HIT/EHR: Adult supervision required

Among other things, EHR requires adult supervision–kind of like parenting.

My morning was moving along swimmingly.  The kids were almost out the door and I thought I’d get a batch of bread underway before heading out for my run.  I was at the step where you gradually add three cups of flour—I was in a hurry and dumped it all in at once.  This is when the eight-year-old hopped on the counter and turned on the mixer.  He didn’t just turn it on, he turned it ON—power level 10.

If you’ve ever been in a blizzard, you are probably familiar with the term whiteout.   On either side of the mixer sat two of my children, the dog was on the floor.  In an instant the three of them looked like they had been flocked—like the white stuff sprayed on Christmas trees—those of you more politically astute would call them evergreens—to make them look snow-covered.  (I just em-dashed an em-dash, wonder how the AP Style Book likes that.)  So, the point I was going for is that sometimes, adult supervision is required.

What exactly is Health IT, or HIT?  It may be easier asking what HIT isn’t.  One way to look at it is to consider the iPhone.  For the most part the iPhone is a phone, an email client, a camera, a web browser, and an MP3 player.  The other 85,000 things it can be are things that happen to interact with or reside on the device.

In order for us to implement correctly (it sounds better when you spilt the infinitive) HIT and EHR, a little focus on blocking and tackling are in order.  Some write that EHR may be used to help with everything from preventing hip fractures to diagnosing the flu—you know what, so can doctors.  There are probably things EHR can be made to do, but that’s not what they were designed to do, not why you want one, and not why Washington wants you to want one.  No Meaningful Use bonus point will be awarded to providers who get ancillary benefits from their EHR especially if they don’t get it to do what it is supposed to do.

EHR, if done correctly, will be the most difficult, expensive, and far reaching project undertaken by a hospital.  It should prove to be at least as complicated as building a new hospital wing.  If it doesn’t, you’ve done something wrong.

EHR is not one of those efforts where one can apply tidbits of knowledge gleaned from bubblegum wrapper MBA advice like “Mongolian Horde Management” and “Everything I needed to know I learned playing dodge ball”.

There’s an expression in football that says when you pass the ball there are three possible outcomes and only one of them is good—a completion.  EHR sort of works the same, except the range of bad outcomes is much larger.

EHR: read before you buy

There is a first time for everything.  Sunday was the first time it occurred to me that there is a difference between being twenty and not being twenty.  A few days ago one of the women at the gym was bemoaning the fact that being forty wasn’t at all like being thirty–puhleeaasse.

My wife would have me point out her admonition of “You are not twenty anymore.”  Women do not understand that to men this phrase goes into our little brains and comes out reshuffled as the phrase “Just you wait and see.”

There are those who would have you believe that there is no single muscle that is connected to every other muscle, a muscle which if pulled will make every other muscle hurt.  I beg to differ.  I think I found it—I call it a my groinal—it’s connected to my adverse and inverse bent-egotudinals, the small transflexors located behind the mind’s eye.  I found the muscle while running back a kickoff during a Saturday morning game of flag football.

Call it an homage to the Kennedys.  Sort of made me fee like one of them—I think it was Ethyl.  Old guys versus new guys—I know it’s a poor word choice but you know what I mean which after all is why we’re both here.  Did I mention that everything aches, so much so that I tried dipping myself in Tylenol?

There are two types of people who play football, those who like to hit people and those who don’t like being hit.  I am clearly a member of the latter camp.  I used to be able to avoid being hit by being faster than the other guy.  This day I avoided getting hit by running away from the other guy.

The weird part is that my mind still pictures my body doing things just like the college kids on the field, and it feels the same, it just isn’t.  Two kids passed me–they were probably on steroids, and my only reaction was the parent in me wanting to ground the two of them.  Half the guys are moving at half the speed of the other guys.  At the end of each play, we find our side doubled over, our hands on our knees, our eyes scanning the sidelines for oxygen and wondering why the ground appears to be swaying.

As the game progresses, instead of running a deep curl pattern, I find myself saying things like, “I’ll take two steps across the line of scrimmage, hit me if I’m open.”  Thirty minutes later I’m trying to cut a deal with their safety, telling him, “I’m not in this play, I didn’t even go to the huddle.”  After that I’m telling the quarterback, “If you throw it to me, I’m not going to catch it, no matter what.”

All the parts are the same ones I’ve always had, but they aren’t functioning the way they should.  It’s a lot like assembling a gas grill and having a few pieces remaining—I speak from experience.  Unfortunately, implementing complex healthcare information technology systems can often result in things not functioning the way they should, even if you have all the pieces.  It helps to have a plan, have a better one than you thought you needed, have one written by people who plan nasty HIT systems, then have someone manage the plan, someone who can walk into the room and say, “This is what we are going to do on Tuesday, because this is what you should do on Tuesday on big hairy projects.”.

Then, if you pull your groinal muscle implementing EHR, try dipping yourself in Tylenol.

EHR’s Kitchen Table Amateurs (KTAs)

So I’m making dinner the other night and I’m reminded of a story I heard a while back on NPR. The narrator and his wife were telling stories about their 50 year marriage, some of the funny memories they shared which helped keep them together. One of the stories the husband related was about his wife’s meatloaf. Their recipe for meatloaf was one they had learned from his wife’s mother. Over the years they had been served meatloaf at the home of his in-laws on several occasions, and on most of those occasions his wife would help her mom prepare the meatloaf. She’d mix the ingredients in a large wooden bowl; 1 pound each of ground beef and ground pork, breadcrumbs, two eggs, some milk, salt, pepper, oregano, and a small can of tomato paste. She’d knead the mixture together, shape into a loaf, and place the loaf into the one-and-a-half pound pan, discarding the leftover mixture. She would then pour a mixture of tomato paste and water, along with diced carrots and onions on top of the two loaf, and then garnish it with strips of bacon.

He went on to say that meatloaf night at home was one of his favorite dinners. His wife always prepared the dish exactly as she had learned from her mother. One day he asked her why she threw away the extra instead of cooking it all. She replied that she was simply following her mother’s recipe.  The husband said, “The reason your mom throws away part of the meatloaf is because she doesn’t own a two-pound baking pan. We have a two pound pan. You’ve been throwing it away all of these years and I’ve never known why until now.”

Therein lays the dilemma. We get so used to doing things one way that we forget to question whether there may a better way to do the same thing. Several of you have inquired as to how to incorporate some of the EHR strategy ideas in your organization, how to get out of the trap of continuing to do something the same way it’s been done, simply because that’s the way things are done. It’s difficult to be the iconoclast, someone who attacks the cherished beliefs of the organization. It is especially difficult without a methodology and an approach. Without a decent methodology, and some experience to shake things up, we’re no better off than a kitchen table amateur (KTA). A KTA, no matter how well-intentioned, won’t be able to affect change. The end results would be no better than sacrificing three goats and a chicken.

So, think about how to define the problem, how to find a champion, and how to put together a plan to enable you to move the focus to developing a proper strategy, one that will be flexible enough to adapt to the changing requirements. But keep the goats and the chicken handy just in case this doesn’t work.

Help has arrived for your EHR productivity loss

I was thinking about the time I was teaching rappelling in the Rockies during the summer between my two years of graduate school.  The camp was for high school students of varying backgrounds and their counselors.  On more than one occasion, the person on the other end of my rope would freeze and I would have to talk them down safely.

Late in the day, a thunderstorm broke quickly over the mountain, causing the counselor on my rope to panic.  No amount of talking was going to get her to move either up or down, so it was up to me to rescue her.  I may have mentioned in a prior post that my total amount of rappelling experience was probably no more than a few more hours than hers.  Nonetheless, I went off belay, and within seconds, I was shoulder to shoulder with her.

The sky blackened, and the wind howled, raining bits of rock on us.  I remember that only after I locked her harness to mine did she begin to relax.  She needed to know that she didn’t have to go this alone, and she took comfort knowing someone was willing to help her.

That episode reminds me of a story I heard about a man who fell in a hole—if you know how this turns out, don’t tell the others.  He continues to struggle but can’t find a way out.  A CFO walks by.  When the man pleads for help the CFO writes a check and drops it in the hole.  A while later the vendor walks by—I know this isn’t the real story, but it’s my blog and I’ll tell it any way I want.  Where were we?  The vendor.  The man pleads for help and the vendor pulls out the contract, reads it, circles some obscure item in the fine print, tosses it in the hole, and walks on.

I walk by and see the man in the hole.  “What are you doing there?”  I asked.

“I fell in the hole and don’t know how to get out.”

I felt sorry for the man—I’m naturally empathetic—so I hopped into the hole.  “Why did you do that?  Now we’re both stuck.”

“I’ve been down here before” I said, “And I know the way out.”

I know that’s a little sappy and self-serving.  However, before you decide it’s more comfortable to stay in the hole with your EHR productivity loss and hope nobody notices, why not see if there’s someone who knows the way out?

Merely appointing someone to run your EHR effort doesn’t do anything other than add a name to an org chart.

What does lost EHR productivity cost?

One of the most exciting parts of any project is the point when the period of anoesis ends and members of the project team drift back to reality, back to a period of having to come to terms with what they have wrought.  That is the point at which you know things will feel better once they stop hurting.

For those inclined to argue that the project was a success because of the number of people who use it, may we visit that notion a little before we buy in all the way?  Arguing that use is the same as acceptance is a little like arguing the same about our use of gravity—after all, it is not as though we have much of a choice as to whether we are going to use gravity.  Maybe we should allow users to rename user acceptance to grim resignation.

User Acceptance may be a good thing, and it may be better than no user acceptance. Therefore, User Acceptance is a necessary but not sufficient condition of how well you spent the millions.

What could possibly be wrong with having one hundred percent of the user community using the application?  Well, if users have no choice, or if penalties are involved with not using the application, merely using the application does not tell you if the application is any good, it simply tells you it is being used.

Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems are deployed in many hospitals.  In some hospitals, user acceptance is quite high.  In many of those hospitals productivity has dropped, and this productivity drop is being traced directly to using the EHR.  Written in a different way, and with other factors remaining constant, doctors were able to see more patients prior to the implementation of the EHR.  The EHR, more specifically how they use the EHR, has resulted in them being able to see fewer patients.

Many physicians in large service provider environments are reporting that they are only able to see about eighty percent of the number of patients they had been able to see.  Now one school of thought would have you believe that seeing twenty percent less patients is not a problem because sooner or later all of the patients are seen.  This argument does not work.

Let us look at an example of a hundred and forty physician orthopedic practice that before implementing EHR its doctors were seeing four patients an hour over a ten hour day.  So as to not scare anyone, let us also assume that on any given day only half of the doctors were scheduled to see patients.  Since what we are looking at is the productivity delta of pre and post EHR, we are assuming that all other factors are similar.  Before EHR the group saw twenty-eight-hundred patients a day; after EHR they only saw twenty-two-hundred and forty patients.

In this example we see a net loss of five-hundred and sixty patient visits each day.  Seeing those patients tomorrow does not solve the problem.  The problem is that real revenue was lost today, and will be lost again tomorrow and the next day and so forth and so on.

In this example we can put an exact figure on the amount of revenue lost due to an unproductive yet fully user accepted EHR system.  This example also shows that this service provider cannot hope to grow because it cannot even manage its current patient load.  To get back to its old revenues, the provider would have to hire twenty-five percent more doctors.

So, does it make any sense to not deal with the distinction between user acceptance and productivity?  Why would a provider accept having to go from one-hundred-forty physicians to one-hundred-seventy-five physicians just to see the same number of patients?  In theory, they would have to increase the number of physicians by twenty-five percent to attain pre-EHR revenues.  Even if they added thirty-five physicians, although revenues would recover, costs would go way up, and margins would take a pounding.

What exactly does a twenty percent productivity drop look like?  I think some people only think of it in terms of inefficiencies and ineffectiveness and forget that it has real dollars attached to it.  Let us calculate the cost to our orthopedic practice.  Just in round numbers, forgetting labs and scripts and therapy, five hundred and sixty visits a day multiplied by two-hundred and fifty days a year equals one-hundred and forty thousand missed patient visits a year.  Just to keep the math simple, if the average missed visit results in a revenue loss of one hundred dollars, the loss to the business is about fourteen and a half million dollars.

Maybe that is enough incentive to come up with a name for the project whose purpose is to offset the EHR productivity loss.  The good news is you can recapture the lost productivity but you will need to look outside of IT and your EHR vendor to do it.

What was the name of your project that lost all the productivity

Since we are already talking about productivity I thought it would be worth spending a few minutes trying to understand why large numbers of hospitals seem to have acquiesced to the notion that operating with a productivity loss is their new steady state.

Imagine for a second that you were to discover that your least costly resource, say the person who answered the phones was spending twenty percent of their day updating their Facebook page.  Were that the case, you would know two things with a high degree of certainty;

  1. The productivity loss had a measurable cost
  2. The productivity loss would be corrected quickly

Now imagine that your hospital spent eight or nine figures on an EHR system.  Imagine that the hospital’s most expensive resources, the doctors, are spending most of their time entering data into the hospital’s expensive EHR system, so much time in fact that they are only able to see eighty-percent of their patients.  Now imagine that you do not have to imagine these because they are real.

Headline:  EHR results in a twenty-percent productivity loss.

Any hospital executive should be able to answer the following two questions:

  1. How much does each percentage of productivity loss cost the hospital?
  2. What is the name of the project to recover the lost productivity?

The project has no name because there is no project, and that is a shame.  The project to create the productivity loss had some stellar name, it had a war room, and it probably even had its own T-shirts.  The project to lose all of that productivity was a massive undertaking.

Should not the project to recover the productivity receive a little attention?

There are those who believe the lost productivity is gone forever.  Productivity is not like energy; it can be created and destroyed.  All kidding aside, there is a way to retrieve the lost productivity, all of it.  If you would like to know let me know.

EHR’s Two Types of Failure at your Hospital

"Kinetic productivity"

I have been rereading John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart.  It seems his purpose for the book is to help men cope with their feelings of not measuring up to their father’s expectations.  It delivers its punch at much the same level as the last scene in the film Field of Dreams when the father and son have a chance for one last catch.

(I am pausing parenthetically for a moment for the men to wipe their collective eyes.)

Here comes the segue, so hold on to your EHRs.  Let us spend some time dealing with lost opportunity and failure.  What if we define two types of failures; kinetic failure and potential failure?

Kinetic Failure: the failure to achieve the possible

Potential Failure: the failure to achieve the probable

Viewed from the perspective of productivity, let us define X to represent the service provider’s pre-EHR productivity; the distance from P to A represents the productivity loss brought about by the EHR, and the distance from A to K represents the opportunity loss.

P——————————A—————————K

One can argue with some degree of reason that the purchase of an EHR was made with the reasonable assumption that in addition to improving quality and patient safety the EHR would improve productivity to some degree.  In fact, assuming the provider did any sort of cost benefit analysis or return on investment calculation, any ROI, if it exists lives somewhere along the path between A and K.

If productivity is not improved, the service provider incurs an opportunity loss, a kinetic failure. At that point the best a service provider can hope to achieve is to not suffer a productivity loss.

One can also argue that the purchase of an EHR was made with the reasonable assumption that the implementation of EHR would not reduce productivity.

In many service providers EHR has resulted in a double hit to productivity; not only did they not achieve the productivity gains that were possible, they lost productivity.  A lot of people raise complaints when they speak about how much productivity costs.  One thing that is for certain, productivity costs a lot less than lost productivity.

This lost productivity, the kinetic failure, is the elephant in the service provider’s waiting room.  It has been poking its trunk through the door, and the only thing it wants once it gets its trunk through the door is to get all the way in the room.

Well, it is in the room, all the way in.

Part of the confusion facing providers is due to the fact that no matter how bad the productivity loss, a provider can still qualify as a meaningful user. That fact has led many providers to believe that since they can still qualify as such, that perhaps the productivity loss cannot be all bad news.

Let us look at a real example from a client of mine, a hundred and forty physician practice.  This practice had hit a barrier in terms of its ability to add patients, doctors, and staff.  It was running consistently an hour to an hour and a half behind with its patients.

The practice spent millions to implement an EHR.  Several months post implementation the practice was still running an hour behind.  Automating bad practices resulted in only one thing; the bad practices were completed faster.

To have any hope of avoiding kinetic failure and potential failure a healthcare practice must address how it runs its business.  Some business processes are duplicative, some are outdated, and some are wasteful.

Every one of those eats away at possible and probable productivity.  EHR was not designed to be a productivity windfall, but it clearly shines a spotlight on lost productivity.

Fortunately, even if your EHR has led to a productivity loss, all is not lost. Kinetic productivity can be regained, and potential productivity can be captured.  The path to productivity slices right through how the EHR is being used.  User Experience, UX, and usability, can and should be examined, redesigned and deployed.  This is not for the squeamish as it will cut through constraints like ‘We can’t do that’ and ‘We have always done it this way.’

Can’t and always must become productivity’s road kill.

EHR: It is like herding cats

I spent a summer in Weaverville, North Carolina, just outside of Asheville. (I couldn’t find it on the map either.) That summer, I was the head wrangler at Windy Gap, a summer camp for high school kids. I’m not sure I’d ever seen a horse, much less ridden one, so I guess that’s why they put me in charge. I thought that maybe if I dressed the part that would help. I bought a hat and borrowed a pair of cowboy boots from a friend; the boots were a half size too small, and I spent the better part of the first night stuffing sticks of butter down them trying to get them off my swollen feet.

The ranch’s full-time hand taught us how saddle the horses and little bit about how to ride. In the mornings we had to herd the horses from the fields, bring them into the corral, and saddle them. The other wranglers would ride out to the field to bring in the horses, while I being the least experience of the wranglers would race after them in my running shoes trying to coax them back to the barn. We would take the children for a breakfast ride halfway up a mountain path where we would let them rest and cook them a breakfast of sausage and scrambled eggs. One morning there were a group of 15 high school girls sitting on the fence of the corral. I walked up behind them carrying two saddle bags filled with the breakfast fare. I slung the saddlebags over the top rail of the fence, and hoping to make a good impression I placed one hand on the rail and vaulted myself over. I landed flat on my back smack dab in the middle of the pile of what horses produce when they’re done eating—so much for the good impression.  That earned me the nick-name, “Poop Wrangler.”

I brushed myself off and saddled my horse. The moment I gripped the reins the horse reared, made a dash for the fence and jumped it in one motion. I could tell the high school girls were impressed as I flew by them. Both of my arms were wrapped around the horse’s neck, and I had my hands locked in a death grip. I yelled, “whoa” and stop”, only to learn that the horse didn’t speak English. We raced the 200 yards to the dining hall, stopped on a dime, and raced back to the corral, as the girls continued to cheer. One final leap, and I was back where I started; on the ground, in the corral, looking up at the girls. I took a bow and quickly remounted my steed. The full-time ranch hand came over and instructed me rather loudly, “You can’t let the horse do that. You have to show the horse that you’re in charge.” After that piece of wisdom he grabbed my horse by its bit, pulled its head down, and bit a hole in my horse’s ear. I’m not sure what kind of in an impression it made on my horse. I guarantee you it made an impression on me.

Horses aren’t very intelligent, but they know when you don’t know what you’re doing, when you’re bluffing—dressing like a cowboy didn’t even fool the girls, much less my horse—I guess he hadn’t seen many westerns. Here we go—you had to know where this was headed.

Selecting and implementing an EHR will be the most complex project your hospital will undertake.  If you do it wrong, you may not look any better than I did laying on my back in the corral.  You won’t have girls laughing at you, but you also may be looking for another line of work.

You don’t want to read this, but if your projected spend exceeds ten million dollars, your chances of success, even if you do everything right, is less than fifty percent.  I define success as on time, on budget, functioning at the desired level, and accepted by the users.  That’s reasonable, correct?  We don’t need to talk percentages if you don’t do everything right.

These figures come from the Bull Report—that’s really the name, honest.

The main IT project failure criteria identified by the IT and project managers were:

missed deadlines (75%)
exceeded budget (55%)
poor communications (40%)
inability to meet project requirements (37%).

The main success criteria identified were :

meeting milestones (51%)
maintaining the required quality levels (32%)
meeting the budget (31%)

How is yours matching against these?  Given a choice, sometimes I’d rather be the horse.

The Cat in the Hat’s EHR Philosophy

My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives. (Hedley Lamar—that’s Hedley)

Let’s see if we can tie this collection of thoughts into something that won’t waste your time or mine.

The sun did not shine.  It was too wet to play.  So I sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day.  It was too wet to go out and too cold to play ball, so I sat in the house and did nothing at all. (Dr. Seuss)  It was around that time when my wife decided maybe this whole sitting around thing wasn’t optimizing my time, so she decided “we”—which can also be interpreted to mean “me”—should caulk the master shower.  Personally, I thought that why God invented the Yellow Pages, you know, the whole thing about, “Let your fingers do the walking.”

I notice we just blew through an entire paragraph without accomplishing anything.  Sorry.  I got my designer tool belt, the same one I’ve had for twenty years—still looks the same as the day I bought it.  Today’s Roemer Minute—the less you know about what you’re doing, the more important it is to dress the part.  (This does not seem to work with the people whom I’ve told that I’m studying cardiology.)

Tool belt.  Tools—caulk taker-outer, caulk puter-inner.  Paper towels—the need for these will become clear.  Worse case, this is a ten minute job, but if I finish too quickly, there will be additional assignments coming my way.  The trick with caulking is that the success or failure can all come down to how much of the plastic tip you circumcise (can I say that on TV?).  Too much and caulk is everywhere, not enough and it is nowhere.  I made the incision and started to lay down the first bead.  It was quickly apparent that I should have used clear caulk as the white stuff stared back at me like bleached bones—I try and add a little medical flavor wherever I can.

I’ve watched the same shows as you.  Sometimes people spread the caulk with a tool, others prefer a wet finger.  I am equally unskilled with both, so I went with the finger method, smoothing the caulk into the joint.  I wipe my sticky white finger on the paper towel, place the towel on the limestone tile, and return to work, only to notice that although the caulk looks good, my finger created to parallel lines of caulk on either side of the repair, sort of like a snow plow does.  I grab another piece of paper towel and begin the process of trying to remove the excess caulk, finally tossing the paper towel to the side.

Fast forward twenty minutes.  The caulking is done.  My hands are so white it looks like I am wearing a pair of Mickey’s gloves.  (That’s spelled M-O-U-S-E.)  As I wipe my hands with a used piece of towel—there are no more clean ones—I unknowingly step on one of the pieces.  The piece sticks to my shoe.  I retrieve the other pieces and notice that the caulk which had been on the paper towels is now spread all over the tile like someone had a food fight with smores.

Whatever I touched only exacerbated the problem.  I am immediately reminded of the Dr. Seuss book, “The cat in the hat comes back.”  In the book, the cat goes from good intentions to spreading a pink stain over everything—sort of like me with the caulk.

Sometimes good intentions don’t add up to much.  I’d wager that everyone in the EHR process has good intentions.  Sometimes it’s more important to pair good intentions with good skills.  Let’s call EHR one of those sometimes.  Good intentions are okay up to the point when you’re dealing with two or more commas on the cost side.

Here is today’s thought, the one reason you keep coming back to this site. Why did you implement EHR?  The answer will surprise you.  You did it for one simple reason, to get people, doctors and nurses, to do what you want them to do and to do it in a way you want them to do it.  EHR will modify their behavior.  I am sure yours did, but did it modify it in the way you wanted?

Most times it’s good to call a professional before you start tracking caulk across the floor.

Social Media: The Elephant in the Bored Room

Pardon the idiom, and yes, the misspelling was deliberate.  You may want to grab a sandwich, this is a long read.

For the longest time it has occurred to me that most companies find themselves in a state of what I like to label Permanent Whitewater. As they careen through the rapids, it is anybody’s guess as to whether they will capsize.  And the philistines they have appointed as commissioners would be more appropriately described as Ommissioners, as they have omitted themselves from understanding the world and leading their charges.

Now, what does that have to do with anything?  Thanks for asking.

For those of you who can find Vietnam on the map, you will recall the great turnip boycott of the nineteen seventies—I know they boycotted grapes, but I like grapes and do not like turnip, so I choose to have my own protest.  Anyway, this boycott worked, and as a result, the working conditions for migrant workers improved albeit only modestly.

And here is the kicker.  An entire industry was brought to its knees.  That is not the surprising part.  The surprising part is that all of this change was brought about at a time when there were three television channels and when people actually subscribed to newspapers.

From where I sit, social media can be divided into two camps, those who have not slept since the launch of Google+, and the far larger camp of those who have not lost a minute of sleep.  Businesses, for the most part are well entrenched in the latter group.

Part of the reason why businesses are slow to adopt social media can be attributed to their lack of belief that social media matters or can impact their business one way or the other.  And frankly, I think that has a lot to do with why our economy continues to rejoice in its malaise.

So, how to those of us in the first camp get those in the second camp to see the world our way, how do we get them to jump head-first into social media.  The answer is simple.  We need to create our own turnip debacle.

They say it cannot be done, so let us show them.  The one thing that would get companies to embrace quickly and unashamedly social media would be if there was one less company.

Companies, big ones, fat ones, firms that climb on rocks—feel free to finish the tune without my help have the following issues, they think they:

–       control their market

–       own their customers

–       are managing their customers

Companies are wrong about those three assumptions and the use of social media can and will prove this.  I would ask for a volunteer, but that would take too long.

If ABC, CBS, and NBC were able through their coverage of the grape boycott, bring about change to an entire industry, imagine with me what impact a committed bunch of savvy social media users could do to a single firm.

Here is what I propose.  Let us pick one firm.  The characteristics of this firm should be that it is well known and not well liked—this way we can argue that we acted on behalf of a greater good.  It should also be a firm associated with technology, a firm that ought to at least be able to spell social media.  If I were asked which firm I would choose I would pick a firm in some aspect of telecommunications, say a firm like Comcast or Verizon.

Now, the idea of our little social project will be to provide a heads-up to all of the other companies about the start date of our little social media experiment.  Let’s tentatively agree on the first of November unless there is a game on television I want to watch.

The goal of the project is to demonstrate that the bourgeois, the working class, with its harmless set of social media tools, can create affect enough of a disruption to an organization to make it sit up and take notice, or to disappear.

I am sure you remember the YouTube video of the Comcast technician that fell asleep on a customer’s couch.  It went viral, but Comcast did not, and that was simply a single posting by a single customer.  What would happen if the social media mavens decided to use the tools at their disposal and concentrate their efforts at or against a single firm?

Crowdsourcing 101.

I think the end result of such an effort would have a significant impact.  The impact could easily bring about more fundamental change as to how firms view and use social media than was brought about by the grape boycott.

Sometimes something has to be sacrificed on behalf of the greater good.  Although a rising tide lifts all boats, but it can ruin your day if your firm is the one chained to the pier.

What are your ideas?