Peter Mulford on How to Apply the Innovators Mindset to Health Care

February 26, 2018


Check out the full video interview with Peter Mulford below

#DOCSF18 – Meet Peter Mulford, Global Partner and Chief Innovation Officer at BTS. BTS is an innovation consultancy group helping companies train their leaders to innovate strategically. Peter talks to Breanna about the innovator’s mindset and shares his tips for surgeons (or really anyone in health care) looking to cultivate innovation in their organization.


Bre Cunningham: Hi there, Bre Cunningham with CODE Technology, and I have the pleasure of interviewing Peter. Peter, tell me about your company.

Peter Mulford: Hello, everyone. And what would you like to know?

Bre Cunningham: Well, first off, how are you here? How do you know Dr. Bini and what about this conference is interesting enough for you to be here?

Peter Mulford: Oh, wow. Well, day one we were invited to come and do an interactive session with a group of delegates around building a culture of innovation. And one of the things we believe at BTS is almost everything we do involves some kind of simulation. Because we’ve found over the years that the best way to get people to really feel new behaviors and what it’s like to have an innovator’s mindset or whatever it is you’re trying to do is to do it through simulations. Smart people will tolerate what a Ph.D will tell them, but will only act on conclusions they come to themselves. So we gave all the delegates an opportunity to run a company three years into a hypothetical future, and try to build a culture of innovation as they went. And some teams did well, other teams did less well, but they all learned what it’s like to actually build a culture of innovation.

Bre Cunningham: That is so exciting. So speaking of culture of innovation, hospitals are, let’s just say they’re not early adopters, traditionally.

Peter Mulford: Okay.

Bre Cunningham: How do you solve that problem? How do you help your clients be innovative?

Peter Mulford: Well, you know …

Bre Cunningham: Easy question, right?

Peter Mulford: Well, the funny thing about this space, I was thinking about this, is for healthcare, it’s a funny world, right? Because on the one hand you’ve got navigated surgery, and on the other hand you have mallets, right, for the orthopedics. So I think it’s safe to say there’s a spectrum. And I guess your point is everyone is slowly trying to move in this direction, but it’s hard. So the easy way to answer your question, going back to my earlier remark, simulations, is most people in healthcare can rationally understand anything you tell them about the benefit of innovation, benefit of artificial intelligence, machine learning. They’re very, very smart people. But it’s hard for them to imagine or feel what it’s gonna be like to use those technologies.

So the way we help healthcare companies, in fact, the way we help any company trying to undergo this change is to build alignment mindset capability, where the alignment is to have everyone understand why moving in a certain direction would be good for them. The capability is to give them the skill set they need to do it, but most importantly the mindset. To help them come to the threshold of their own mind about why doing this is a good idea. And also, in low-risk simulated environments, allow them to feel what the future will be like when they do it.

Bre Cunningham: How do you make it so low-risk? Like how do you have a simulation that is meaningful but also realistic enough and cheap enough to make it relevant? You know, you’re thinking like robots, right? We’re gonna implement a robot, how do you simulate that?

Peter Mulford: Yeah, it’s … the quick answer is it’s highly customized. But it’s highly customized around a single idea, which actually goes all the way back to Play-Doh, believe it or not, which is we build the simulations in a way that the leaders going through it experience a sequence of problem, struggle, and resolution moments. Which means that at any given point in the simulation they’re confronted with a problem that is representative of the kind of problem that they’re either having today or they are likely to have in the future. The struggle means it’s got to be difficult enough to make their hair hurt. Where you have really, really bright people, when they’re confronted with these problems, it’s got to be the sort of things where they’re like “Oh, I don’t know what to do.” Like I can see why this would be a problem, I don’t know what to do, and then of course the resolution is either your company is successful, you have great patient outcomes, or oops, you’re not successful and that was a disaster.

But because it’s a simulation, no real money gets lost and no people get hurt. But the experience is so visceral and emotional that the learnings really pop for them, and it gives the leaders something to think about. Either how do I replicate that success in the real world or how do I avoid that mistake we had in the simulation?

Bre Cunningham: Now, do you have any clients or case studies that you could share that would give a practical example of tying what we learned in the morning sessions, like for example, the AI and using that data for sepsis in the hospital, right? And implementing that artificial type intelligence? Have you helped hospitals with that sort of innovation?

Peter Mulford: We have. So if I’m hearing you right, your question is can I animate for you a story or an example of what that actually looks like.

Bre Cunningham: Yeah.

Peter Mulford: Yeah, there’s a client we’re working with right now in Asia, as a matter of fact. And they are doing something very interesting, they’re automating key parts of their process, the customer engagement process, using something called RPA, which is robotic presence automation. It’s not quite as sophisticated as machine learning, but it is a form of automation, yeah. And the interesting thing is, this is gonna impact several thousand people in their business. And so as we speak, as we sit here right now, the technology is being brought in, they’ve got these wonderful technologists, and what they’ve realized … they’ve got a very smart CEO, they’ve realized that the problem around using technology these days has little to do with the technology itself. It has to do with adoption.

And most companies focus on deployment, but deployment isn’t the issue. The issue is adoption. So what we’re doing is we’re running them through a simulation for the next five years, where literally the first year it’s business as usual, and then over a time core processes suddenly start getting automated. And you actually get to feel how your job changes and in what way it changes as the technology is implemented. And the cool thing is, now you can have them experience five years’ worth of experiences in five hours.

Bre Cunningham: That, by the way, helped clarify so much in a practical example, as a nurse by trade, what it would be like.

Peter Mulford: That was a good question.

Bre Cunningham: So if … thank you. The surgeons in the room, we have a lot of orthopedic surgeon audiences, in the audience. And if they were to take one tip from you when it comes to having a mindset of innovation back to their team, what would it be?

Peter Mulford: Wow. One tip.

Peter Mulford: So if I were … If you were gonna remember just one thing from this conversation about innovation, I would have you remember this. Whenever you find yourself in a circumstance … innovation is uncomfortable for most people because it involves a lot, a high degree of uncertainty. And I think our instincts, when we’re facing something where there’s a lot of uncertainty, is to fall back on stuff we know. My suggestion is when you find yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, ask questions like “What if, how might we, and what’s going on here that’s making me uncomfortable in the first place?” You know, what are the assumptions of mine that are being challenged? And once I see what those are, do they deserve to be challenged?

Bre Cunningham: I love it, so like seek to understand how you’re feeling and why you might be feeling defensive, yeah?

Peter Mulford: Yeah. And expect it. Expect it. If you’re gonna choose to innovate, brace yourself for feelings of unease that come from uncertainty. And enjoy it.

Bre Cunningham: What’s your favorite part about DOCSF this year? Favorite presentation in the morning session?

Peter Mulford: Oh, Topher’s presentation. Actually, we …

Bre Cunningham: Mic drop, right?

Peter Mulford: Yeah, Topher was great.

Bre Cunningham: Unbelievable, unbelievable. But I can’t wait to hear your talk later, and all of this next session about VR, and with that, we’re out.