As a lifelong risk-taker, I have to admit that I sometimes sit amongst our executive members and struggle. Many of you lead substantial P&Ls in an industry that rewards risk aversion. This often leads to thought patterns that recycle the same ideas over and over. It’s no wonder why change coming from the inside of this industry is so hard. There are other reasons, but fear of failing feels to me like it’s a big one.
You may look our way at m4 and wonder what it’s like to be a resource-challenged small business. It’s scary. It’s rewarding. It’s mentally draining. It’s exhilarating. The one luxury we never have is to not try new things—a lot of them. Please forgive our failures. We have to constantly push the envelope to do things differently and better. Why? Our biggest fear of all is failing each of you. If the community & services we build fail you—the architects of the next great acts in healthcare—then we believe we have failed the system overall.
Relocating to Jackson Hole for m4 innovation was the latest scary chapter for our business. As hard and expensive as this transition was throughout 2018, I was even more fearful of not trying to grow our business here. It feels right to be here. The decades of history this valley has in merging commercial and policy interests to impact the future of healthcare is a natural fit for what we do within our 4mul8 executive services model. Still, there have been quite a few nights filled with doubt along the journey. All that said, I couldn’t be more optimistic about our long-term prospects because this is now our home. This is not only one of the most beautiful places in the world, it’s the perfect canvas from which you can draw inspiration to test new ideas while tackling your biggest fears.
Now, here are my questions for you. How many nights have you laid awake in bed formulating a better way for how your team should work to make an impact for your business? What about those mornings in the shower when you had a spark that you thought could change the game forever? Did you do anything about it? Did the fear of failing—taking a risk—cause you to move your brilliance back toward the mean?
One of the biggest hits at our 4mul8 2018 business meeting in Jackson Hole was a Q&A session with a non-profit director that is leading a team to solve for Alzheimer’s and dementia with simple amino acid therapy. It is a real moonshot endeavor that flies in the face of the billions of dollars in failures by big pharma as they have tried to solve for Alzheimer’s. If successful, this approach could help halt Alzheimer’s at a fraction of the cost to traditional medication therapy. To solve for the affordability issues in our country, we need every one of you to overcome the fear of failure to help propel along the ideas that will make our system better.
Do I have big doubts that the healthcare industry is so big that it cannot be changed independent of major government intervention? Do I believe that the only solution may be akin to a massive train derailing with a lot of casualties in the wreckage? Yes, I do. I also have a lot of hope. My optimism is high that we will collaborate across the various sectors that make up healthcare to define the future. We have to do this.
I do have a lot of hope that there are enough executives amongst us that believe the time is now to begin designing the incremental steps that lead us to a better way. We may be moving toward more uncertain times because of the hyper-populism that runs rampant in our country, but we are also experiencing a time when healthcare’s capabilities are exploding. From AI to genomics to breakthrough biologics to hyper-personalized services, there is so much opportunity in front of us. Can we afford all of these things? Does our system move further into bi-furcation—very clear haves and have nots? Are you willing to accept that? When you take a step back and see the industry as a machine built to serve the citizenry, what do you see? What can we do better? What model (or models) works best?
If this last year has taught me anything, it has re-affirmed that the path toward doing the right thing for your business can be ugly at times. A lot of fortitude is required to get through the days where there are doubts. I now stand looking at where we are today, and I am so very happy we took this risk. If we had held back due to the fear of the unknown, m4 would not be the company we are becoming today. The access to great healthcare minds to add to our community is much greater because we are here. This morning the snow-packed Tetons were visible with all of their glory, and I remembered that this all started with a dream. It might have even been lying in bed one of those late nights thinking about our future. You also have dreams for your careers, your teams, your companies and for this industry. Stop holding back.
If I see one thing in key healthcare executives that is a killer right now, it’s ego. Ego often is fear’s mask. How many of you are sitting in roles today dying to change even one little thing that will improve this industry, but you do nothing? You stay quiet. You stay outwardly confident. You go with the flow. On the inside, you let the fear of looking stupid keep you from acting. If Sears had executives that did more about Walmart & Target several years ago, that chain might not be bankrupt. The comfort that accompanies the status quo is like the cardiovascular system. You know it outwardly seems to be working just fine today, but there are silent warning signs that something is changing. Do something about it or be ready for that unanticipated surprise.
The strategies that have defined the last 40 years in this industry are unlikely to hold as the pace of change accelerates. New plans for tomorrow are being formulated right now. Do you have blinders on because of ego? Is your P&L performing so well that new ideas are a nuisance? Are you a leader that advocates for the status quo because the future is too uncertain?
The next decade will be defined by the extremely open-minded executives. It has to be this way. The hypersonic flow of information will outpace the ability to change behaviors fast enough for the more closed-minded. Those that already have all of the answers are riding down the wrong track. It’s okay to see opportunities and then go slower in refining & refining them some more. It’s not okay to have a vision and to be too afraid to fail that it never gets its time in the sun. Push forward. Every big and small trial counts. Experiment with new partnerships that elevate your perspectives. There’s a nation and its future health and economic prospects that is counting on you.