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Franchise Players Don't Win Innovation Championships by Themselves


However, innovation and biomedical entrepreneurship is a long-distance, tag-team sport, and no one

Trophy, championship

LeBron James is arguably the best player in basketball today. But, the Cavaliers could not have won the championship without the rest of the lineup and the bench playing a supporting, and sometimes, leading role, too.

Many argue that sick care cannot be fixed from inside, including me, and here's why:

1. History tells us that very few industries have solved the innovator's dilemma, yet alone one that touches every person in the US and accounts for almost 20% of the economy.

2. The culture of medicine is elitist, arrogant, exclusionary, and extremely resistant to change.

3. Sick-care is one of the most highly regulated industries and any efforts to make change are subject to political, economic and legal threats.

4. The rules that presently exist don't allow innovation external to healthcare to penetrate. Tele-conferencing used for telemedical care is an example.

5. Sick-care design, financing, and delivery is much too complicated for any one group to fix it alone.

6. There are multiple stakeholders, each feeding at the present $3 trillion trough. They are embedded deeply in the system to protect their interests.

7. Sick care, like any industry, has blind spots. New entrants will come from places off sick care's radar.

8. Medical education is anti-entrepreneurial and, in some instances, seeks to find and destroy "disruption."

9. Few doctors have an entrepreneurial mindset.

10. Sick care is myopic. Few have figured out how to bridge the now with the new.

But, asking non-sick care entrepreneurs to solve major sick care problems on their own is unreasonable as well. They make a lot of mistakes. Doctors, given the few that have an entrepreneurial mindset, are no better or worse at creating valuable products, solutions, or businesses than their non-sick-care colleagues. Yes, we are hearing about doctorpreneurs who are changing things. Yes, we are hearing about medical students and residents getting more and more interested in clinical innovation and entrepreneurship and I welcome the change. It's good to see we are finally educating and training medical leaderpreneurs.

However, innovation and biomedical entrepreneurship is a long-distance, tag-team sport, and no one "franchise player,” whether they are in sick care or outside of it, can win championships alone. Innovation teams need not just high-profile scorers, but story tellers, problem solvers, problems seekers, score keepers, legal eagles, money finders, and social media experts. It also takes some luck.

Unfortunately, platforms to cure the sick-care system’s ills, like investor-entrepreneur driven accelerators, non-sick-care CEO innovation bootcamps, innovation centers, and incubators tend to separate the players instead of helping them create innovation teams that have the conditioning and stamina to last the entire season and make it through the playoffs and the championship season.

Instead of sending your kid to the LeBron summer basketball camp, send them to an innovation team camp where they learn how to contribute to the team instead of learning how to hit the three-pointer more than 50% of the time.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice