What I Learned at Advisory Board ElevateLIVE!

Advisory Board ElevateLIVE! at the Gaylord 58946Advisory Board ElevateLIVE! at the Gaylord 58946 (View on Flickr.com)

Since each blog post is about what I learned yesterday…

I was invited to participate on a panel at The Advisory Board‘s (@TheAdvisoryBd)  first firmwide event, ElevateLIVE! (Hashtag: #ElevateLive) yesterday.

Disclaimer: I work for a member organization of The Advisory Board, but I am not directly involved in the Kaiser Permanente – Advisory Board relationship

1. Wow. Impressive production.

I didn’t know prior to coming that (a) this was their first firmwide event, and (b) that everyone in the firm was expected to attend, all 3,200 people. Before knowing how many people The Advisory Board employs, I thought this was the high energy subset of a much larger company, but really, it was everyone.

I think it’s important for an organization to assemble its people like this. Our organization, The Permanente Federation, part of Kaiser Permanente, assembles leaders on a smaller scale (without a DJ), and like the Advisory Board, we’ve been inviting our members (who are our patients) to them since 2010 (see: What “Patients included” looks like : 2012 Permanente Executive Leadership Summit ).

When I have specifically asked our guest members about this, they said to me, “We understand that you need time and space to contemplate the future of the organization, and we want you to take advantage of it so you can make things better for us.”

2.  I enjoyed that the signs in the main ballroom alternated messages celebrating the people in the organization – number of babies born, milestones for employees, etc. A nice best practice.

3. I feel comfortable in the company of social innovators.

The panel I was a part of had a heading of “health system special forces,” but I affectionately called it, “the misfits of health care”.

I met people who (a) embrace curiosity  (b) try new things even when they are not asked to, or when they are not given resources to (c) take no as a question, not an answer, and (d) think health care can be excellent, not just mediocre.

It harkens me back to this quote about social innovators:

one of Michael Young’s characteristics (shared with many pioneers in social innovation) was, in the words of one of his collaborators, Tony Flower: ‘sheer persistence, a kind of benign ruthlessness, clutching onto an idea beyond the bitter end, always taking no as a question.’

4. Social innovators think and respond to stimuli differently.

Questions to us that were posed, such as  “What is your biggest frustration,” and “what is your reporting structure,” are not unreasonable things to ask.

On the other hand, I don’t normally think along these lines and definitely not in front of an audience that’s here for “…an experience that showcases and celebrates the firm and unites our passion around the Advisory Board mission.”

We’re here to ignite passion, in a health care world and among a group of people who are supremely talented and want to change the world. From that perspective, my answers are, I report to 10,000,000 exemplary people, and my frustrations are not that great or important compared to the people I serve. Glass is 3/4 full. Double rainbow, the world belongs to optimists, it’s what health care is here for.

Like I said, misfits (but maybe one day, the norm…)

4. I really really prefer walking to places. I got in touch with that on my way to work this morning. If I can walk to it I’ll do it. In this case I did it anyway, because this group is special :).

5. I’ve been enabled by great mentors.

Ernie Hood is the former CIO of Group Health Cooperative and now Senior Research Director at The Advisory Board and we reconnected at the event. He hired me into my first job at Group Health Cooperative (@GroupHealth), a place where the people we took care of were actually called “consumers” and governed the organization.

Together, we made sure our EHR installation had consumers as its first users, way before health care decided it was going to be consumer focused.  Ernie allowed me to develop as a physician within health care IT before such a thing was considered reasonable or feasible. The Advisory Board is lucky to have him.

6. I am still mentored today, but differently. The path that Ernie and member governed/member-centered pre-paid, integrated care started me on is really a dream come true.

My mentors span a breadth much greater than physicians and across a lot of wonderful human beings, from a 22 year old recent college graduate, to artists, patient advocates, business leaders, and the 10,000,000 I work for.

My learning experiences happen as much in the communities of the people we take care of as well as the places they come to be taken care.

We’re here for their health and we go where their health happens (see: #KPLantern is beginning – Human Centered Insights into Transgender Person Health, to make it better | Ted Eytan, MD). And we do it in one of the greenest health systems in the world.

So I guess I learned overall that I followed the advice I was given a long time ago by another great mentor: Arrange to have a great boss, all of them.

Thanks, Advisory Board, for having me, Peter Kilbridge, MD for inviting me, and 3,200 people for believing that the future is as great as we know it is going to be.

Oh, and you’re all invited for a tour of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health (@KPTotalHealth) in Washington, DC, once it re-opens in September, 2015. We’ll take you in groups of 100, or maybe 200, since our capacity will be expanded…

Ted Eytan, MD