Why hire physician intrapreneurs… and what to do with them once you have

Dr. Arlen Meyers Surthriving in the brave new world of sickcare requires not just a new playbook, but players with new skill sets to execute the plans. Knowledge technicians are as obsolete as an NFL team with a running game but without a passing and special teams plan. Unfortunately, HR managers are getting it wrong. The biggest risk to future success and becoming a disruptor is a company’s existing business model, culture, and bureaucracy.

Balancing execution with innovation is insanely hard. You will need a Chief Future Officer. You also need to hire gig mindsetters and learn how to lead, develop, promote, compensate and retain them.

But, do you know how to recruit for creativity and imagination? What will you do to support creative people once you have?

Are you creating or curating innovators?

If you are looking to employ physicians, you need to recruit physician intrapreneurs. not knowledge technicians. Physician intrapreneurship has particular challenges.

Those responsible for hiring and managing the new sick care workforce should factor these things into the hiring decision:

1. Knowledge technicians will eventually be replaced by AI and other technologies, placing special emphasis on a doctor’s comunication and empathy skills

2. There are many reasons why doctors don’t play nice with others and they need to be addressed.

3. Only about 1% of doctors have an entrepreneurial mindset

4. You need to give knowledge technicians the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to evolve into managers, to leaders, to leaderpreneurs

5. It is almost impossible to pick identify and select people with a real or nascent entrepreneurial mindset. Most hide their innerpreneurial tendencies for fear of being eliminated by the BIG MEDICINE corporate immune system

6. Creating strategic alignment between the patient and profit mission is a full time job

7. Entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship is not about starting companies. It is about creating user defined value through the deployment of innovation.

8. Doctors matter. DISing them won’t work

9. Intrapreneurs are employed physicians trying to act like entrepreneurs in their organization. They are fighting a two front war. Don’t make it any harder than it already is.

10. You won’t find many who fit the bill, so be sure you celebrate the champions and use them as role models for others. Don’t make these mistakes when it comes to overlooking internal talent.

11. Renters act differently than owners

12. Quality of care is not improved in employed physician organizations.

The characteristics of the intrapraneurial mindset are:

  1. Action trumps ideas and more analysis every time. Real change comes from people who are obsessed with action, not ideas. Thinking and analysis without execution feels like zero cost to existing organizations, but it actually ignores the opportunity cost lost. If you act, you learn from other people, especially customers, and you build momentum.
  2. Focused on progress rather than process. Most entrepreneurs realize that for early stage startups, process is the enemy of progress, slowing you down when you’re trying to move forward. But more mature companies have learned that scaling a business requires process, so the focus changes. Intrapreneurs have to always think like entrepreneurs.
  3. Relishes the opportunity to learn from problems. Corporate environments tend to treat problems as failures, rather than opportunities. People are trained to avoid change, and stick with the safer status quo. True entrepreneurs, like Thomas Edison, realize that the biggest innovations come from solving problems, such as failing light bulb filaments.
  4. Loves to “hack” new outcomes from existing systems. In software, hackers love the intellectual challenge of confronting a system designed to do one thing and cleverly exploit it to achieve something different. That’s the essence of innovation, and good intrapreneurs need to find new opportunities by bending existing strengths in new ways.
  5. Reach out across the aisle for complementary talent. Smart intrapreneurs know they can’t do it alone, and know how to enlist the help they need by making it clear “what’s in it” for others. They enjoy engaging in informal partnering and co-design solutions with other stakeholders, while making the total opportunity as much possible about others.
  6. Married to a mission, but not just to one way to do it. The people you desire know the “what” and the “why,” but don’t want to be told “how.” They are always looking for gaps and misalignments, and thrive on changes, even radical changes, so the organization performs better. In this context, strategy deviations can keep the company on track.
  7. Frugal by nature, and don’t ask for much to proceed. Even though they see huge budgets all around, they prefer to start on the cheap (like an entrepreneur), reusing existing resources, working on the side, and employing messy, make-do methods over expensive sanctioned systems that have long approval cycles and much oversight.

It’s because of the entrepreneur stereotype you can assume that entrepreneurs seem to be naturally more productive. And, because of the following ten traits that they possess, that assessment seems spot on.

How change agents respond to frustration is based on 1) whether they feel they have the ability, status or power to change things, and 2) whether they are committed to do so. In other words, depending on whether they are willing and able to engage, they will lead (attacker), follow (defender), get out of the way (disengage or be a sabateur) or quit.

Here are 7 reasons why your best docs might quit. Here are some danger signs that they are headed for the exits:

  1. Their work productivity has decreased more than usual.
  2. They have acted less like a team player than usual.
  3. They have been doing the minimum amount of work more frequently than usual.
  4. They have been less interested in pleasing their manager than usual.
  5. They have been less willing to commit to long-term timelines than usual.
  6. They have exhibited a negative change in attitude.
  7. They have exhibited less effort and work motivation than usual.
  8. They have exhibited less focus on job related matters than usual.
  9. They have expressed dissatisfaction with their current job more frequently than usual.
  10. They have expressed dissatisfaction with their supervisor more frequently than usual.
  11. They have left early from work more frequently than usual.
  12. They have lost enthusiasm for the mission of the organization.
  13. They have shown less interest in working with customers than usual.
  14. AI can predict who is most likely to quit

As your organization grows and becomes more and more corporatized, you can expect your workforce to lose motivation, particularly the highest performers. Here are the main reasons why and how you should address them.

OK. Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to hire physician intrapreneurs. Now what should you do next?

1. Provide them with the knowledge, resources, networks, mentors and experiential learning they need to succeed.

2. Create a transparent innovation leadership system. Give them some PEARLS

3. Support champions, facilitate team building and develop Physician Intrapreneurs in Residence (PIIRs) to support peers.

4. Set strategy, define the vision and get out of the way

5. Let them fail without labeling them as “disruptive physicians”

6. Be sure they are integrated into your regional innovation ecosystem

7. Absolutely, positively, walk the walk. Never promise something you can’t deliver. If you do, you will break the trust you are trying to create and never regain it.

8. Be sure you have the structure, process and culture that fertilizes imaginative physician intrapreneurs. Do what it takes, within reason, to make your doctors happy. Happy doctors are safer, more enjoyable to work with, make happy patients , and , according to positive psychologist, are more creative, imaginative and entrepreneurial.

9. Not everyone is motivated by the same things. Some want time. Some want money. Some just want revenge, driven by anger to make things right based on their values.

10. Think big, but seek and leverage small wins.

11. Onboard them properly

12. Help them find mentors and sponsors to reduce burnout

13. Here is how to manage and lead mavericks.

14. Lead innovators, don’t manage innovation

Pay attention to these 10 reasons why your doctors will quit:

1. They are not respected as people at work. They are viewed as production units, rather than valued collaborators.

2. They don’t have the right tools, equipment, information and basic operational requirements they need to do their job. When they ask for tools or guidance they get yelled at or ignored. What kind of company would impede its employees’ ability to do their jobs, then get mad at them for asking?

3. Their employer disregards their personal life and has no compassion for their obligations outside of work.

4. Their immediate supervisor is a tyrant, unqualified for their job, or both.

5. They are tired of being lied to.

6. They have no visibility into the future and no confidence their leaders will do the right thing, either from a business standpoint or a human standpoint.

7. They are tired of dealing with the politics in their workplace.

8. They are underpaid and overworked.

9. They go to work every day and push a rock uphill, trying in vain to get forward motion on their projects. They’re tired of pushing.

10. They have to watch every word they say and every move they make, because the knives are out and they could get in trouble — or get fired — for almost any reason.

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The face of intrapreneurship is changing in many industries other than medicine.

You also need to dial back your corporate innovation immune system.

There is a reasonable chance that the physician intrepreneurs you hired are already looking for another job. Many probably already have side gigs, which is something you should encourage, not discourage. In fact, you should encourage them find another job or create their own.

Here are 10 mistakes to avoid if you want to prevent losing our best physician intrapreneurs. However, losing your best is actually good for you for many reasons.

Are you asking intrapreneurs these five questions? More importantly, what are you doing when you get the answers?

Recruiting, developing and retaining physician intrapreneurs is a difficult task. Here are some ideas on how to recruit for group creativity.

Despite all this, try not to buy into some myths about intrapreneurship. As noted, to start, innovation must be recognized as a permanent function of a successful company, just like other business functions such as accounting, operations, sales, and finance. It’s hard to imagine a large company without a marketing department or division, yet less than 50 years ago marketing as a business function, profession, and department did not exist. The same is true of innovation today. If companies want to be able to consistently innovate, they need dedicated innovation professionals to carry out the functions of discovery, development, incubation, acceleration, and scaling.

But this innovation division can’t be siloed off from the rest of the business. Company incubators and innovation labs that are isolated from the rest of the organization tend to have limited success, because they are disconnected from a larger system. Game-changing innovations require a holistic approach across the organization.

Simply hiring doctors does not improve the quality of care. To thrive, however, HR managers and recruiters need to to have new targets in their sights and provide recruits with the tools they need to add value not just to themselves, but to their organizations as well. It’s the only way to get to the playoffs.

What gets you up in the morning?

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs on Twitter@SoPEOfficial and Co-editor of Digital Health Entrepreneurship

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.