An Innovation Doctrine

Lately, I have been reading a lot to better understand how my organization could respond to the rapid personalization of healthcare, mobile health computing (mHealth), social networking and ubiquitous communications.

As I was researching, I recalled an important insight in one of the books I had read by Dr. Jared Diamond. In his excellent book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail Or Succeed, Dr. Diamond outlines the major problems that societies historically have faced and how they mis-handled these problems:

• Failure to anticipate a problem before it arrives
• Failure to perceive it once it has arisen
• Failure to attempt to solve it after it has been perceived
• Failure to succeed in attempts to solve it


Dr. Diamond was discussing problems like major ecological, political or economic misteps that have brought down entire civilizations. However, I thought that his succinct 4-step failure mechanism applies equally well to other problems such as a disruptive technology or a fundamental market shift.
On thinking about this passage, it occurred to me that if we transform Dr. Diamond words in a positive way, we get a doctrine of innovation:

• Anticipate an opportunity before it arrives
• Perceive the opportunity once it has arisen
• Attempt to exploit the opportunity after it has been perceived
• Succeed in exploiting the opportunity

Jarad Diamond’s history lesson is that we should not be complacent in the face of major change. My modern take-away from this is that yes, we should be ever vigilant of disruptive change. But also, we must be open to major opportunities. Once we see a strategic opportunity coming, we must energetically embrace it.

This innovation doctrine is one of the ways to ensure an organization that embraces change, is responsive and sustainable, and an active contributor to an ever-changing health system.