Where are all the leaders going, and what are we doing about it?

Is it just me or is there more and more grey hair at every industry meeting nowadays? And there is more talk about aches and pains, and of the “r” word – retirement. Perhaps it is to be expected of an industry that is in its 40s.

Yes COACH is 40 this year. OMG Steve (RIP), did you ever imagine this for your legacy?

Remember 1975? I for one was in short pants – well not quite…. I was however in my third year in IT having made the bold move from operating an IBM 360 the size of a house to programming punched cards in COBOL. For some reason I thought there was a future in that. But I do remember a few things from that year:

  • I was terrorising the neighbourhood on my Triumph Bonneville chopper – yes I was a Rocker, and definitely not a Mod.
  • Maggie Thatcher was elected as Britain’s first female Prime Minister
    – living in industrialised Coventry I like many was not sure about that.
  • There was something going on in America about Watergate – perhaps
    I should have cared more about that, but I didn’t.
  • I did however care that the Vietnam War ended in that year.
  • And I definitely cared that a newfangled microcomputer (the
    Altair 8800) was released and a couple of kids had formed a company called
    Micro Soft to build BASIC programmes for it.
  • Lastly, but certainly not least, the frontman from my
    favourite band (Peter Gabriel) left and the drummer (Phil Collins) of all people
    stepped to the front!

Anyway enough of memory lane; some may say the good old days weren’t even that good.

Fast forward forty years to 2015. Why are my colleagues retiring? Surely we are too young for that? But then perhaps, and obviously, not. But what are we doing to properly develop our successors and the leaders of tomorrow?

First I wonder if young people are even interested in this industry? Especially after all the bad press it has attracted in the past five years. What are we doing to create an image of health informatics that would attract young people to even enter such a stream of advanced studies? We have an obligation to put the negativity behind us and spin up the virtues of working in an industry that can transform people’s lives and wellbeing. We really are on the cusp of that transformation. We have technologies that put information power in the hands of clinicians and more importantly consumers. We have generated consumer demand for disruptive and disintermediation tools – a v powerful force as can exemplified in the restaurant (TripAdvisor), accommodations (AirBnB), communications (Twitter) and taxi (Uber) industries. And we have a
financial cliff to exploit (“never waste a good crisis” as my dad used to say). I would submit all the stars are finally aligned to push IT into the mainstream of healthcare delivery.

So if we can make the case to attract the young talent to this noble calling, are we putting them to best use? By this I mean are we forcing them into servitude for years, as perhaps we were in our youth? Or are we unleashing their enthusiasm and talent, and equipping them with the tools and access to leaders to enable them to explore new solutions. After all they don’t know yet that healthcare can’t be fixed. We need to keep that drive alive for as long as possible. Maybe even until they fix it!

What about mentoring? Are we bringing them to important meetings to hang out and exchange ideas with the grey-hairs? Or are we too worried about the hierarchy? I do applaud CHIEF in this regard. Here we have undertaken to engage emerging leaders in helping the CHIEFs tackle the thorny issues surrounding P3s and alternate funding plans for HIT. In truth these emerging professionals are the ones carrying the agenda and holding the rest of us to task and on point. Good on them!

At the end of the day what could be more important to us than to leave the industry in good, well-trained hands?

Are you doing your part?

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