in your organization?

Are Your Collaborative IT Solutions Working For YOU?

2010 has been labeled the year of collaboration, with most organizations looking to adopt collaborative knowledge sharing and networking solutions to boost productivity and innovation.

As was briefly mentioned last week, the issue is that out of the box software solutions all to often result in the organization changing the way they work to suit the software’s capabilities rather than tailoring the software to meet the organizations needs.

An impressive example of an organization that did it right is Goodwill Industries.  CIO Steve Bergman recognized that with so many decentralized non-profit operations throughout North America and the World that in order to effectively and economically facilitate a community of best practice he would need to introduce a collaborative technology solution.  He did his due diligence, testing the available corporate software solutions and found that none of them was the right ‘fit’ for what he wanted to use it for.  What her really needed was a system that could easilyadapt and integrate into the ever changing needs of his growing organization without breaking the bank! 

So Bergman changed tack, and found an opensource solution that was nearly what Goodwill needed and worked with the opensource programmers to create the collaboration portal MYGoodwill – a customized system that works for Goodwill Industries to satisfy their requirements and capabilities without causing a major restructure of process or requiring extensive training to operate.

I believe this story illustrates how we need to keep sight of the fact that technology is meant to work for us, satisfy our needs, and that often means customization to get it right.  Just as every person is unique so is every organization and their needs can’t all be satisfied out of the same box.

Watch a video interview with Steve Bergman