They Say Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

We’ve all heard it said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”  I suppose it is true…at the very least, it’s quite validating.  I’m referring to the relatively recent entrance of two medical device behemoths attempting to reinvent themselves to take advantage of the changes necessitated by the mandated reform emerging in U.S. health care.

During a recent review of our firm’s SEO rankings related to key word searches, we came across an interesting discovery.  GE Healthcare, a company that annually earns billions of dollars in revenue through the sale of MRI and advanced imaging equipment, popped up when searching the name of our firm, Performance Transformation, LLC™.  The Milwaukee-based subsidiary of General Electric Corporation has launched a business services unit with the title, “Performance Transformation“, along with the tag line “Driving Breakthrough Performance Improvement”.  Also interesting was one of the tabs on their site describing their new initiative entitled, “Strategy, Leadership, and Performance Transformation”.

The Transformational Entrepreneur CoverWell, at least I know they read my book, “The Transformational Entrepreneur ~ Engaging The Mind, Heart & Spirit For Breakthrough Business Success”, published in February of 2011, and cited by the academic Journal of Economic Literature in March, 2012.

I’d like to share a quote from Chapter Two:  “Creating transformational performance is like igniting a fire; it requires three fundamental elements.  A fire requires a source of heat, fuel, and oxygen in order to burn.  Transformational performance requires authentic, conscious leadership (the heat), a visionary strategic plan (the fuel), and a creative culture that fully engages the entire workforce (the oxygen).”  In fact it was from these words that our own tag line emerged, which is a part of our trademarked logo, “Leadership ~ Strategy ~ Culture”.  Could GE have come any closer, without risk of infringement, by using Strategy, Leadership, and Performance Transformation?

During one of my media appearances in 2011, with Jim Blasingame on his nationally syndicated Small Business Advocate® Show, Jim stopped the interview and asked me to repeat my insight again, commenting, “Leadership, strategy, culture. Everyone of those things, folks, you heard us talk about on the show before, but only Terry has pulled it together in one little nugget.  Remember this folks, it’s going to be on the test.”  (If you’re so inclined, you can listen to the interview on the Forbes website).

What’s even more interesting is the fact that I met with a senior GE Healthcare associate at the 2011 American Society for Training and Development Conference, who expressed her sincere interest in our approach (you can watch the video of my presentation at the conference here).  The irony is that when we followed up with her after the meetings, she told me that GE Healthcare was under a mandate that all learning and development programs must be delivered through elearning platforms.  No experiential learning or blended learning would be purchased, but she added, “Give me a call back in a year or so…we change direction every 18 months.”

If you read GE Healthcare’s webpage on their new programs, it reads right out of the playbook I put forth in my book and on this website over the past several years.  They talk about development through a structure of Goals and Objectives (Chapter Seven), a process of candor and consistency for engagement (my words are authenticity and congruency for engagement, Chapter Six), organizational values and culture (Chapter Eight), and the use of custom leadership development curriculum integrated with strategic projects and stretch assignments (our Accretive Coaching Process℠, Chapter Nine).

Upon reading this I thought, with tongue in cheek, “Gee, perhaps they should consider changing their slogan from GE, Imagination At Work® to GE, Imitation At Work“.  The reason I am sharing this with you today is I do wish to point out that, quite often, being big doesn’t necessarily equate with being the first to innovate.  We rolled out our first program for healthcare, entitled, “The Emotionally Resilient Nurse”, in 2009, built around the same vision, approach and philosophy we’ve been following all along.  Of note, on June 5, 2013, just ten days ago, GE announced a new program for nurses; their Nurse Executive Fellowship program.  Nimble, creative thought leadership and innovation often comes from entrepreneurial firms, which is why global pharmaceutical companies pursue an acquisition strategy of small biotech firms in an attempt to fill their innovation pipelines.  But at least they pay for it.

Over the past year, we’ve integrated several exciting, advanced collaboration and talent management software platforms into our process as well.  Just two days ago, GE Healthcare announced they’ll be investing $2 billion over the next two years in software development to support their new initiatives.  Now, everyone is doing this as well, but it does seem to follow a pattern.

Just because you’re copying a business model and strategy doesn’t mean you can execute on it.  Let’s face it, migrating from a capital equipment sales and service model based around high tech imaging systems to one based upon developing the human element in health care is a wide chasm to traverse.  Especially when one’s own corporate culture is highly command-and-control and out of step with the rapidly changing needs of today’s business and health care environment.  I understand GE Healthcare’s need to reinvent themselves; the days of imaging centers popping up on every other street corner and hospitals pursuing one-up-manship with each other by buying the newest MRI are long gone.  IBM reinvented themselves from a hardware company to a service company, so I imagine GE Healthcare is trying to follow the same survival strategy.

And, oh, by the way, Royal Philips Electronics, GE Healthcare’s primary competitor, just announced their new initiative, Healthcare Transformation Services Business, a month ago.

One must keep one’s sense of humor and perspective about such things…perhaps imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
© 2013, Terry Murray. 

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June 15, 2013 · 10:56 am

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