Calling all Healthcare Collaborators

kingbridge_article_img_7As a pioneer and leader in the field of less invasive medicine I have spent over four decades working across many medical disciplines trying to overcome the biases inherent in clinical medicine and disruptive change. Out of this process a number of innovative collaboration technology tools and strategies have emerged.

LibraryMy passion for continuing to research how collective intelligence can give way to collective capability that brings about significant change inspired me to purchase The Kingbridge Centre as a laboratory and resource for pursuing this effort.  My vision for this centre is to create a neutral place where leaders from diverse sectors with different backgrounds can mutually explore effective experiences as well as doing post mortems on unsuccessful ones.

I believe the most significant advances in healthcare will require collaborations between business, government, non-government organizations and academia to improve individual and collective efforts for evolving health systems nationally and globally.

I would like to begin to build a community of collaborative minded professionals by hosting/sponsoring a few interactive forums at Kingbridge this year.  If you are interested in being a part of these forums and have a past successful or unsuccessful collaboration experience to share please contact me either through a comment on this forum or at

John Abele

Collaborative Culture + Tools + Strategies = Value

Creating value through organizational collaboration is much like baking a cake – forget a key ingredient and it won’t rise.

In today’s economic climate both inter and intra organizational collaborations are increasing, the potential benefits of which are undeniable.  The issue of course is finding the right recipe to successfully bake the cake.

In order for collaborations to work there are 3 key ingredients: strategy to follow, tools and technologies with which to execute the strategy and the organizational culture to support it. (Paraphrased from Evan Rosen’s “The Culture of Collaboration“.  Follow his blog )

A prime example of a successful (well, there were a few hang ups) foray into organizational collaboration is the creation of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  This futuristic aircraft began with Boeings desire to have only the best of the best working on it’s design.  Ordinarily, Boeing would house all the designers and engineers at their site in Washington.  However, with several international candidates in mind that was no longer a viable option.  So, without comprimising their desire to build the best aircraft with the best people Boeing embarked on a collaborative effort massive in scale and expectation.  Rather than simply outsourcing their parts they made several parts designers and manufacturers around the globe ‘partners’ in this venture.  With sites spanning several countries and time zones nearly every position was shared with others in opposing time zones thus allowing design and manufacture to occur 24 hours a day equalling a savings of a full year of production time!

Boeing introduced the Global Collaborative Environment (GCE), a set of computer and networking capabilities made available via the Web to every member of the 787 team, no matter what their location.  Cutting edge 3D CAD programs were distributed to all participating partners to ensure consistency in design, and regular virtual communication was built into the strategy from the start.  Most importantly however, a global culture of collaboration was initiated by having the multipe organizations involved in the 787’s development as co-designers and producers rather than mere suppliers to support the integrity of the process – every participant had a share in the sucess of the Dreamliner.

There were of course road blocks, including material shortages leading to delayed production that had better global monitoring protocols been put in place could have been avoided.  But, ultimately that is part of the process.  For a first attempt Boeing’s global collaboration effort has become a model for other organizational collaborations.

Gaming for Learning

At Kingbridge we host conversation forums on collaboration topics with global relevance.  In 2007 we hosted Game Change a forum focused on immersive and experiential learning through emergent media.  We convened a community of interest including leading experts from academia, business and technology to accelerate the convergence of revolutionary technologies with the science of pedagogy. Gaming in  particular has proven to be a force of change in the way people learn today.  It has already proven effective in many technical and skill building applications such as surgical training, NASA education and even military training.

One of our partners in design and execution of Game Change was Anne DeMarle, Director of the Emergent Media Centre at Champlain College in Vermont.  Anne, in collaboration with the United Nations and The Population Media Centre, is now venturing beyond technical applications of gaming, towards gaming for behavioural change with the UNFPA Game to Prevent Violence Against Women project in Cape Town, South Africa (You can follow the project’s research and development through the team’s blog).

This shift in gaming for behavioural and social change will dramatically change the landscape of social learning.  Group dynamics training in the workplace and social change orgainzations across the globe will be able to adopt this new avenue for experiential learning.  Particularly, with computer based games the reach of the Internet will allow smaller groups to reach a much greater proportion of the global population resulting in a profound shift in awareness.

We will be watching for these advancements and keep you posted!

Building a Collaborative Culture

Early in my career, I had a mentor that I didn’t know very well.  I worked in the laboratory equipment business and our companies went to the same trade shows.  We met, but I don’t think he ever remembered who I was. His name was Jack Whitehead.  He was a mentor because I was fascinated by how he built a business that created a field (lab automation).  

The company was called Technicon.  It was a small business started by Jack’s Dad that made pathology processing equipment.  Jack had come across a physician inventor who had developed an automated process for handling liquid samples.  The inventor had tried to interest a number of the big companies in the laboratory field, but had been turned down by all of them.  “There’s no market” he was told.  Jack liked the guy, and the feeling was mutual…and he made a deal.  He didn’t go through the now-familiar due diligence routine, nor did he engage in market research.  His company was private so he didn’t have shareholders who were going to sue him if his next quarter’s results were not up to par.  It was a classic “gut” decision and, as it turned out, a pretty good one. <a style="color:white"

It was what he did next that fascinated me.  There were excellent patents on this novel technology.  And despite the fact that “no market” existed, the inventor had a number of enthusiastic “early adopter” friends who were anxious to use the technology for their specific applications.  So Jack took some orders for his early products…we’d call them prototypes today.   But he had some conditions he insisted on:  you had to pay in advance, you had to spend a week at the factory learning the details of your instrument and you had to help build it.  As you can imagine, to pull that off Jack had to be a great salesman and a fun guy to be with.  The early groups of customers worked like the devil during the day and had a hell of a lot of fun at night.  Jack wasn’t just training customers, he was building a family. 

It was cool to be an early Technicon customer.  You were not only a black belt Technicon user, you were an applications engineer, a development engineer, a marketing manager, a salesman and a public relations person.   You were tolerant if there was a problem with your early machine.  And you helped solve it.  This was viral marketing long before the term came into use.  But it wasn’t just a gimmick.  These people cared: for the technology and the field, for each other, for Jack and for Technicon.  Jack was the steward of the process.  Sure, he benefitted enormously from the help of his disciples, but he understood his role as he shepherded the process and the higher goal of advancing the field and the benefit it provided scientists and patients.  He even organized a scientific forum for the presentation of papers on the applications of his technology.  It was heretical at the time for a company sponsored event to earn the credibility and credentials of an academically sponsored meeting, but he did.  It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it that counts.  And he did it free run 2 women

Obviously I’ve glossed over some of the things that didn’t work so well, but the lessons to me were powerful and long lasting.  I’ve watched other companies create similar cultures, and I tried to do that at Boston Scientific.  It’s not so much a specific set of actions as a mind set.  <a

Who do you admire who has built a collaborative culture?

John Abele