Monthly Archives: March 2011

Doctorpreneurs

It’s probably not news to people in the U.S. that doctors have to be somewhat entrepreneurial … as do most people in the U.S. But in Canada where we have a ‘public healthcare’ system something comes to mind for me.

I’ve been listening to a show on CBC radio periodically called White Coat Black Art which is a show about the medical industry/culture. This week there was a discussion about doctors being fired by their patients. An interesting word kept recurring in the episode: agenda; i.e. ‘the patient’s agenda’ or ‘the physicians agenda’ and the gap between the two.

The power imbalance, real or perceived, between these to agendas aside, it’s interesting to consider the concept of the doctorpreneur inherent in the medical system. Doctors, like pharmacists, have to be at least somewhat entrepreneurial. Several years ago I did a research study in a hospital and was surprised to learn that few of the physicians I met were actually directly employed by the hospital. Instead they were paid by the government (and in the US by the medical insurance company) for contact hours. 

I found this fascinating because I had always thought of doctors as employees of a system which, to an extent, they are. But in reality they bill by the patient and don’t get paid for much of anything that doesn’t directly involve patient contact. This means that doctors have to find ways in which to balance seeing patients with everything else while only getting paid for parts of their job (which, lets face it, is often the case for many other professions, too but not so overtly). It made it difficult to get doctors to attend meetings or participate in my study.

This idea of the invisibility of the conditions of labour was fascinating to me particularly as it speaks to the ‘agenda gap’ that they described in White Coat, Black Art.

This is worth repeating. It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology is not enough. It’s tech married with the liberal arts and the humanities. Nowhere is that more true than in the post-PC products. Our competitors are looking at this like it’s the next PC market. That is not the right approach to this. These are post-PC devices that need to be easier to use than a PC, more intuitive. The hardware and software need to intertwine more than they do on a PC. We think we’re on the right path with this.

Steve Jobs, CEO Apple Inc.
(iPad 2 announcement, March 2, 2011)

Invisible Technology

For some time now I’ve been arguing that (media) technologies are becoming increasingly invisible. On the surface this might seem counter intuitive given the current global obsession with defining and thus creating a ‘digital future’ but I still think it’s true.

Take for instance the fortunes of the fastest growing segments of the technology market: mobile devices (I hasten to call them ‘phones’) and (mobile) computers. Most of the worlds largest manufacturers of these hardware spend and make billions on selling objects not because of the objects themselves but because of how well these objects will connect us with our ‘digital stuff.’ 

Apple recognized long ago that content is king and, it seems, so too now does everyone else. Samsung, Motorola, RIM and many others have started to recognize that it’s not the box that people are buying (i.e. the physical technology) but a gateway to the content they want. And they expect that the content they want will work when they want it, where, and how.

You can see this in the ad posted below. You can also see this in a few seemingly inevitable imperatives built in to most new technology offerings: there is a presumed dominance of convergence over specialization; content is built to be platform independent so proprietary standards, though remarkably too common, are less well respected over free flow platform independence; integration across technology offerings must appear seamless or else the technology fails (in a market sense).

People don’t flock to new devices because they are new, they do so because of the promise of greater, smoother, sleeker access to their (digital) stuff and the technology, the box itself, grows increasingly invisible.

One need only look to cloud computers, Internet protocols, the weeding out of codecs, the number of inputs on flat screen TVs (which are rarely JUST or EVEN for TV anymore), to realize that people want what they want and the technology they choose to access it, as it becomes integrated into their lives and seems indispensable, is virtually irrelevant; invisible.

How did Apple grow its market share so much and so well? Because they recognized earlier than most that content integration and ease of use is where the money is. Good technology is not about sophistication of the object but about the closest replication of ‘perfect analog’ experiences as possible.