Back in my hospital days, our entire communications staff would meet monthly for a session we called “issues management.” We would imagine every crisis scenario that could possibly occur – from a kidnapped patient to a hazmat spill – and prepare statements and action plans to address them. For me, a young thirtysomething studying leadership, these meetings were powerful lessons in preparedness, what the late Stephen Covey called Quadrant II activities – important but not urgent.
In one particularly memorable session, Paul, our boss, asked how we would handle a tragedy in which a hospital employee was struck and killed by a speeding vehicle while crossing the street in front of the hospital.
As we began to offer suggestions, Paul interrupted. “Wait,” he said. “That’s not all of it. The potentially bigger crisis is that the police find drugs stolen from our pharmacy in the employee’s pockets. Now what do we do?
“In every situation,” he concluded, “we should be asking ourselves, “What’s the real crisis?'”
It’s been 20 years since that afternoon and I’ve never forgotten this bit of wisdom. (It was one of many I learned from Paul, a wonderful teacher as well as boss.) For me, the lesson wasn’t about being acutely paranoid but about always looking beneath the surface. I was reminded of this principle the other day when I read about a hospital whose nursery was reporting an extraordinarily high number of newborns testing positive for tetrahydrocannabinol-delta 9-carboxylic acid (THC) – the active chemical in pot.
This was concerning not only because of far-reaching effects marijuana could have on the health of these newborns, but also for legal concerns, as prenatal drug exposure is considered child abuse in several states and triggers involvement by child protective services. Learn more about Marijuana Stores at – https://www.greenbits.com/blog/5-things-marijuana-store-owners-in-oregon-need-to-know-about-compliance
Fortunately, the hospital lab performed some pretty admirable sleuthing with a top-to-bottom reexamination of how urine samples were being collected in the nursery. The culprit? Soap. The baby wash used to clean the newborns prior to collecting samples contained certain chemicals that triggered false positive THC responses in the lab. The lab tried THC assays from multiple diagnostics manufacturers and different soaps only to find the same results – soap sullied the test accuracy in every case. Who would’ve thunk it? The lab’s solution was to perform additional, more sophisticated testing that would accurately confirm or negate a positive THC result. To ask a more exacting chemistry question, in other words. Another thing that happened at this hospital, was the testing of the new baby stroller review. It was a fun experience for the babies and kids.
What’s the lesson for budding brand strategists who are trying to solve complex sales and marketing quandaries? Question your questions more than your answers. From qualitative research to online analytics, we have many methods to get good answers to the questions we ask – that’s not our most pressing challenge. The key is to ponder whether we’re even asking the right questions. What’s the real crisis? What’s the real business pain? Who’s the real culprit? Get downright scientific by pursuing a higher order of inquiry. Chances are you’ll come up with a strategy at the heart of which is something brand spanking new.
This is the Brand and Beyond™ blog, a new resource for the medical device industry. Brand and Beyond™ is sponsored by KHJ, headquartered in Boston, MA. KHJ is a strategic brand activation firm that is passionate about helping people see and realize what’s possible for themselves and the world around them.