Jul 26

All I Needed to Know to Disrupt Healthcare I Learned from “Seinfeld”: Part I – Do The Opposite

HISTalk Seinfeld Bruce Brandes

(as presented initially on HISTalk on January 28, 2015)

In my continued efforts to learn from progressive healthcare thought leaders, I recently read Eric Topol’s new book “The Patient Will See You Now.” I was heartened to see Dr. Topol’s opening chapter illustrate his first point with an intellectual / cultural equilibrium I can appreciate … through an amusing story from “Seinfeld” about Elaine’s medical record woes. That anecdote caused me to reflect on how my favorite iconic TV show about nothing is instructive for the entrepreneurs who strive to reinvent our healthcare delivery system.

Cautionary note:  my comments in this series will assume that HIStalk readers have at least a baseline knowledge in all things “Seinfeld.” I apologize in advance to the two or three folks out there who have not seen (or heaven forbid, did not like) “Seinfeld.”

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Jun 01

All I Needed to Know to Disrupt Healthcare I Learned from “Seinfeld”: Part II – And YOU Want To Be My Latex Salesman

HISTalk Seinfeld Bruce Brandes

(As presented on HISTalk on February 16, 2015)

Who wants to be a Latex Salesman? No one.

Upon being granted an interview with IBM while in business school for a chance at my first real job, my initial enthusiasm was slightly curbed by the fact that the position was to become a sales rep. With an undergraduate degree in finance and an MBA, I had imagined a career on Wall Street.

A sales rep? The vivid composite in my head was of some guy in a shiny suit, with a pinky ring and remarkable hair, trying to sell me something that I really did not need. Just like George Costanza’s dream of pretending to be an architect or a marine biologist before compromising to a desperate hope of an imaginary job as Jerry’s latex salesman, I would have to reconcile the dream with reality.

My IBM sales school training quickly helped reorient my mindset with my new responsibilities as a marketing representative (I was relieved to hear that the dirty word “sales” was not in the official title). One of my first and most enduring lessons came at a meeting of the executive leadership team of a large hospital in New Orleans, my IBM regional executives, and me. As the conversation turned to a mention of a product I had just learned about in training, I enthusiastically interjected with the sales pitch I had recently memorized. The hospital COO interrupted me with the rebuke, “You don’t know what you don’t know. Please be quiet.” Ouch.

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May 03

All I Needed to Know to Disrupt Healthcare I Learned from “Seinfeld” (and “SNL"): Part III – Serenity Now

HISTalk Seinfeld Bruce Brandes

(As presented originally on HISTalk on March 9, 2015)

Competition

Competition. A foundational element that drives greater success in a capitalistic society. And yet, examination of the array of perceptions and reactions regarding one’s competitors in business is both fascinating and revealing.

As we get to know an entrepreneur and assess a prospective investment, an important insight is their response to the multidimensional question, “How do you view your competition?”

How an entrepreneur expresses awareness, insights, differentiation, and honesty in recognition of competition can illuminate market opportunity, commercial viability, and personal credibility. Do you deny, dismiss, disparage, or do you choose to recognize and embrace others in your space? How does that answer vary when discussing competition internally or externally? Does the stress of competition drive your organization to catalyze improvement or to react with paralyzing stress?

Serenity Now

What lessons can be learned from the competitive battle between George Costanza and his nemesis, Lloyd Braun? Serenity now.

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Apr 06

All I Needed to Know to Disrupt Healthcare I Learned from “Seinfeld”: Part IV – Are You the Master of Your Domain?

HISTalk Seinfeld Bruce Brandes

(As presented on HISTalk on April 6, 2015)

Was it Freud or Costanza who once said, “The ego is not master in its own house”? Ah yes, Sigmund Freud. Costanza said something else about being master of one’s domain. George Costanza also once rebuked George Steinbrenner for destroying the institution of the New York Yankees "all for the glorification of your massive ego”.

For an entrepreneur, ego is both a critical ingredient in the recipe to build success as well as a foundational risk to predestine failure. A keen self-awareness of when to intentionally fortify one’s ego versus the appropriate time to acknowledge the fine line between self-confidence and pride in order to relinquish one’s ego may dictate your fate as an early stage company.

Today we will discuss the importance of knowing when to have an ego … and its corollary of knowing when to check your ego.

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Mar 08

All I Needed to Know to Disrupt Healthcare I Learned from “Seinfeld”: Part V – Yada Yada Yada

HISTalk Seinfeld Bruce Brandes

(as presented initially on HISTalk on May 4, 2015)

Avoiding Yada Yada

Most every company talks about their elevator pitch, which is intended to be a brief summation of the business to intrigue one to want to learn more. My question is this: exactly how long are the elevator rides some people are taking? More broadly, in any sort of business interaction, how to you best balance brevity vs. meaty detail?

The Webster’s definition of the phrase “yada yada” is "boring or empty talk often used interjectionally, especially in recounting words regarded as too dull or predictable to be worth repeating." Anyone still recovering from the HIMSS conference can likely recall many conversations where yada yada would have been a very welcomed interjection.

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Feb 15

All I Needed to Know to Disrupt Healthcare I Learned from “Seinfeld”: Part VI – A Festivus for the Rest of Us

HISTalk Seinfeld Bruce Brandes

(as originally presented on HISTalk on June 1, 2015)

A Festivus for the Rest of Us

Given the clear market need for all of these innovations, was there ever any question that these entrepreneurs would become wildly successful? Or were men content with candlelight, telegraphs, and horse-drawn carriages, which caused their man-boobs to jiggle as they rode along?

Today, conversely, as suggested by Jared Diamond, invention may be the mother of necessity. Did we know we needed an iPhone until Steve Jobs showed us the compelling device? Unfortunately in healthcare, too often it seems entrepreneurs and investors are introducing products believing they have invented the next iPhone-like phenomenon, to eventually realize that not only does the market not have a need, in many cases does not even have a want.

When looking to invest in an early stage venture which seeks to address a well-understood but yet-unsolved problem, how does an investor know with which one of the multitude of aspiring inventors to bet?

An important consideration is understanding the motivation and passion of the founder to launch the undertaking in the first place. An example lies in the prolific innovator, Frank Costanza, and the remarkable global embrace of the sensation that is his Festivus, whose origin is summarized in the exchange below.


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Jan 28

All I Needed to Know to Disrupt Healthcare I Learned from “Seinfeld”: Part VII – Showmanship, Double Dipping, and the Timeless Art of Seduction

HISTalk Seinfeld Bruce Brandes

(as originally presented on HISTalk on July 27, 2015)

Showmanship

Are there any classes in business school where we are taught to learn to take yes for an answer? Evidently not, because so few do.

Over the years, we have all been in meetings or presentations that went exceedingly well. In fact, often, the objectives are achieved long before the time allotted for the discussion has expired.

I was in a meeting just last week when an entrepreneur seeking funding got to a “yes” from our team 45 minutes into an event scheduled for an hour and a half. To his credit, he asked if we had any other questions or topics for discussion. When it was clear we were content, he confirmed next steps, thanked us, and got up to walk out. He exited on a high note for sure! And with my newly-found free half hour, I got inspired and started to write this column.

Not surprisingly, the first thought entering my mind as I sat down at the keyboard was of George Costanza developing a plan to end every conversation on a "high note" and "leave them wanting more."

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