Portrait of Galileo Galilei by Justus Susterma...Image via Wikipedia

Michael Hansen, CEO Elsevier Health Sciences opened the Software & Information Industry Association’s (SIIA) Annual Information Industry Summit by reintroducing the audience to Galileo. His lessons from Galileo:

In a time of change, remember your roots. Galileo reminded Hansen of Elsevier’s core strength to: “bring insights to the world and have those insights as a basis for better decisions.” Elsevier published Galileo’s controversial work in 1632.

In keeping with those roots, how can Elsevier, or any medical publisher, provide a valuable resource to a physician who only gets to spend approximately six minutes with a patient (generally considered a reliable statistic for primary care doctors)?  What can a publisher deliver in a fraction of that time that could benefit the physician and patient?

To address this need, Elsevier created a Clinical Decision Support business unit.  And, leading into the next Galileo lesson, this unit is not charged with simply delivering information at the point of care.  They are charged with “making
information more to the point and more specific, as a recommendation.”

In times of pressure and crisis, explore the counter intuitive.  Don’t just follow conventional wisdom.

Those not familiar with medical publishing, may not realize that Hansen’s example above, providing more specific recommendations to physicians, is very unconventional thinking. For many reasons, not the least of which is legal liability, this isn’t often done.

In fact, I would argue it’s the most unconventional idea he raised today.

Below are two additional examples, that while interesting, are not uncommon practices in many organizations:

Hansen offered a sales example to highlight unconventional thinking, with a major client, the sales team took a more collaborative approach.  They analyzed the client’s information assets and identified redundancies, resulting in a decrease in content costs of 10%.  His takeaway? “Forge new partnerships, relationships, and collaborations.”

Of course, the revised content holdings included several Elsevier assets. 

Hansen’s second example was related to people. Many companies say that people are their greatest resource, yet they don’t communicate with them and are often reluctant to share bad news.

Elsevier found that in sharing concerns with their employees, they were able to identify savings offered up by people who were much better suited to identify savings opportunities than an isolated group of people in a conference room.  For example, staff were able to suggest cuts in travel that totaled almost 20% across the board.

While the second two examples might not be considered counter intuitive in many circles, that’s irrelevant.  They were counter intuitive to Elsevier and, in pursuing them, Elsevier stepped out of their comfort zone.

Unconventional is in the eye of the beholder.

What are we doing to explore the counter intuitive, the unconventional, in a way that is consistent with our strengths (roots)?

Have our objectives changed? Should they have?

Have the methods by which we achieve our objectives changed? Should they have?

Hansen pointed out that the recession is bad but not as bad as the inquisition.  If Galileo could be unconventional, why can’t we?

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