“Do you Ride?” – Learning about leadership from Harley Davidson in Oakland, California

Harley Davidson dealership Oakland CA

Harley Davidson dealership, Oakland, California

I am back in Oakland, California, at the Sidney Garfield Center Health Care Innovation Center, this time supporting the Permanente Medical Group’s course “Medicine and Management,” which brings physician leaders from across the nation to learn about leadership in all of its facets. This includes providing great care experiences for members, recruiting and mentoring other physicians, and today’s installation of the course, techniques used in innovation.

In this morning’s session, there was a surprise trip to the Bob Dron Harley Davidson dealership in Oakland, California to learn about leadership in a context other than health care. By the way, I misspoke in my twitter feed that we were going to the Harley-Davidson factory – this is where we went, and it was no less impressive. One thing I really enjoy is learning about different ways of doing things from outside of health care.

The question in the title of the post was something we were asked by several of our tour guides – they would ask, “Does anyone here ride?” as a way to identify enthusiasts up front. Despite the fact that most patients wouldn’t call themselves enthusiasts of health care, there are (as with everything I see), parallels to health care. Although not enthusiastic about health care, I’d say most patients are enthusiastic about a great patient-physician relationship.

I was impressed by the level of interest in collaborating to create a good customer experience in all facets of the relationship – from the decision to purchase, to buying add-ons, to service. Because service is such an important part of the relationship, the service area is as clean and welcoming as the sales floor is (and service involves sales, too).

This part of the day was an introduction to observation, in the process of innovation. We were coached in asking useful, open-ended questions, and then went back to the Garfield Center to convert the observations into storytelling. We also did exercises in brainstorming (see photograph below) to acquire as many ideas as possible and sort through them.

Brainstorming Exercise - Medicine and Management Course
Panoramic view of Permanente physicians learning design thinking


Tomorrow, the group will continue to learn about the skills of innovation, or design thinking, led by the Innovation Consultancy group at Kaiser Permanente. The skills being taught to this group of physician leaders are the same ones used to develop the breakthrough MedRite program, which has changed the way people think about (and do) medication administration in hospitals so that it is safer. If you look at the tools used in MedRite, they are not new computers – using design thinking, the tools are simple, effective, and can be spread easily.

I am, of course, a big fan of continuous learning, and think it’s differentiating for medical groups to teach the skills of innovation. Through the work of the innovation consultancy, and more broadly, the Innovation Learning Network, Kaiser Permanente participates in sharing knowledge across organizations, just like our members expect.

More photographs, click on any to see larger size


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