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What Would Jeff Bezos Do In Healthcare?

By Russell Benaroya

At a conference I recently attended a health insurance executive suggested that if health plans want to re-invent themselves they should evaluate their decisions by first asking, “What would Jeff Bezos do?”  What does that mean exactly?  So I pondered it.  Here are the top 7 things Jeff Bezos would do if he were leading a health insurance company.

He would demand accountability and high performing teams.   Now I’m not suggesting that the Amazon work environment is awesome (by many accounts it isn’t) but it does encourage conflict to drive toward the best decisions.  The culture eliminates the wrong people on the bus quickly and those that are able to stay on for the ride can be rewarded.  There is no place for complacency.

He would celebrate failure.  Hey, have you heard much about the Amazon Fire lately?  Of course you haven’t because it failed.  But failure is celebrated and expected.  As Austin Carr referenced in his article in Fast Company in January 2015, “Bezos has said that his job is to encourage more "bold bets" and to embrace failure inside the company in pursuit of the big successes that compensate for dozens and dozens of things that [don’t] work."   It has been said that the failure of the phone made room for what ultimately became Echo, the stand-alone voice activated digital assistant.

He would look for profit centers in his cost centers.  Today, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is over a $6 billion revenue business.  AWS offers computing power, storage, and other functionality to help other businesses scale and grow cost effectively.  AWS was borne out of the realization that their vast infrastructure could be used to help alleviate a burden for other businesses so that they could focus their costs on driving innovation.   

He would obsess about his customers.  Jeff is famous for his obsession over the customer as evidenced in this post.  Customers are precious sources of information.  There is always a seat at the table for a customer.  There is no guessing about how customers feel.  There is only data.  They listen.  They ask.  They interpret and they integrate that voice of the customer to improve their processes at every step.

He would strive to win.  My sister worked at Amazon when they were the world’s biggest bookstore.  Amazon is anything but a bookstore anymore.  They have totally changed the landscape for how we buy products and consume content.  They have taken on the establishment like the big box retailers and large media production houses and are kicking butt.  They want to dominate and that drive to win, to compete for the attention of the consumer is palpable in everything they do.  

He would operationalize innovation.  While Amazon is well known for driving new product innovation, much of that happens in a subsidiary called Lab126 where much of their R&D takes place.  But what is important is that R&D can get into the mainstream channel of the Amazon customer base and tested and iterated on quickly. 

He would redesign the delivery model.  What’s the Kindle of healthcare?  The Kindle totally changed the economics of an industry and redefined the utility of reading books.     What about drones delivering packages to our home?  How about a virtual assistant named Alexa as our digital companion?  There is no evolution....only revolution.

So what does this mean for the leaders of healthcare today?  It means there is work to do.  It means that bold leadership must replace personal fear, ego and the expectations of others with a higher purpose.  It means that complacency is not tolerated and that failures can be a celebration on the path of learning.  Who is the Jeff Bezos of healthcare today?  

Posted on April 27, 2016 03:24 PM