Fueling the Future through Inclusive Innovation Stories with Jennifer Joe

Inclusive Innovation Stories

Untold Stories of Innovation

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“Stories are just incredibly important. They’re not just stories. They’re visions of ourselves that we need to smell. We need to see. We need to touch. And we need to believe. Stories make them believable.” —Jennifer Joe, MD & founder of MedTech Boston and Vanguard.health

From today’s episode you’ll learn:

Why do stories matter to the innovation process? What values can be instilled in innovators who share stories? How do innovation leaders inspire creators to tell and share their success and failure stories?

Jennifer Joe, MD founder of MedTech Boston, an emergency room physician at VA Boston Health Care System, and CEO of Vanguard.health tells us “medicine can be better” and that stories can empower minorities to be part of the solution. She echoes Vanguard.health’s mission to drive digital transformation through collaboration and innovation in her own stories of innovation. When teams are diverse and all voices are heard, innovation thrives. We even talk about how her mission to encourage story-sharing, to fuel innovation, is relevant in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today's Guest:
Jennifer Joe Headshot

Jennifer Joe, MD, CEO of Vanguard.Health and Founder of MedTech Boston, has been dedicated to the digital health and telemedicine community for almost 10 years, and will publish a Springer Nature textbook on these topics in the fall. Dr. Joe is a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society IT Committee, which has published best practices and resources on COVID-19, and is a practicing emergency room physician in the Boston VA Healthcare System.

Listen to the Podcast
Podcast Transcript

This episode is powered by data storytelling training from Untold Content and Data+Science. Transform your data into powerful visual stories by learning best practices in data visualization and technical storytelling. Whether you’re a PowerBI or a Tableau person—or just want to better communicate your data—this workshop will inspire you to see the stories that lie in the data. Learn more at untoldcontent.com/data-storytelling-training.

Katie [00:00:04] Welcome to Untold Stories of Innovation, where we amplify untold stories of insight, impact and innovation. Powered by Untold Content. I’m your host, Katie Trauth Taylor. Our guest today is Jennifer Joe. She is CEO of Vanguard.health and an emergency room physician at V.A. Boston Health Care System. Jennifer Joe is a LinkedIn top voice. She is putting out so much energy around innovation [00:00:33]in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. [1.6s] Jennifer, thank you for being on the podcast today.

Jennifer [00:00:38] Katie, honored to be here.

Katie [00:00:40] So how is life right now? I assume that it’s quite, quite stressful.

Katie [00:00:45] Yeah, life is stressful. We’re about three weeks in in Boston, so we started pretty early with the COVID outbreak and pandemic. And it’s been a real learning lesson for us. You know, I think there was a lot of anxiety when we first started, as I know that the rest of the country and everyone’s feelings when you’re first encountering it.

Katie [00:01:12] Sure.

Jennifer [00:01:12] I feel pretty good about it. I think, you know, we’re all dependent upon our local environments to put in the right protections in places. And there’s a lot of things that the local government is doing to protect us. So Massachusetts and Boston, I think, have very good steps. And we have a super strong hospital system that is also taking all the right steps. So I feel very good about that.

Jennifer Joe Quote

Katie [00:01:34] Good. Three weeks is an interesting moment in time with all of this. Can you tell us about sort of how—it seems like every hour, every second, things are changing. So how have things changed over the last month in your life?

Jennifer [00:01:51] So, you know, I think we’ve had a dramatic change and the US has had a dramatic change. And I think the world has had a dramatic change. It’s been a surprise. As a clinician, to see it be so profound, you know, I think New York is profound. And that’s been an interesting learning lesson. You know, as clinicians, I think we had an eye on it. We were looking at it and we were looking at the data. But, yeah, it’s a sudden, drastic, emotional change. And I think when we’re seeing it or facing it, it’s just happening so fast. And it’s scary and frightening for all of us. There’s lots of fear. You just don’t know what’s happening. You’re looking for data. You’re looking to leaders to find the right data, set the right precedents, and get the right processes in place to address it. You’re looking for leaders for transparency. Clinicians need to feel safe. The community needs to feel safe. Definitely. For me, a big thing, which I think a lot of us faced, was with COVID the older population is at great risk. And so for me personally, you know, making sure my friends and family, so specifically my parents were being safe. And that we all have experience with our lovely—they are lovely.

Katie [00:03:12] Trying to get our parents to do what we want them to do. There’s a hilarious video going around on Facebook right now of an elderly couple and the son walks up to them. This is early in the pandemic. And he says, well, guys, you’ve got two options. You can either stay here alone together. That’s option A. Or. And before he can say option B, the mother goes option B, option B. So not to make lighthearted, you know,

Jennifer [00:03:46] Though, that’s what we need. I think we all need laughter, joy, community, a sense of safety in finding our new norm.

Katie [00:03:57] Yeah. Yeah. You know, something that our team at Untold Content really admires about you is your contributions on LinkedIn. And it’s been a true—it’s been eye-opening and very compelling to see all of the updates. If you’re listening to this podcast and you’re not already following Jennifer Joe on LinkedIn, you have to do so. I’m so grateful that you’re making time to share the data and share it in compelling ways and help keep the public informed of what you’re seeing and what’s coming out on a day to day basis. Tell us a little bit about your perspective on why you’re making time to do that.

Jennifer [00:04:36] [00:04:36]So I think storytelling and getting out the right message is very important. There’s a lot of noise in our culture right now. There’s social media, there’s a lot of news noise and getting out meaningful, reliable information is difficult, especially difficult with social media and that. Scientists. I think scientists and clinicians are adapting to figuring out how to have a voice in the current communication patterns that exist. And I am very much interested in how to make a scientist and kind of, Katie, I think as you mentioned, leaders that don’t necessarily get the recognition that American culture gives other leaders—how to give them a voice and make it interesting, compelling so that we can guide the community in the right direction and give them reliable information to feel safe. [59.9s] So I think it’s incredibly important. And a big piece of that lies in the fact that I didn’t have stories growing up that resonated with me. So I think that’s interesting. Important. So I’m just gonna go through a little bit of my background to how this came about for me. So my background. I am currently in Boston and I finished training at the Harvard hospitals, which makes me seem kind of fancy. And that’s all great. But my background is I’m from Mississippi. I was born and raised in Mississippi. And my grandparents were Chinese immigrants who ran grocery stores in the Delta. So the poorest part of the United States. They had no education. They had no money when they immigrated. And they made a life. Then my parents grew up and they lived the American dream. So they went from living in poverty, running grocery stores, so small mom and pop grocery stores with an entire family of five kids and two adults packed into one room with one bathroom at the back of a grocery store running this, you know, 365 days a year. You know, 12, 14 hours a day. And they live the American dream. So they went to the public education system. They didn’t have any money and they became physicians.

Katie [00:07:17] Wow.

Jennifer [00:07:17] So having that—and if you’ve ever had an Asian or a Chinese mom, it’s a— will never accomplish what they have accomplished. It’s very—their story, I feel like, and their immigrant fear lives through me. So I was very fortunate. They’ll say that. I had them growing up and I went to medical school. I went to medical school in Mississippi. I did my internal medicine residency at Georgetown. And I did—I came up to Boston and I did my nephrology fellowship at the Harvard affiliated Mass General and Brigham and Women’s. Then after finishing that, I actually started two companies after graduation. One is a software company and one is a media company. Built them and then sold them in 2018 and integrated them in 2019. And the immigrant fear that my—we talk about more but lives through my parents and then clearly lives through my grandparents is part of me. And it haunts us. And I think part of that is that, on the flip of a dime, you can suddenly lose your career, your safety and your livelihood. I think we have seen a little bit of that in response to Chinese and American born Chinese in the US with COVID-19. So I think it’s something that I as a Chinese American have and live with. But it’s taught me two things and—or it drives me to do two things. One is a commitment to addressing and preventing social injustices. So I live my life with big dreams of improving the health care system for Americans, and I’m always working on that. But the second, which I think is particularly pertinent to this, is role models through stories. [00:09:04]So Katie, what you’re doing through this is amazing and powerful. [4.1s] So my point is, what could we do as a community if we really allowed women and minorities to build and to lead, if we really allowed them to fully contribute to science, startups, and medicine? And we know the data. The data is they’re not in leadership positions and they still aren’t getting paid. You’d think physicians would be paid equivalent to— women physicians would be paid equivalent to men. They’re not. And it’s even worse for minority women. Some of the stats say that minority women get 40 to 60 percent of what a man who’s not a minority would earn. So what could we do if we could empower women to really contribute, really build science, startups and medicine? And I say that because I started two companies and I didn’t have a story growing up, I didn’t have the ambition to start a company. It was really an accident. [00:10:14]So where were those stories of accidentally starting two companies and then finding it’s actually not as—I don’t know. Is it not as hard or do women just say after we’ve done something that it wasn’t that hard? And really we should be like, it was really hard and I’m amazing. [13.8s]

Katie [00:10:30]  I love that so much. I’m so grateful for everything that you just said. Everything from, number one, acknowledging the cultural and racial tensions that emerged around coronavirus and how—how much injustice there was and that’s the need for stories to come out, for science to be understood and be understood in a way that it does not have racist undertones. I’m so grateful that you brought that up and that you spoke to that. And then the other really critical idea that it is really the impetus, one of the impetus, behind this podcast is [00:11:08]if we hear one another’s stories, then we can believe a future is possible to do something similar, to be inspired to create, to see that, oh, even though I might not look like the majority profile of someone who would get venture capital, that I still am deserving of it—I’m still capable of that. I’m blown away that you’re able to start two companies in the midst of being an E.R. physician. [27.5s] And so can you tell us a little bit more about that? Tell us how you accidentally stumbled upon that. And I hear some entrepreneurial roots in your grandparents and your parents, but I know that’s maybe not the same exact thing as starting two tech companies.

Jennifer [00:11:52] So [00:11:52]I definitely tell the story, and I definitely feel very strongly about this, which is medicine can be better. And I started looking for innovative solutions after finishing residency and finishing fellowship. And I think it’s a lot that my generation is coming to terms with, which is—and I don’t know if it’s my generation coming to terms with because medicine’s changed or we have more women than ever before so [22.4s] this is the first time that we have more women than men entering med school, we have more minorities entering med school. And I think a lot of us have a big disappointment with health care and making sure it’s delivered to patients in a meaningful way. Meaning why don’t we have the patient physician relationship that we need and want? Why can’t we go to the patient? And why do we have so many disparities? So I definitely had that, but I never had the story or the vision ever. Starting a company—never thought about that in my life. And it was an accident. I was supporting a friend who was starting a company and I wanted to be supportive of him. And yet it grew from there. And then I found, yes—it’s not the overly ambitious “I knew I wanted to start a company from when I was eight,” which I think is something that may be a disservice that we give women is that we don’t paint that story for them and empower them and say, hey, as a woman, if you see what’s wrong, you can really do something powerful about it. At least for me, the story was I was always going to be a wife and more or less—not that a wife is bad, but like a wife in the shadow of a man. I feel like that was always the story, and I think we even see that in Hollywood in that it’s only in the last five years that we even have Hollywood stories which will have independent female leads outside of a man. So I definitely think the stories I was told I was in a shadow of a man and I feel like I didn’t allow myself the ability to creatively explore what me being an independent leader would look like. So I think we need to provide that for women. [00:14:07]And so I’m going to tell the story of what that means and what that means for women physicians, because I want to just underscore what that means. Katie, of the importance of stories for women. [10.7s] So right now, I’ve already mentioned that—it’s like 51, 52 percent women entering med school, which is the first time ever that we’ve had more women in our med school than men.

Katie [00:14:31] It’s incredible.

Jennifer [00:14:32] They’re still disproportionately reflected, and there’s various reasons, but they’re underrepresented in leadership and attending level positions. But if you think about what. Like to go to through medical school training and you’re a woman and medical school is this big pomp and circumstance and you’re going and it’s this big auditorium. [00:14:54]There’s a lot of fear and every medical student knows this, that when you walk into the classroom, you have to go to this long hallway. There’s always a long hallway. It’s often sometimes a nice prestigious hallway, but it’s always a long hallway taking you to various classes. And we all know this hallway that we’re talking about, the hallway of past leaders, where we’re walking by picture frame after picture frame after a large gold oil painted picture frame of the leader’s past. And it’s probably 20, 30, 40 photos that we pass by every day as we’re thinking about who am I going to be? What am I going to do? What kind of doctor am I going to be? And unfortunately, those leaders that are peering out at us don’t look like us. They’re very rarely women. They’re very rarely minorities. And it’s just hard for us to envision if we’re walking past that every day. Who am I? What do I look like? Can I see myself in the Oval Office? Can I see myself running a medical school? Can I see myself running a department? So stories are just incredibly important. They’re not just stories. They’re visions of ourselves that we need to smell. We need to see. We need to touch. And we need to believe. Katie, stories make them believable. [81.1s]

Katie [00:16:16] Yeah, absolutely. I love the image that, well, I don’t love the image that you painted, but I know that image so well when I was at Purdue. [00:16:24]If you walk through the school of engineering, it’s the same exact feeling of going down the engineering main hallway and all of the alum. You don’t even see the face of a woman until the 1980s. And it’s like one in a sea of male faces. And so, yeah, when you’re—when that’s the environment, when that’s the history and you’re reminded of that history constantly. And at the same time, if there’s not powerful storytelling to challenge that past and to create a culture that’s committed to doing better, improving diversity and improving inclusion and making this everyone’s story, it can be subconscious even that it can just convince you that you’re not ready to take on a leadership role. You’re not even ready to be an engineer. [47.4s]

Jennifer [00:17:12] Oh, absolutely. It’s called unconscious bias. And we have good data around that. So there are a number of women physician leaders who have quantified that, that if it lives in women even. If you just see images that are not you as leaders, you believe in it. And we have unbiased, quantified data. So there’s a lot of initiatives to flip some of those images around. So the Boston Medical Library that I was a trustee of for two years has one of those initiatives. Harvard Medical School has one of those initiatives to add photos of what different leadership looks like. Julie Silver has a campaign where women attendings, women surgeons, women medical students show what it looks like to be a physician or a surgeon. And I realized that the youth today—I’m not that old—have really challenged my bias. Right. Because even in my head, I had to realize. A lot of women attendings are smaller people. I’m a smaller frame person—but are smaller and they look younger. We talk differently and that can be a whole nother subject. We manage differently. We lead differently. We give orders differently. And me responding and understanding my own bias and recognizing that has just really struck a tone of how powerful that is and the importance of getting up different images of leadership and stories.

Katie [00:18:43] Can you tell us, was there a certain person or series of women who changed the narrative for you?

Jennifer [00:18:50] So I could talk more about Julie Silver and the inspiration that she’s been? And you can follow her on Twitter. You can look at her data and you can look at some of her beliefs in terms of making sure that we have images and stories that women can relate to, but we’re actually moving the needle in a strategic way. So I think she has been very inspirational. So I think that’s huge. I think I, in my existence, struggled and have always struggled to find women role models to look up for, to mirror, to create a story of who I would be. That’s something that I should internalize and think about why that is. And maybe, Katie, that’s that stories just aren’t as available and accessible.

Katie [00:19:43] Yeah, I mean, I think when I asked it, too, I was curious if there was a moment where perhaps—it was your parents too, but where medical school seemed possible. And then was there a moment where starting the company seemed possible? Did you have self-doubt as you started to move from a role of supporting your friend with a startup to actually founding one?

Jennifer [00:20:03] Sure. So I think it’s a woman thing. But in my house, I know that people are like, wow, Jennifer, you’ve always doubted yourself. I’ve always lived in doubt. I have never felt like—I mean, now that I’ve sold it and I have some space, I feel pretty comfortable, but probably until six months ago—and I still have a lot of doubt. And I think that doubt resides in a lot of fears and discovering who I am and who I am as a leader and what my next step is and creating a meaningful career, because I think there’s just not that many women out there. So I definitely think I’ve lived a lot of my life in doubt and want to give women the tools and the stories and the support to believe in themselves, because I think it’ll just be exponential what we create when we allow that to happen.

Katie [00:21:05] I appreciate you going there and sharing that, because it’s just statistically true that female founders are less likely to scale their companies as rapidly, they’re less likely to ask for risk capital, they’re less likely to take on loans and sort of take the same risks that their male and especially white male counterparts are more likely to take. And there are so many different factors to why things are the way they are. But one of them really is this—the way that we are more careful with other people’s money.

Jennifer [00:21:41] You’re so careful. And, you know, you don’t think women are the ultimate planners? I feel like we’re the ultimate planners.

Katie [00:21:48] Yeah.

Jennifer [00:21:49] We’re always looking for the worst-case scenario. And mean, like, here’s our five worst case scenarios.

Katie [00:21:56] Yeah. So I think that so many people and not just women—I think plenty of male colleagues can relate to this feeling of imposter syndrome. We actually with one of our clients just published the first systematic review on I’m sorry, meta-analysis on imposters phenomenon.

Jennifer [00:22:13] Yeah.

Katie [00:22:14] Yeah. It impacts everyone professionally essentially and especially minorities.

Jennifer [00:22:19] Oh yeah.

Katie [00:22:21] The gap between people who are minorities, their feelings of imposter syndrome are much greater even than the gap between men and women.

Jennifer [00:22:30] No, it’s totally true. Yeah. No, I need to just internalize and digest that. And Julie Silver also had some great points because we talk about imposter syndrome a lot. And it’s an interesting perspective. Interesting perspective, too, because I’m not totally convinced I ever had imposter syndrome, because I think I’ve always been fairly transparent about my fears and worries and like inadequacy. So if you ever do that. Dr. Joe, what are you concerned about?

Katie [00:23:02] I really love that.

Jennifer [00:23:02] Here you go.

Katie [00:23:05] Exactly. Yeah.

Jennifer [00:23:06] I’m worried.

Katie [00:23:08] Actually, too, like from a mental health perspective. That’s the treatment, right? It’s to acknowledge the feelings, be able to articulate them, accept them and put that negativity and that sort of like self-criticism. Turn the volume down on it. So there you go. Maybe you had symptoms and you self-treated.

Jennifer [00:23:29] I’ve come to terms with my constant nagging of inadequacy and never being a meaningful leader.

Katie [00:23:38] Oh, my goodness. And of course, of course. That’s not at all true. Are you in leadership positions that you didn’t anticipate being in when you started out?

Jennifer [00:23:54] Oh, yeah, absolutely. I never thought I would start and found the company. I never thought I’d be hiring. You know, when you run a company and it’s successful, you actually start hiring people. I never thought I’d sell a company. I didn’t even know what it meant.

Katie [00:24:09] I want to know more about this. Can you—.

Jennifer [00:24:10] Really? The whole accidentally starting a company?

Katie [00:24:15] Yeah. So tell us about the company, why you started it, how it came about, how it scaled, how you sold it. I would love to hear that story.

Jennifer [00:24:21] You know, I was in Boston and there’s so much innovation in Boston. And I had a good close friend who had this vision of starting a company. And I wanted to be supportive. And he was like, yeah, let’s do it. Let’s do it together. And he made me the CEO because he is like, hey, it’s a healthcare company. So I really want you to be the face of it, which is, if you were to start a healthcare company, that’s very important for multiple reasons. And, you know, at the time when it happened, it was more—you know, we were doing a number of projects and working on things and we still had full time jobs. And I said, yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll do it. I’ll be supportive. And it was more of a chief medical officer position, I think, than a CEO position. Then it turned out that I was quite good at it and enjoyed it and was quite successful. And of the numerous projects we started, the one where he had made me CEO was the most successful. So we pared down and we said, we’re gonna focus on this. And I also said, hey, you know, as a startup, I think—and as a startup, you’re always living in fear of failing. So you never have enough money and you’re always afraid that you’re not gonna make payroll. And you’re always planning for the contingency plan of shutting down and calling it a day with your company professionally for your employees. It’s a constant fear. [00:25:50]It’s profound what startup entrepreneurs do. And I [3.8s] did it for seven years. So we did that for two years. Because I said, well, if we’re going to do it and we’re going to fail—and this has always been a motto of mine—we should have given it everything and really fail. You know, let’s not do this half hearted failing. So if you’re gonna fail, you should fail with your full intentions and in full heart, because then you have no regrets, because then you look back, you say, I did everything. No regrets. We still failed, but we gave it our all. So, we did that. So we quit our full-time jobs for two years, gave it everything. And then it started becoming really successful. And we started doing really well with it. And it was in those last two to three years that I really became a CEO, meaning I was fully trained in medicine, but I’d never really looked at a budget. I’ve never really managed employees, really built a product, really managed customers, really guided a sales team. So I learned all of that in the course of two to three years, which is a lot of learning. And we became very successful. And that’s I think in the last two years was when I think you would call me a real CEO. I think before that I was definitely an impostering CEOs. In the last two years, I learned the full operations of the business. And there were a lot of learning lessons at the very end as well in terms of leading an acquisition, managing that, and then integrating into a six hundred people company and managing that transition.

Katie [00:27:45] I already hear in our conversation and through all of your content that you put out that storytelling matters in your heart. What inspired you to create a media company and what were some of the impacts you saw all around and sharing stories around medical and innovation?

Jennifer [00:28:01] Yeah. MedTech Boston was a pure passion move. So as Metro, which is a software company, was getting started. I said, you know, we’re brand new. We’re not established. We don’t have a sales team. Healthcare has this huge barrier of entry and we weren’t funded. So we didn’t have the backing of venture. One of our founders was super successful and had a really good head on his shoulders in terms of sales, building companies but in international markets, not in healthcare. So that was a real barrier. And so we saw that and we said, hey, I think one of the places that we’re going to be successful is in innovations. And people who are willing to try new things. And so that got me really involved in the digital health scene. So at the time, we wouldn’t even call it digital health. So, yes, MedTech Boston was the first ever—I’m not going to officially say it. I unofficially believe and have not gathered data to the contrary that it is the first or one of the first dedicated digital health publications before we were calling it digital health. So it was in Boston, where technology was hot. We have M.I.T. We have Harvard. We have a lot of clinicians. We have a lot of people trying to solve problems. And it was all ad hoc. We weren’t talking to each other. We weren’t coming together in a meaningful way just because we didn’t know what was happening, who was doing what. And that was the impetus for med tech Boston to be feet on the ground. What are engineers at MIT [00:29:42]doing? What are different scientists and different labs at Brigham or Harvard or Tufts doing? And how do they talk to each other, work together and collaborate in a meaningful way? [12.8s]

Katie [00:29:58] Incredible. Of course I would geek out about this. This is so incredibly exciting.

Jennifer [00:30:03] Yeah, you probably know this too. Then you have all these other media pieces. So, you know, people don’t want to read or they read in different ways. They consume information in different ways. So we were—.

Katie [00:30:18] That’s the polite way of saying that.

Jennifer [00:30:20] I’ve never liked reading. I think I’m a little dyslexic, never been diagnosed. And it was a true barrier to overcome, to become a doctor who never liked to read books.

Katie [00:30:32] You know what though, we hear that a lot with our clinical, you know, with clients who are clinicians, just the—how the amount of information you’re having to absorb in such short periods of time, the more visible or the more you can draw on data visualization or the more you can bring a story to life rapidly, the better. Right. You’re just having—it’s the type of career where you’re just constantly. It’s a constant stream of different data points and information that you’re trying to analyze and make decisions from.

Jennifer [00:31:02] Definitely.

Katie [00:31:03] So it makes sense. There’s not a lot of patience for just extremely, you know, for writing that’s not concise, let’s say it that way.

Jennifer [00:31:12] But for all of your listeners who are out there, I’m forty. So I fully trained before there were podcasts. So I was reading books.

Katie [00:31:18] Oh, my goodness, that’s incredible. So, OK, so now tell us then about Vanguard.Health and what you’re up to now.

Jennifer [00:31:26] Yes, it’s the same mission and passion. Vanguard.health is pretty new. Then it’s dedicated to solving that same problem. [00:31:36]So open innovation, how do you bring innovation communities together to create meaningful change in healthcare and life sciences? [5.7s] So one of the things that’s MedTech Boston kind of did ad-hoc. It wasn’t a focus of ours, but we did a lot of them. And that’s an interesting learning lesson as someone who’s ever started a company, which is what are your products? How many of them do you have and are you appropriately focused on your products? So we produced a lot of open innovation challenges. There’s online innovation challenges and there’s also the live events piece. And we had some customers who wanted to explore those. And so we produced open innovation challenges for them. One customer in particular, Boston Scientific, who works with Google every year, has been running an open innovation challenge in that format where they are really interested in engaging the on the ground community. And they do it through an open innovation challenge where they have open submissions for three to four months. They look at them. [00:32:36]There’s an element of crowd voting because there’s the element of we’re all working together and potentially the crowd knows, you know, more and can contribute a lot to this process. And then there’s an element of judge voting as well. And then there’s a pitch off that culminates in a live event, because I think there’s a lot of digital communications that we’re seeing. But you always need real relationships, Katie, and I think you know that. Real relationships are what the world is built on, and oftentimes that happens in real life. So we would culminate with a live event to really facilitate those real relationships and pick winners. [36.5s] So Vanguard.Health is focused on that and produces it. There’s one contract in particular that I’ve been working on that I look forward to hopefully announcing in the next few weeks.

Katie [00:33:26] Interesting. Was it a combination of providing the software to structure innovation challenges, but also the service to provide a sort of the methodology behind how to run one?

Jennifer [00:33:38] So there’s the strategy behind what you’re doing, what you’re trying to accomplish. And then the methodology of a few options of what’s been tried and trued in terms of figuring out the production and execution of what you want. There’s lots of different versions of that. I’m excited that—I think traditional businesses are migrating to that. I think we’ve all seen that. And they’re also understanding that part of [00:34:02]embracing innovation is telling their story, engaging in stories and telling stories in a more meaningful way. [5.6s] So this storytelling piece of it is also a big piece. I don’t produce podcasts and the actual producing of stories. That’s part of the contracts that we would help a customer execute on.

Katie [00:34:26] Yeah, absolutely. So tell us inside of an innovation challenge. I’ve talked with other, you know, more corporate podcast interviewees about where storytelling emerges inside their enterprise level innovation challenges. But I would love your perspective when you’re trying to create open innovation challenges across multiple players in the healthcare system. Where do you see storytelling mattering? I’m imagining especially around getting buy-in or getting champions, forming teams, that sort of thing.

Jennifer [00:34:57] I think how we communicate is drastically changing. I think the American culture needs authenticity. So I think that’s why unfiltered social media content has been so popular. I also think we need to understand who is running big companies because we need to hold them accountable. We want to see that. So I think that’s shifted and the American public wants that in terms of big companies understanding what that means, but also I think big organizations. So the federal government posted under NASA has interesting initiatives around that, too, which is understanding the importance of telling stories in a meaningful way so that people can pick up something that feels intangible or difficult to understand and do something meaningful with it. You know, I think we or at least I think of that a lot because I was always told that I wasn’t good at science or math and I would never make a good engineer. And my bad at math. I don’t know. I went through differential equations at Rice University and it was OK. I wasn’t in love with it. But was it the fact that I was just told I was bad with it and it was given to me in a way that was not exciting and maybe I could have come up with an amazing engineering product? I don’t know. So I obsess about that because I wonder that if we gave the information, scientific information and inspired people, that we could just cure cancer next year versus, you know, five or 10 years from now. So corporations and the federal government, I think, are thinking about that, internalizing that. I’m seeing really interesting, good moves by big organizations. So I definitely think they think it’s a piece of what they need to do and I’m seeing them do it and definitely embracing innovation as a piece of it.

Katie [00:36:53] Yeah, definitely. So getting back to the world that we’re in now, unfortunately, COVID-19 world, How might all of these, you know, all the need that now exists due to this pandemic—how might that play a role in the future of a Vanguard.health and in other challenges that you think you’re going to help spearhead or that you think that that we’ll see emerging over the next several months?

Jennifer [00:37:20] So now we’re going to have Jennifer predict the future. And I’m going to go through an imposter syndrome that I’m predicting the future. I don’t think I’m an expert, but maybe I am. So COVID-19 has been really hard and we’re all struggling with what we’re gonna do and how do we come out of this. And I think we’re so head down in it and creating a safe place for patients in the community that it’s hard for us to paint a picture of what the future looks like. So I think it’s early, but I definitely think it’s going to be two big things. One, I think it’s gonna be hard for conferences or large gatherings to come back. And I say that from a healthcare life-science. When do we think Boston’s going to be comfortable allowing gathering’s more than 10 or 20? I think it’s gonna be hard to have a healthcare life-science conference in Boston before 2021. It’s just gonna be hard. I could be wrong. You know, I think Q3 would be the earliest, but I would be surprised if we brought back conferences by that early and I could go through what I understand other countries have gone through in terms of getting us there. But two, I think, we’re going to get and we’re already getting much more comfortable with digital communication, so people working from home. From what I’ve seen of businesses and what’s happening is now its two things. One. Conferences used to automatically bring these high touch communities together. We don’t have that. So how do you replicate that?

Katie [00:38:55] Right.

Jennifer [00:38:57] And what does that look like? And, you know, specifically speaking, you know, probably more to small businesses, but probably large businesses do it is lead generation, finding new customers, but also just keeping in touch with customers to make sure that what you’re doing, what you’re delivering is constantly with them. So I think we’re going to see a big shift. I’m just going to say this. I’m not a large group person. I don’t like concerts. I might be an introvert. I enjoy being at home versus being in a large concert. And I’ve always just—conferences are hard for me. That’s it’s—it’s expensive. There’s a lot of travel. It’s a lot of constant interaction. I think we’re going to learn that conferences—we’re going to—something’s going to replace conferences. They might come back, but it’s gonna be [00:39:46]smaller. And we’re going to have a digital future together and we’re going to be more digitally communicating. [5.8s]

Katie [00:39:54] Yeah, I think so, too. And I’ve been excited to see even this—be introduced to new technologies, at least new to me. So our team has been working with clients to use, and setting up different online workshops using like Mural, for instance.

Jennifer [00:40:06] Oh yes.

Katie [00:40:07] We’re putting post-its up on these canvas boards and voting ideas. It’s so wonderful. It’s honestly kind of even better in some ways. And I love human to human interaction, too. I’m probably your opposite. So I’m like one hundred percent extrovert. But, yeah, I love this because you can essentially. People can recommend ideas and put up Post-it notes. And then you can start a voting session and everyone participating can vote on the best ideas. And no one’s feelings are hurt because it’s all anonymous. So they’re just really interesting things where like you try to do that in a group setting. You have no confirmation bias. You still have confirmation bias, but you have the social pressure to not offend someone. And it’s hard to say, oh, no, that idea sucks. This is the great one. [00:40:57]But that kind of technology at least empowers some different ways that we can collaborate together while we’re apart? [6.7s]

Jennifer [00:41:04] Absolutely. I love technology and I love that for a number of reasons. [00:41:09]So I built a social network and part of the online community was voting ideas up and down and also having conversations. So some of the data that we were collecting because—we talked about this sometimes—when you’re building software, you’re building bias into software. So are you building the software so that it’s creating bias, meaning am I building a social network where minorities or women are not talking as much or not heard or not being voted up? So you want to, when you’re building something like that, be really careful about it. So we were very careful about monitoring that and making sure that happened. And what we found, unofficial numbers, over, you know, hundreds to two hundred of conversations among High-Level Scientists and physicians is that it was easier for women to participate because they could participate remotely. So you’ve got their voices more often and then they tend to participate equal to men, whereas oftentimes in real life settings, women are talked over because you just can’t talk over someone digitally. Right. Like it’s a comment. It’s a comment. So I’m excited about digital communication because I think it’s an opportunity to get some good voices out there. [74.2s]

Katie [00:42:24] I completely agree with you. What an optimistic way to try to wrap up our conversation. I wish I could talk to you for days at a time. This is so wonderful. Jennifer Joe, I’m incredibly inspired by the work that you do, by your perspectives, by your commitment, by your humility too which was an unexpected and lovely and endearing. And I think we need more of that in our leadership. So there you go, embrace your humble leadership [00:42:53]qualities. And I think it’s only going to build more trust and credibility with the people who are very fortunate to be led by you. [7.8s]

Jennifer [00:43:02] Those are very kind words. Katie, I’ve been very inspired and honored to be part of this conversation. I really appreciate you reaching out, allowing my story to be told and looking forward to all the great things that you’re going to do and create. And when you inspire a generation or a community, that’s life, right? That’s what we’re living for.

Katie [00:43:25] Yeah, exactly. Thank you so much, Jennifer. I’m looking forward to continuing to follow your work. Would you tell us where our listeners can find you on social media?

Jennifer [00:43:35] You can find me on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. On LinkedIn, it’s Jennifer Joe, MD. It’s like JLo but JJoe. I have patients, older patients, who remember me by that. Not so much. So, Jennifer, Joe, J-O-E, M.D. on LinkedIn and that vanguard.health.

Katie [00:43:59] Wonderful. Thank you so much. And we’ll talk to you soon.

Jennifer [00:44:02] Thank you.

Katie [00:44:03] Thanks for listening to this week’s episode. Be sure to follow us on social media and add your voice to the conversation. You can find us at Untold Content.

You can listen to more episodes of Untold Stories of Innovation Podcast.

*Interviews are not endorsements of individuals or businesses.

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