Shifting the paradigm in order to create value – Tom Sisk


As individuals on the MBA, we are on a path to transform for the better, to give back to society and make a difference. The One Planet MBA promotes change and innovation and our lecturers and mentors have one year to provide us with a skill set that will enable us to transform ideas into real projects and execute change for good.
Real change, one in which others are engaged and aligned,  can only happen by moving the needle and shifting the paradigm. Can we implement change by taking things away but not providing solutions and alternatives superior to what we already have? How do we deal with the feeling of entitlement towards previously acquired rights and comforts?

Nobody likes regressive change, nobody will accept or promote an inferior alternative and thus it becomes imperative that change offers an increase in quality and adds value. A shift in mindset takes time, education, repeating the same message endlessly and a lot of work to even get started. As innovators it is not only our task to identify problems, but also to engage others by proposing superior alternatives. Solutuions that carry external benefits by adopting and embracing change.

I will share a story about women, their newborns, a wealthy society and a penchant for confusing hospitals for their real purpose.

Belgian law provided women with the right to stay in hospital for up to 7 nights after giving birth. It is well understood this rule applied for births without any medical or physical complications affecting either mother or baby. This law was created to combat the high birth death rate in the 1940’s and to increase the chances of survival of newborns. Soon one week in hospital became an entitlement and hospitals started fulfilling dual roles. First role was, of course, seeing that childbirth went well and mother and baby were safe and sound. But the second role was functioning as a hotel, providing mothers with care, advice, food, shelter and mostly the opportunity to deal with their fears of being with the newborn child.

This obviously impacted the human and logistical resources of hospitals, knowing there was no real valid reason for mothers to stay in hospital for a prolonged length of time. In the 1980’s an organization called the Bakermat, decided it would be more beneficial to reduce the duration spent in hospital, but simultaneously providing valid alternatives for the hotel function the hospitals were relegated to. They organized for midwives to visit mothers at home, they saw to it that help at home was available by dealing with shopping, cooking, cleaning and therefor freeing up time mother and newborn could spend with each other.

The only reason women stayed in hospital so long, was because there were no valid alternatives to counter the anxiety, uncertainty and lack of confidence women felt during the first days after giving birth. All these very natural feelings were addressed by the Bakermat in the service packages it provided for its clients. The organization got recognized by the health services, and associated costs would be covered by the social security.

So, now we have a shift, from 7 days in hospital after birth, to 2 days, but with the benefit of receiving all needed care at home. Soon after, most mothers preferred it this way and the demand for services was continuously high. Simultaneously, the Belgian state also acknowledged the benefits of this organization and became aware of the prohibitive cost of having healthy women occupying hospital beds, so a change in the law was made.

The alternative provided a superior experience and negative externalities like hospital costs and resource wastage were drastically reduced. This new approach shifted the paradigm in how women spent their first weeks with their newborns.

At the One Planet MBA we learn how to think critically about and engage with obsolete concepts, inefficient processes and strive to ask the right questions in order to start developing the most beneficial solutions.

For a solution to find ground, it has to offer a benefit and be a superior alternative for what is current. If a proposed solution doesn’t add true value, it will never get adopted and will be rendered useless before even seeing daylight. The story above is a clear illustration of this theory and it should be our responsibility as innovators and managers to always keep this in mind.

Thomas Sisk

Cohort member –  One Planet MBA 2016


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