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CIO Unplugged – 7/1/08

July 1, 2008 Ed Marx No Comments

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally, and are not necessarily representative of Texas Health Resources or its subsidiaries.

Glorious Mashup!
By Ed Marx

A common question I’m asked, and I suspect it is true of all leaders, is how do I come up with the constant flow of ideas on innovation, leadership, business and clinical strategy, creativity, application, etc.

(Short) Safe answer: I’m not sure.

(Long) Theoretical answer: The stuff I intake gets glomped by other intakes and existing information which generate fresh perspectives. My mind is a Mashup.

According to Wikipedia, a Mashup is “a web application that combines data from more than one source into a single integrated tool.” The example used is “the use of cartographic data from Google Maps to add location information to real-estate data, thereby creating a new and distinct web service that was not originally provided by either source.”

Mashup originally referred to the practice in pop music (notably hip-hop) of producing a new song by mixing two or more existing pieces together. Gwen Stefani is a good example of an artist who makes creative use of Mashup with songs such as “Rich Girl” and “Wind it Up.” Adam and the Ants did this decades earlier by combining African drum rhythms with punk to help define their sound. Perhaps we can credit Bach as the original orchestrator with “St. Anne” in E-flat Major where he mashed a triple fugue.

To enable a personal Mashup, you need to be well rounded and have multiple input sources. Lessons learned as a young Army officer studying engineering concepts continue to influence my present intakes. My experience working with clinicians prior to my technology baptism was foundational. Thanks to earlier mentors, I established a career long study of business. I’ve devoured hundreds of books to enrich my formal education. I feast weekly on a range of newspapers and magazines, most of them outside of healthcare and technology. I harvest inspiration from my external passions—family, faith, tango, music, and athletics—that each add uniquely to my portfolio of intake and experience. The breadth and depth of my Mashup is exponentially improved by engaging with individuals who possess a diverse set of experiences.

Mashup is rarely intentional. Most often it is happenstance. An excellent work example is the new training technique we developed and have since branded as CareTube. During a meeting with physicians, we discussed the challenge of training docs on CPOE. The only training that seemed effective was “at the elbow,” but that’s expensive to maintain, especially across numerous hospitals. Ideas started to pinball, and out of it came the Mashup: a training solution combining the requirement of brevity with the need for 24×7 access—and ideally, entertaining. We started creating application-linked short video vignettes supplying content and levity at the time and place needed most. Although not at the elbow, it is at the fingertip.

Thirty days later, we were Live with CareTube, a Mashup of Saturday Night Live, YouTube, training, and speed.

Imagine if all your staff were active individually and corporately as a Mashup. Think of the collective potential. One way we encourage this phenomenon is by investing heavily in training. We complement this training with voluntary in-office book studies. During the 6 months we’ve used these studies at THR, we have taught over 10 books, none of which were technical. Several were on leadership, a couple dipped into creativity, and the remaining explored service, business, and change. “Rick’s Library” is the brainchild of one of our analysts who has donated his office space for a library where anyone can check out tapes, CD’s and books of all sorts. The intent is to encourage creativity and increase the opportunity for exposure to ideas. More people are beginning to think outside of IT parameters and add experiences and wisdom to form their own Mashup. It’s fun! And perhaps it’s one of the reasons we just cracked the top 50 of Computerworld’s recent “Top 100 Companies to Work For.”

So don’t just read about this. Apply it personally. Start by making a list of things you want to accomplish before you die and stretch yourself, your mind. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Personally feed the orphans in Guatemala. Swim the English channel. Learn a foreign language. Dance on top the Eifel Tower. Go hang gliding. Read the Bible. Hike the Napali coast. Glean wisdom from your grandmother. Become a Big Brother/Sister. Play games with your family. And for Pete’s sake, stop wasting hours in front of the TV!

Do you want a never-ending flow of new ideas? The more diverse your collection of experience and input and the more people involved in the same will determine the rate at which you create Mashup. As Nike put it, “Just Do It!”

Ed Marx is senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. (Use the “add a comment” function at the bottom of each post.) You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow him via Twitter – User Name “marxists.”

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