Riding the Curve

It really wasn’t that bad. Not nearly as rough as I predicted. And THAT is a damn good reminder about the nature of change. Planning for it, thinking about it, and worrying about it are the painful parts. Going though it is almost mechanical. And reflecting on it in the past tense is almost always a non-event [yawn].

One year ago, I left behind a 20-year journey through the twisty, beautiful and strange halls of Kaiser Permanente. It was where I found my calling, nurtured my passions, and made a difference in the world. Towards the end, I was on a plateau of doing/making really cool shit.  Those last few years were executed with a tried and true algorithm of cracking tough challenges into high-value solutions.

The truth is, I thought about a change as I approached the plateau, that place where you’re just leaving the curve of acceleration for THE peak –  but why screw around with THAT success?  Eventually the itch to see more – experience more –

Chris and Mike Surfing
My first attempt at catching a wave. My friend Mike Lin fell off and I am about to join him. But oh, what a feeling….

got the best of me, and so I accepted a challenge at the amazing Hopelab.  Those last few months at KP were hard.  Was I making the right choice? Could I repeat or recreate “cracking tough challenges”? Who would I be if not a Kaiser Permanente design leader?

The first few months at Hopelab were strange. It felt like I was on assignment from my old world – trecking to a new city, working with a client, and at some point down the road I’d be going home.  And every day my identity shifted a little here, a little there. A great week, followed by a tough day, then an amazing retreat, and an interpersonal bump, then a beautiful series of strolling meetings, a mini-set back, and a great leap forward.

One year later, I am riding the curve again. I don’t really know when it happened – 4 months, 8 months, 9 months? – but there was that gentle acceleration of thinking, contributing and making that feels like you’re catching a wave.

Yep, riding the curve and loving it.

CareAnywhere: an African Adventure

Zambia @ Safari Camp / 4 July @ 8pm: “its called what?!?!” The two fellow travelers, who also happend to be doctors, were in agreement that if I go SCUBA diving in Lake Malawi that I should seek treatment for a water parasite called schistosomiasis.

Zambia @ Airport / 5 July @ 10am: Using m.kp.org * on my SmartPhone, I email my doctor about the Lake Malawi parasite concern.

Malawi @ Airport / 5 July @ 3pm: Again using, m.kp.org I receive the following note back from my doctor: “I will discuss with my infectious disease specialist and get back to you. Be safe but have loads of fun! And take lots of pictures.”

Malawi @ Lake Malawi / 6 July @ 3pm: Kicking back having a cocktail by the lake and reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter on my iPad, I notice that I received another email from my doctor: “A prescription for Praziquantel will be mailed to you. Have a safe trip home.”

Malawi @ Lake Malawi 30 feet below the surface / 7 July @ 10am: I am enjoying the most amazing freshwater SCUBA dive of my life. My dad has been raising fish from this lake for 30 years, and this is a once in a lifetime chance to swim through what looks like my dad’s fish tank…but a billion times bigger.

San Francisco @ home / 10 July @ 2pm: I’ve just arrived home, and sitting in the mailbox is the prescription.

The above is true, amazing, and what the world of healthcare should be. Its seems so unreal the I was able to receive care by MY doctor based in San Francisco while I am on safari in Zambia, and that the care was coordinated, timely and precise. I can only imagine that in a few short years that this will be the standard. But right now I am basking in the awe that what many innovators have been dreaming about for decades literally manifested this past Fourth of July. Now that is independence!

A few years back the Innovation Learning Network explored the wide world of telemedicine. The premise was to explore how one might be able to receive care anywhere, anytime by people who knew you. We brought that exploration together into a nice booklet called CareAnywhere. For most, CareAnywhere was an “imagine if” exercise. Well, I’ve just had my first REAL CareAnywhere…

….and it is everything I thought it would be.
*NOTE: m.kp.org is designed for SmartPhones.  Use kp.org when using a computer.

Insights 2011 – a recap of all things ILN

Each year, my organization the Innovation Learning Network compiles a “best of” from the previous 365 days. I am thrilled to share this work with you. Highlights include:

  • gamification
  • analogous observation
  • care in 2031
  • a few cool tools for research and group interactions

The PDF is free (and green!); however if you would like a hard copy, you may order it here.


The Big Bold Future


Wow. The Autumn 2011 Innovation Learning Network InPerson Meeting was a chaotic magical dream state. I am not quite sure if I’ve woken back up. 150 innovators and leaders from around the country gathered to build the future of healthcare. The theme was complex yet simple: connected health. And it encompassed broad reaching policies and deep, yet to be developed technologies.

We sent the innovators on an innovation safari on Day 1 to fifteen extraordinary SFBay organizations. We exposed them to 10 super cool technologies and concepts in a progressive lunch (we paired finger foods with technology…and wow was that a cool way to learn!). And then we gave six hours to brainstorm and prototype healthcare in 2031.

From SmartBathrooms and SmartSupermarkets, to a Healthcare Political Party and friendly cloud computing the future were as brilliant as they were diverse. All gave us a glimpse of what we know is to come.

Now the hard work: dragging 2031 as fast as we can to the present. Our innovators will coalesce around the most promising ideas, the ones were passion is high and collaboration is needed….and do something about it. Stay Tuned!!

Finally a special thanks to my home Kaiser Permanente and to my dear friends the California Healthcare Foundation. We co-hosted and sponsored this event.

Playful and Messy

Christine Richter and Chris McCarthy being playful and messy. 😉
Christine Richter and I just finished presenting a very special WebEx on KP’s innovative nurse shift change called Nurse Knowledge Exchange Plus (NKEplus). The format of the WebEx was a new feature of the Innovation Learning Network to help diffuse innovation across systems. This blog post is not about that, but about one question that really caught my attention:

“what special skills does your group bring to implementation? Meaning what would we be missing if we tried to implement without you?”

The answer is “being playful and messy”. Too often when implementing new stuff, the “serious factor” rises exponentially. There is pervading sense that all must go right and tolerance for the imperfection plummets. And this is exactly what we combat when we implement new ideas. We try to help the end user and management take on a playful and messy attitude. Get them to smile, laugh and stumble….laugh again, and get it a little more right. Official permission for playfulness goes a long way: stress is reduced, and users become more perfect, faster.
So give it at try. You will be amazed at the serious results from being truly playful.

(and smile).

For those of you interested in implementing NKEplus you can signup and get more info here: http://goo.gl/FhwW8

Don’t Forget the Humans

Last fall, my partner in crime, Christi Zuber and I had the opportunity to present on why we think human-centered design is so important…and so huge for healthcare. In an amazing event designed by Adaptive Path, UX Week took many of us on a journey of exploration, from comics to starships and behavior to dancing. I loved that the organizers made the week theme-less; instead they focused on bringing together cool, inspiring stuff.

Since the conference I’ve received several emails sharing that the video was an excellent “intro to HCD” for their organization. Although it was certainly not designed for that purpose I am thrilled it is finding a second life.

In any case, here is the video in its entirety…thanks to the folks at Adaptive Path (and you can get the Transcripts here).

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