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The JPM Healthcare Conference brings together the best and brightest minds to discuss innovations in healthcare. During this year’s conference we created a lineup of speakers who focused on AI, genomics and blockchain for our 4th Annual Digital Health Luncheon, in partnership with Squire Patton Boggs. Among those speakers is this week’s guest, CEO and Co-Founder of athenahealthJonathan Bush.

Since athenahealth is a client, I am aware of the incredible work they do. It was a pleasure to dive a little deeper into Jonathan’s journey and what it takes to design a frictionless healthcare system. Jonathan was gracious enough to chat with me ahead of his keynote talk which didn’t give him much time to prepare for my questions. Since he didn’t have his book recommendations handy, I wanted to make sure and share them with you here…keep an eye out for the following: The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates and Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II.

Jonathan is also an author and I encourage you to check out his book, Where Does It Hurt?: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Fixing Health Care. Plus, we discuss Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. Take a listen below.

Aarón Sánchez is an award-winning chef, a judge on FOX’s hit culinary competition series MASTERCHEF, a TV personality, cookbook author and philanthropist. Between juggling all of this he manages to perfect the art of serving up unique content for each of his social channels because he understands the value.

This afternoon we chatted about how he finds the time to mange his social and why  he chooses specific content for certain channels. Plus, we dive into hot foods, mariachi music, Prince and Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America, a book that serves as a compass for Chef Aarón. Take a listen below.

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This holiday season, I focused on reading books that represented events or people that changed our perspective on the world for better or worse, plus I added in two books for fun. Here’s a brief summary:

American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind behind the Silk Road by Nick Bilton – this is an extremely well-written book that describes the creation and operation of the Silk Road in the style of a page-turning thriller. Ross Ulbricht, who created Silk Road is from the town that we live in (Westlake in Austin, TX). On the one hand, it is scary to think of what he created in such a short-time frame. On the other hand, it illustrates how hard it will be to truly slow down illicit activity via the dark web with the present rules we have in place. Impossible would be the right word. Recommended by John Cunningham.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann – this book describes the early days of how the FBI began by centering on a series of murders that occurred in Oklahoma impacting the Osage Indians. This is another well-written book that is a great reminder of why we need a strong FBI. Recommended by Christopher Martin.

Kissinger by Walter Isaacson – Walter Isaacson has become my favorite biographer to read. This volume on Henry Kissinger is unsparing in its unveiling of how Kissinger, Nixon and their teams developed policy, focused on world order and, quite frankly, lived in a continually semi-paranoid state. Isaacson has a gift for putting all of the information out on the table in a reader-friendly approach. Next book I will read of his is on Leonardo da Vinci.

Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels and the Inside Story of Rock’s Darkest Day by Joel Selvin – Woodstock was heralded as a breakthrough event that was not nearly as well planned as many thought. The west coast version of Woodstock turned out to be Altamont, an event where “planning” was not necessarily an operative word.   It became symbolic as an event that signaled the end of the “innocence” of the 60’s. The Stones, by the way, are one of my favorite bands of all time, so easy to read. Recommended by Mike Marinello.

Since it was a time to chill out during the holidays, I also read two fiction books, which I don’t do a lot of.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty – this satirical book about a fictional town called “Dickens” within Los Angeles and a race-related trial that ends up in the US Supreme Court are all you need to know, other than this won the Man Booker Prize, which automatically puts this in the “must read” column. Love the Man Booker Prize selections each year. Recommended by Michael Roth.

The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille – I have been a long-time fan of Nelson DeMille’s work, particularly The Gold Coast. A fun, relatively quick read about a plot that rolls out in Cuba. Will stop there.

In Q1, I plan to read more on Blockchain, related technologies and global issues.

Happy New Year! Please keep the recommendations for books coming in.

Best, Bob

Discerning Who and What to Listen to Inside/Outside Organizations Can Mean the Difference Between Failure and Success  

One of the more intriguing aspects of a digital world, especially in business, is not the number of conversations or discussions surrounding a brand but the ability to identify them and determine their requisite importance and relevance to everything from customer satisfaction, future viability, strategy interpretation, and employee engagement.

As I spend time at clients traversing from meeting to meeting with different teams and functions it’s amazing to see just how different, interesting, and difficult people’s perspectives, opinions, and beliefs about the business and its strategic intent have become in an era of information overload. Similarly, looking outside the company, employing an array of proprietary analytics we can truly understand the granularity of opinion formation and perception influencing brand efficacy, product usage, purchase behavior, and share of voice.

What does this all mean?

The volume and diversity of inputs regarding a brand or company has grown exponentially and with it the challenge of filtering what’s important and strategically critical vs. what’s noise. In my opinion, the result is a combination of analysis including machine learning with human insight and experience. To that end, there are four considerations in gauging the most productive and useful techniques in being an effective interpreter of your company’s or brand’s position:

  1. Internally, look for discrepancies on how employees at different levels and in different groups are discussing and sharing their understanding of the business or situation with colleagues and peers.  This will provide a clear indication of whether they are working to solve the right problems or address the right priorities.
  2. Study how discourse is taking place in social and digital channels and platforms including forums and chat rooms.  Doing so will open a line of sight to the marketplace.
  3. Map these conversations back to leadership directives, strategy, and messaging emanating for the company.  From here, you can ascertain linkages and gaps.
  4. Recognize the new expectations as a byproduct of today’s digital environment. The need for context, discovery, and consistent communications is now the norm in both marketing and communications.

The combination of technology and human values is a powerful and essential combination to making sense of an ecosystem that by default can lead one down multiple pathways in search of solutions.  Information is a powerful tool on many levels.  It can inform and influence opinion, shape confidence, and encourage trust.  It can also initiate conversations and debates or perpetuate falsehoods.

As professionals, we are exposed to myriad voices in our work on behalf of our client partners. Utilizing the models and methodologies we have at our disposal along with our intrinsic curiosity and work experiences create clear and critical pathways to focusing on the truth regarding organizational viability.

In our work, it’s ok to “hear voices” as long as we interpret their accuracy and meaning!

Jim

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What would you do if you could live as long as you wanted? What would humanity do if we had that option? This week’s guest has thought about this at length among other fascinating things. I had the opportunity sit down with Author of When I’m 164, Chief Correspondent at NPR, Columnist at The Daily Beast, and CEO of ARC Fusion, David Ewing Duncan.

He’s chosen to focus on life science technology because he claims it’s the most exciting thing happening this century. After chatting with him I realized just how compelling his argument is. We discussed what’s evolving in the field, how using life sciences, health and tech can extend life and what that means. Take a listen below.

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Successfully forging a path in early stage tech and venture capitalism is equal parts rewarding and challenging. In both industries staying ahead of the curve is paramount, even though the pace of innovation is incredibly rapid. This week’s guest, Cong Ding, Investor at Comcast Ventures not only has navigated this space, but has navigated it successfully.

During our chat we discussed how to stay ahead of the curve, recent trends in the space, and what’s exciting Cong these days. Plus, you’ll learn about her love for Pirates of the Caribbean and Taylor Swift. Take a listen below.

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Defining digital can seem like a cumbersome task. Is it mobile? Is it social? Is it web? Equally, measuring your digital efforts can seem daunting if you don’t have the proper tools or don’t know where to look.

I recently chatted with Chuck Hemann, Managing Director of Analytics at W2O about measuring mobile marketing and digital analytics. We decided we wanted to give a more robust overview of digital analytics and that would require a deeper dive. Since Chuck literally wrote the book on the subject (keep your eye out for version two this May!) I couldn’t think of a better brain to pick.

During our chat we define digital, discuss how effectiveness, efficiency and impact are valuable KPIs, dive into PESO analytics, plus more. Take a listen below.

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Forget messaging, channels, commentary, speeches, events, campaigns, PowerPoints, and the like; think customer journey, leadership focus, decision making, investments, strategy, positioning, retention, recruitment, trust, relevance.

Having spent my career in corporate communications for companies globally in a variety of industries and segments, the one truth about communications— specifically inside organizations— is that it’s a proxy for how the business is led and managed. In a digital reality, internal communications have taken on an even more critical role, becoming a reflection of the management model, the relevance of the business, as well as the strategic intent of the enterprise.

Internal communications can identify both potential issues and broken systems such as pursuing the right imperatives and priorities, to uncovering innovation and potential new markets and opportunities. The digital realm we all now find ourselves in has shifted the balance of power to customers and employees, forever upending how organizations are led, managed, and operated. For organizational (internal) communications, the migration to strategic from tactical has been nothing less than profound.  Often relegated to parties and newsletters, posters, and internal portals, communications inside companies must now not just reflect the company’s mindset, efficacy, purpose, judgement, voice but its interdependencies and vulnerabilities. It can be a major component in achieving success.

In fact, the five key elements of organizational success today, which can be summed up below, are in fact both driven or hindered by ineffective internal communications:

  1. Customer (Trust) – gaining loyalty, positive discourse, and repeat purchase from customers begins inside with smart, productive employees
  2. Innovation/Technology – keeping ahead of market and customer trends, driven by employee ingenuity, passion, and collaboration
  3. Cost – constantly balancing costs and investments is a reflection of individual and collective actions throughout the enterprise
  4. Talent – attracting and developing people is essentially the most powerful competitive advantage in business and is centered on how engaged, informed, and motivated the workforce is managed and communicated with
  5. Agility – speed and flexibility rule the business landscape

Unfortunately, communications is often viewed through a tactical lens with time wasted chasing symptoms of unhealthy environments rather than propelling the business forward, informing and influencing management planning and behaviors.  It is deployed by leaders as a siren for espousing promotional content about the current and future state of company.

In a digital and social reality, this is a deadly mistake.

First, employees don’t believe the rhetoric any more.  Second, the expectation is that they will be sought after to provide the solutions to the business.

When employees have information on the business along with context they can participate in creating value.  They can operate more strategically and operationally in a nimble and agile manner.  They can initiate dialogue, discussion, and debate with colleagues and managers.

The can go from being passive members of the organization to confident, aggressive partners.

So, what is it about internal communications that provides such magical power?

First, communications by nature is about people.  The relationships and interactions between and among people in different circumstances, scenarios, functions, and regions, which result in rich and diverse data and insight.  It can paint a picture around collaboration, engagement, and understanding.  It can shape perspectives and the promise offered to customers and external stakeholders.

At its best, organizational (internal) communications opens and cultivates a discussion (and even a debate) with everyone inside the business. At its worst, communications becomes a series of messages directed at people via multiple mechanisms, producing a contrived feeling of connectivity and relationship building.

Second, the ability to capture the business in a clear, comprehensive way, giving meaning to people inside and outside the business, is necessary given the information overload we all face. Further, in a time of flux both politically and socially, the ability to gauge risk around policies, programs, and decisions internally with a highly informed workforce is critical to organizational balance and health.  Finally, with everyone calling for authenticity and transparency, internal communications allows the business to see itself from the audience in.

Digital makes everyone more aware today due to 24/7 access to information.  But for organizations, internal communications make employees smarter due to context.

The values and imperatives associated with today’s organizational (internal) communications can be summed up in three ways:

  1. Expert in perspectives (worldview), mindset, behaviors, actions of the workforce using analytics, digital intelligence, and insights to form arguments and perspectives
  2. Expert in issues, policies, investments, strategy, operations, financials, and relationships to connect the dots in a manner that moves the business forward
  3. Expert in narrative and content formulation for various audiences through numerous platforms and among key leaders and managers

Internal communications in a digital age is a strategic management catalyst directed at:

  • Behaviors
  • Connections
  • Confidence
  • Collaboration
  • Relationships
  • Knowledge

It is a connective tissue for major corporate initiatives and employee engagement.

But it is not about employee engagement.

As an example, true employee engagement requires several elements to work in concert – Leadership, HR, Line Management, IT, and the employees themselves – to engender interest, involvement, discussion, and advocacy on behalf of the organization.  To that end, communications is the means to an end that without strategic intent can be a myopic activity that tends to favor activity over result.

The democratization of the workplace is an outgrowth of a digital world where information is ubiquitous and relevancy difficult to achieve.  Acting as an expert in how the organization behaves and operates based on data and insight, and shaping the nature of your story using digital platforms and face-to-face interaction, has elevated the practice of internal communications from the Christmas Party to the C-Suite.

The question is: where do you reside?

The way we consume television has changed rapidly due to technology. We can stream shows or movies via our phones or tablets whenever we choose. Additionally non-traditional programming is becoming the norm. Platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Netflix are beginning to generate their own content. This week I spoke about the aforementioned notions with Michael Marinello, SVP of Strategic Communications at Turner.

Michael and I dove into current consumer streaming habits, how traditional media is adapting content for these current consumer habits, and how television will evolve to create value for advertisers. Take a listen below.

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