Sharpening Your Skills: Managing Innovation

Sharpening Your Skills: Managing Innovation

Fast Company’s Co.Exist editor Jessica Leber spoke with Adam about what it means to be creative in the field of health care. The Q&A was condensed and lightly edited.

What does it mean to you to be creative in your field?

Let’s take Watsi, for example. People have been raising money for health care arguably since the beginning of time and all we’re doing it is applying technology and putting it online. We’re doing something people have always done and just doing it a compelling way.

How do you really think through each decision from scratch?

insurance provider or a politician or a government person.

In the last year and a half, we’ve look at each other quite often and have said, it’s crazy, but in a lot of ways we’re actually building an insurance company. When I launched Watsi, I never thought I was starting an insurance company. But when you think about an insurance company, all it is is a network of payers and hospitals that are providing care. Watsi is that exact thing. At this point in time those payers are just individual donors on the Internet, but the dynamic between the two parties are exactly the same, down to negotiating the cost of care and doing the due diligence and the health claims fraud and all of that.

With health care, it’s a bit of touchy subject. Look at gaming. It’s a sector that’s in Silicon Valley that’s grown quickly, but I think the reason for that is there’s very little risk. Even if they end up failing, it’s not that big a deal. In health care the risks are larger. Failure can in some way harm people or even result in the death of the a human being. I think there’s definitely a need for regulation, and because of that regulation, there’s a slower evolution in health care.

Figuring out where the balance between innovation and safety and regulation is really important. Once we have those answers, it’s just throwing as much gas or as much horsepower into those areas where we can be as creative as possible and hoping that begins to evolve or at least impact or influence the lesser open-to-innovation areas.

How can better data or big data improve health care?

We have, in a lot of ways, better data than some medical organizations or insurance companies in the United States. We can tell you down to the line item why a procedure costs $300 in Kenya and $1,000 in Tanzania. And its actually pretty tough to get access to that information in the United States. I think that’s something that’s fundamentally going to change in the future. People are going to require more transparency in all aspects of our lives, and especially in health care.

What impediment or challenge do you often personally face?

What’s really challenging is balancing that with the day to day decisions that I have absolutely no idea if they’re right or wrong. The big picture day to day for me is to try to find that balance of what do I know to be true, and what do i have absolutely, and what I have no idea about and I know that i’m just taking an informed guess and the we’re just going to iterate and evolve and adapt as fast as possible.

How do you tackle that challenge?

The health field, at least in the United States, it’s very B2B heavy, it’s very enterprisey. And as a result the consumer space has been slow to evolve, but I think there’s a big opportunity there. I would hope that there will be more people putting thought into sort of the user experience in health care.

What’s your best advice for a freshman in college today?


<p border-box;="" margin:="" 0px="" 1.4em;="" padding:="" 0px;="" direction:="" ltr;="" line-height:="" 23px;="" orphans:="" 4;="" float:="" none;="" font-size:="" 15px="" !important;="" font-family:="" museosans,="" helvetica,="" arial,="" sans-serif="" !important;"="">I would say find something to work on that you care about more than yourself.


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