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Great Pipes in a Mad World - HCIT Lessons From Idol - Part 2

May 21, 2009
by Joe Bormel
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Great Pipes in a Mad World - Part 2

Last night was the season finale of American Idol. As we previously discussed, there are lessons for HCIT. Are there more lessons as a result of the finale?

In the spirit of continuous, life-long learning, I'd like to start the discussion and that lesson list here:

1) You don't need to finish first to be a big winner or even "the" big winner.

The top dozen finalist were all on stage performing during the finale. Several enjoyed duets in primetime with music legends.

Same for us. With the rare exception of fixed-pie economics, where in order to win, your competitor must lose, "a good performance" by anyone makes the pie bigger. In this case, the pie is the total audience captured. The best way to win is to give a great performance almost wherever you are. Whether you're the big winner is often irrelevant. And, of course, your performance improves as a result of the effort. (See Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers for more on that, with examples of computers, sports, and rock music.)

2) Musical Theater is important for all of us.

Adam Lambert has been on stage since age 10. This showed, and showed very positively. Look no futher than the simple gesture of going from sitting to standing in the middle of "Mad World." Highly impactful. All of the artists showed a distinct presence or absence of showmanship, including Kris Allen at the very end.

Same for us. Does the tone of your voice or mine matter? Of course it does, whether we're one-on-one with a superior or subordinate, client or non-business related friend. How about body posture? Do you lean forward when you listen to someone, lean back, or never considered that it makes a difference. Just like a limp handshake (thanks Gwen), these simple, physical acts with our bodies leave a powerful impression. Do you square your shoulders with the speaker during a board room meeting? More on that here in this audio podcast (Manager Tools - a rich source for mentoring.)

3) The world of Web 2.0 economics is with us, although we use the terms "patient-centered" and "Health 2.0"

Look at how American Idol makes money, and compare that with consumer-facing healthcare. For Idol, it's a blend: traditional advertisers like Ford, Coke, Apple, direct micro-transaction sales through iTunes, upcoming 50-city concert tour, and probably lots of other vehicles including merchandising, product placements, etc. And I'll bet they paid very few performers more than a few thousand dollars each. They didn't have the best or latest technology or established talent. They used viral adoption.

Same for us and our organizations in the future. This may be less true for service and self-pay (often also known as no pay), but in the spirit of the direct-to-consumer healthcare world, the parallels are important to consider.

In the world of Web 2.0 commerce, monetizing services is not as simple as it might have been before Web 2.0. I've previously outlined the issues here, in Science 2.0. Web 2.0's core competencies (from O'Reilly) include 1) customer services with cost-effective scalability, 2) data, information, knowledge and wisdom resources that get richer as more people use them, 3) trusting users, and 4) lightweight development and business models.

Before you diss this with "healthcare is different," please realize that forward looking providers are using these "2.0 Principles" today. Kaiser members and our U.S. Vets have Web-based PHRs. Kaiser does group visits for common, chronic health issues (very scalable); Cleveland Clinic has rolled out, globally, services that were impossible to roll out five years ago, using both Google Health and MicroSoft HealthVault technologies. Like Google, they often label these as "beta" roll-outs. That's Web 2.0 code language for "I'm one of the big winners." Smaller providers, like my physician (in a small group), have had an EMR for years, and it uses a Web-service from a different company for e-Prescribing. There are no errors or delays in my prescriptions, except for the delay deliberately built-in by my chain pharmacy to assure I spend about $50 dollars on unrelated food and merchandise while I wait!

Think about it for a moment. What hidden lessons did you catch?




I'm glad you found value in the post. I would be flattered to add "published" Tee-shirt Quip writer to my resume, with you as my reference!

That lesson, as well as much of what I've learned in life so far, falls in to the category of "When the Student is ready, the Master will appear." I'm quite sure that only thespians would appreciate your proposed tee shirt.

Regarding Rod Stewart, I enjoyed seeing him but I thought the swagger was gone. In the spirit of a statistician, he was broken down by age and sex. (Of course, to be fair, Maggie Mae is a ballad that doesn't really call for swagger.)

Getting back for a moment to Musical Theater and Leadership, I'd bet that most people are completely unaware that executive presence is a learned behavior. Skill development starts with awareness. If that comes from a great, personal mentor or two, one is very lucky. I've been very lucky. Anyone who can get that connection from American Idol is, of course, brilliant! :)

Kudos to you, Gwen!

Joe, Nice post!

The big winner will be the artist that generates the most money. As Simon Cowell and others have observed, that's most likely to be Adam Lambert (the second place contestant), and not Kris Allen (the first place winner of the popular vote).

There's a lesson in that, too.  Popular vote is only one measure, and not necessarily the measure of future success.


With your permission, I just may go get a tshirt made that says, "Musical Theatre Is Important For All Of Us." Absolutely love it (on many different levels), and you are so right!

Here's the hidden lesson I learned: We had two separate Idol watch parties going on in our house - my 17-yr. daughter and her friends in one room, and my 40 something self and my friends in another. When Rod Stewart came out we could hear one of the kids say, "Who's the old guy?" right about the same time we were saying, "Damn, Rod's still looking good!" Sigh...

Thanks for another great post!


Jim, Thanks for your comment. Good news by the way. Most people have NEVER seen more than 2 clips from American Idol. Like me, they've been occasionally drawn in by a loved one. Perhaps unlike other shows, this one is designed to get better as the season draws to a close. The best talent is culled out. The finale featured Rod, Lionel, Cyndi, Kiss, Queen, and, of yeah, the top ten new talent doing fun stuff. For those of you with TiVo, replay "So What."

We all use DOS (a DOS window) to run ipconfig. How weird is that?

Following in the spirit of the metaphor where do I fall? I have Rod Stewart on CD am still jealous that he married Britt Ekland but have NEVER seen American Idol. Must make me a DOS user.