Old School v. New School

Old School v. New School

This morning Google and GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) announced the formation of Galvani Bioelectronics. According to a story posted by Reuters; “The line between pharmaceuticals and technology is blurring as companies join forces to tackle chronic diseases using high-tech devices that combine biology, software and hardware.”

While not directly related to this there was an excellent Op-Ed piece in today’s Wall Street Journal entitled “How I Was Wrong About ObamaCare” penned by Dr. Bob Kocher. This excellent piece contains the following passage and without knowing it Dr. Kocher aptly describes why old school diabetes companies are about to get run over by the new school diabetes companies. Dr. Kocher states; “Small, independent practices know their patients better than any large health system ever can. They are going up against the incumbent and thus are driven to innovate. These small businesses can learn faster without holding weeks of committee discussions and without permission from finance, legal and IT departments to make a change.”

Now there is no way we would classify Google or any of their neighbors in Silicon Valley as small businesses. However even with their size and vast amounts of cash they are not infected by the inertia virus that seems to have infected every major old school diabetes company. They are not sitting around in meeting after meeting, watching an endless series of PowerPoint presentations, with endless circle backs and follow up which only lead to more meetings. They have a vision of the future and they are taking action to match their business strategy with that vision.

We assume it is possible that Google and their neighbors also have these same procedures but even if they do they are not infected with another virus, indecision. They are not kicking the can down the road, analyzing and then reanalyzing and then just for good measure reanalyzing one more time before then doing …..nothing.

There is a reason that epicenter of diabetes innovation has moved from places like New Brunswick and Indianapolis to Mountain View and the Bay Area. There is a reason these companies with deep and proud histories in diabetes will cease to exist as we know them if they fail to act. That for all their talk about diabetes echo systems that’s all it is talk and as Momma Kliff used to say; “Anyone can talk a good game but until they are willing to play in the game that’s all that it is, talk.”

Now we understand that it is not easy to adapt to change nor is it made any easier many of these companies must protect legacy franchises built on an old system. However, this still does not excuse their inability to make a decision, to chose a vision of the future and go after that vision. We hate to say this but the best example we can use to illustrate the depth of this problem is to think about kids playing with new toys and no adults in the room. As any parent knows this is a recipe for disaster and likely will lead to injuries, broken toys and a few altercations. With no adult supervision kids will be kids.

What is desperately needed here is adult supervision, someone who will listen patiently, consider all the options but then do what adults do – make a damn decision.

The harsh reality here is that Google or their neighbors have no idea whether their vision of the future will come to be. Yet they seem to be living by an old saying that has been lost on old school companies – “we are planning for the future because that is where we are going to be living.” Today it seems as many old school companies are living by another old saying “we are running away from a problem by avoiding the problem and not making any decisions at all. Heck if we don’t make a decision there is no way it can be the wrong decision. So let’s sit around and talk about this again because after all talk is cheap.”

It is for this reason, this inability to take action we see many of these old school companies getting run over by the tech freight train. And quite frankly like so many other things when it’s over they will have no one but themselves to blame. Everyone and we do mean everyone sees what is going on, the changes that are taking place and who’s driving this change. Yet not everyone can deal with it and adapt to change.

So go ahead have another meeting, discus it again, circle back and meet yet again. By the time a decision is made to get on the train it will long gone from the station and it won’t be coming back.