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Wednesday / August 16.

Tom Higley On Using Entrepreneurship to Solve Health’s Wicked Problems

DENVER, CO – A recent increase in the number of business accelerators focused on nurturing potentially disruptive digital health technology has turned a spotlight on the role that entrepreneurs are playing in the current transformation of the US healthcare system. As major organizations like Athenahealth and the American Medical Association embrace market-driven innovation, more and more providers are becoming interested in ways to harness the power of entrepreneurship.

Launched in 2015, 10.10.10 is a first-of-its kind CEO boot camp that takes experienced CEOs and pits them against some of the world’s toughest problems. Notably, last year’s 10.10.10 Health led to the creation of the digital health company burstIQ, which managed to secure seed funding and start operations within two months after the program’s end.

CyberMed News had a chance to speak with Tom Higley, the Founder of 10.10.10, about the promise of entrepreneur-driven innovation and his hopes for this year’s upcoming 10.10.10 Health during a recent volunteer meetup for the program.

What is 10.10.10?

10.10.10 is ten prospective CEOs exploring ten wicked problems in a specific problem area over the course of ten days. A problem area can be health, water, food, energy, learning, or waste. More philosophically, 10.10.10 is about harnessing the power of previously experienced and successful entrepreneurs to tackle wicked problems through market-based solutions.

What inspired you to create 10.10.10?

I’ve started several companies over a long period of time, and I’ve had times in between starting companies when I had to think about what my next company would be. I realized that people in that position are a great resource because they can attract capital, or investor dollars, and talent.

What is a wicked problem?

On the one hand, a wicked problem might be identified with the more typical understanding of the word, something evil. On the other hand, a New Englander might call something difficult “wicked hard.” This is a wicked problem, something that’s especially challenging or difficult.

But on a much deeper level, there’s an understanding about problems that are wicked versus problems that are tame. That understanding first came into being through a 1973 article, Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning, by Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber. It identifies ten attributes of a wicked problem, which give us a deeper understanding of what a wicked problem is.

Healthcare in the US has many wicked problems associated with it. Health outcomes are a good example of one. We don’t have visibility into health outcomes across providers. It’s a wicked problem to think about how we would begin to make visible those outcomes in a way that consumers could see – or even for that matter that providers could see.

What impact can entrepreneur-driven solutions have on health’s wicked problems?

I would like to say that I see enormous potential, and I do. But this is new. What we are doing hasn’t been done by others before. And we are still learning how best to give entrepreneurs not just a lever but also a place to stand so they can be like Archimedes, capable of moving something.

During last year’s 10.10.10, we never expected that we would create solutions within the ten-day time frame. We expected that the ten days would provide an initial exposure to the wicked problem and that entrepreneurs would create solutions in the months afterwards.

But burstIQ moved at such a great speed – maybe that’s the reason for the name – and within sixty days they had created a company and received seed funding. Their company focuses on health data, which is a wicked problem for many reasons.

Frank Ricotta, the company’s CEO, has said that he thinks he got a one or two year advantage over companies in the marketplace because of his experience in 10.10.10.

What role do you see 10.10.10 playing in the current transformation of healthcare?

First, I see 10.10.10 educating our community in a powerful way about what entrepreneurs can do to solve some of health’s wicked problems. Second, I see the people from large healthcare organizations that are involved in 10.10.10 learning more about entrepreneur-driven innovation. Third, I see the innovation fostered by 10.10.10 really impacting people’s lives and improving their health, their livelihoods, and their economic situations. Simply put, I see 10.10.10 producing breakthroughs.

 

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