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It is time to think about being different, being different in a way that allows a company (or hospital) to make a meaningful difference.

Our healthcare economy, where many of the rules we have come to rely on for the last 40 plus years, will change markedly over the next five to seven years.  And with it, the value equation—the brand identity of companies, big and small — will also shift.  Some companies that today look invincible will stumble and perhaps even fade from relevance.  Smaller, more nimble organizations that can produce significant new value—true value, not just a marketing slogan—will emerge.

In many of my speeches, I use Youngme Moon’s wonderful promotional ‘trailer” for her interesting book “Different.”  This video stresses that with more and more businesses scrambling to be heard, far too many companies end up all sounding the same.  Dr. Moon, a Senior Associate Dean and Chair of the MBA program at Harvard Business School, posits that companies should consider the less traveled trail, a contrarian marketing orientation.  When everyone else is saying yes, maybe you should say no.  When other companies are going big, maybe going small is the right answer.  By being different, Dr. Moon believes, perhaps a company can make a meaningful difference for its customers.

The economics and the politics of lowering costs and reducing the deficit are combining in a way that will reward hospitals and other healthcare providers who can find new ways to deliver exceptional and measurable value.  Marketing gurus (and politicians), who for years have rightly believed that if you say something over and over again, regardless of its truthfulness, people will accept it as a fact, will find that particular gambit coming to a dead end, at least in healthcare.

This new environment will produce more than a few risks for organizations and the healthcare executives who run them, but if you are not more than a little excited about the opportunities for innovation that will lead to improved quality of care, enhanced patient safety and lower costs for consumers, then I think you are guilty, to paraphrase St. Jerome, of looking at a gift horse in the mouth.

When I began my healthcare career, AT&T and IBM sold more telephone and computer systems to hospitals because no one got fired for selecting one of those two imminently safe (career) choices. 

Today we face new challenges.  We have all known that this day was coming.  Just look at the healthcare numbers and you will know—or will soon know—that what we are doing with Medicare, Social Security and defense spending is not going to work in terms of controlling federal deficits. 

What is your organization doing to be different in a way that leads to making a meaningful difference? 

© 2012 John Gregory Self