Innovation distinguishes between leaders and followers.
The battlefield of business competition is littered with the remnants of once-great companies that failed to adapt or innovate. For example, many of the companies profiled in Tom Peters and Robert Waterman's classic book In Search of Excellence were no longer viewed as front runners in their industry as early as two years following the book's release, and some had closed their doors. In fact, in a November 1984 issue of BusinessWeek magazine titled "Oops. Who's Excellent Now?" it was observed that of the 43 "excellent" companies surveyed by Peters and Waterman, approximately one-third had experienced financial difficulties. Notable among these were businesses such as Atari, Data General, DEC, Lanier, and Wang Labs. Some of these once-revered brand names became complacent and produced a fairly unimaginative and narrow array of products. By contrast, other "excellent" companies maintained their premier position in the marketplace by both maintaining product quality in their core offerings and taking the risks necessary to position themselves for excellence in the future. In the preceding two chapters, I examined how the leaders at UCLA Health System addressed product excellence in the delivery of day-to-day healthcare quality.
This chapter will look at cutting-edge research at UCLA, which consistently generates breakthrough knowledge, diagnostic innovations, and treatment technologies. It reflects the spirit of innovation presented in one of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, namely, "beginning with the end in mind." This is the type of purposeful innovation that starts with the question, "If I could accomplish anything, what would it be?" Once a destination has been defined, this approach reflects a tireless journey toward that goal.
A historical example of this aggressive form of innovation was President Kennedy's declaration in 1961 that the United States would be the first to put a man on the moon. While the technology necessary to achieve this outcome was rudimentary at best, the declaration of the objective led to innovative advances that realized the objective some eight years later.
In this chapter, you will see examples of UCLA doctors and researchers who clearly had an "end in mind" when it came to a treatment breakthrough or some form of technology that would change the future of medicine. The journeys of these researchers through setbacks and successes are illustrative of the outcome-based vision that is critical to dramatic change. Dr. David Feinberg, CEO of UCLA Hospital System, notes, "In order for our doctors and researchers to produce revolutionary results, we must have a healthy risk tolerance, particularly when it comes to inventing the new technology and implementing it. It is more entrepreneur-like, and our organization has to be able to respond with an entrepreneurial spirit." Dr. Feinberg adds, "We experience risk taking on two different levels. There is the risk necessary from the academic research ...