Monday, March 1, 2010

Two messages, one future…

merge-700542 From an email to all VNAB staff:

I recently heard some interesting comments from two individuals I respect… and thought I’d pass them along to you.

I first became acquainted with Guy Kawasaki in the 1980s and have been reading his articles since in Entrepreneur and Forbes, among other places. He describes himself as an “early stage venture capitalist” but his most famous experience was working at Apple in the early days. He was part of the team that developed the Macintosh Computer which has always fascinated me because Apple was focused on other products at the time and came very close to not supporting the development of this new platform. Apple experienced many “near death” moments in their history, but persisted and reinvented themselves several times over. Such innovations include the Macintosh itself, the iPod, iPhone and soon, the iPad. Not long ago, Apple was not even in the music business. Today, more people purchase music from the Apple iTunes store than any other place on the planet.

I heard Guy speak a few weeks ago about innovation – a topic he is well qualified to discuss as his resume would surely indicate. He was speaking to a group of home care executives and describing the fact that, in his experience, the most innovative products and services, the ones that significantly alter an industry, are deep (you anticipate what your customers want in advance and try to incorporate that into what you offer), intelligent (cleverness counts… it helps you to offer unique products and services), complete (the more you can minimize handoffs to others, the more likely you’ll succeed) and elegant (there’s a “coolness” factor; people see your product or experience your service and are inherently drawn to it). Guy’s message to the home care industry: it’s time to innovate.

In my four months at the Visiting Nurse Association of Boston, I’ve seen some interesting innovations. I wrote about them here, here and here. In the highly (and increasingly) competitive world of home care, I have little doubt about the importance of our continuing to innovate in this very manner.

Last Friday, I met with John Auerbach, Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health. I know John, but this was the first time I’ve seen him since joining the VNA of Boston; that gave me a good opportunity to speak with him about our organization and his thoughts about it. I wish I could have recorded what he said as it was most impressive. He stated that we are different from other home care agencies. And different from other health care organizations as well. The term he used repeatedly was “stepped up”. Back when HIV and AIDS were poorly understood and greatly feared, the VNA of Boston stepped up and served patients in their homes. When the Department needed to focus on bioterrorism and emergency preparation nearly a decade ago, we stepped up and more recently, our organization stepped up when the Department was contending with both widespread and contained infectious disease outbreaks. We stepped up. And this is what makes us different.

Our future? Our future stems from the convergence of these two different messages. We need to continue to differentiate ourselves… to innovate. We need to embrace and continue our 125 year mission of being there, of stepping up. We need to do both.

That’s our shared task and responsibility. It’s the key to our future and our success.

And I’d love to hear your thoughts…


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