Innovation is Not Extra Credit

From the Center for Higher Ambition Leadership’s CEO Video Series – Douglas Wilson interviews Lou Shapiro, CEO of HSS – the top U.S. hospital for musculoskeletal health.

Doing the same thing better, time after time, is ultimately a prescription for failure. Why?  Because people outside your company will figure out a better way and beat you. We see it all the time, in every industry. CEOs and boards who believed they could maintain their market-leading position through incremental change. They often say, “No one saw it coming.” That is a rationalization. Those who are forward looking enough to plan for major change can transform their companies and create new value.  

Lou Shapiro, CEO of Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City, is definitely a forward-looking CEO. He understands innovation and the need to be a continual learner. HSS is the number one-rated hospital in the U.S. in orthopedic surgery. No one does it better! With all of their success, Lou still told me, “The riskiest thing we can do now is to try and stay the same.” 

Watch the brief video clip of my interview with Lou at HSS. Lou is a perfect example of the CEO leader who is not looking in the rear view mirror at what the company has done well, but is looking out with “headlights” to ask “what do we need to do next to retain our superior position in the marketplace.”  

He’s leading the transformation to evolve their business model so that their influence and economics come from What We Know, rather than the old model of What We Do.

Hear Lou talking about innovation in this brief clip (2:45).

The sub-text of what is not seen in the interview is Lou’s capability as a CEO.  I’ve come to know him over time, and here is what I observe:

  1. He commits to spending serious time studying options for the future. The status quo is not an option.  
  2. He is crafting a compelling vision for where the organization needs to head. He communicates this vision over and over. 
  3. He is building a team of people around him, both internally and externally, who are the forward-looking thinkers.  

Watch clips of the full video interview here.

Perhaps most importantly, what stands out the most for me is that Lou Shapiro is a continuous learner. He sees the value of being with other capable CEO’s and thought leaders, learning from their mistakes and successes. He looks to their counsel to help him craft the long-term strategy of his organization. He does not get bogged down with the day-to-day operations but insures he can do what is the most important job of any CEO – build for the future and leave the company in good hands at the end of his or her tenure.