When I was first invited by DVM Newsmagazine (Now DVM360) to write a column for their magazine, I stalled for time. “Let me think about it,” I said.
I was honestly pretty unsure about my ability to write 12 columns in a year that would actually make sense, provide some value to at least a few of the readers, and not make me look like an arrogant ass as a first year veterinarian providing advice to people who had a ton more experience and knowledge than I did.
A week later, I responded to the opportunity. “I’m really busy,” I lied. “How about I write a column every other month for a year and we’ll see how it goes?”
My plan was to write six things and then resign under the cover of claiming my schedule was simply too hectic. No one would know I was totally out of ideas and had nothing left to say.
Well, that was 14 years ago and well before I began writing something weekly in addition to keeping a column at Today’s Veterinary Business going. Now, one of the questions I get asked most often is “how do you keep finding things to talk about?”
One answer is that I often smoosh things together. I take two ideas, one that is relevant to what I’m trying to do and another that is not, and try to squish them together in my mind until they are something useful. Last week, I smooshed together training veterinary teams with the Barbie movie and the Duolingo app. Earlier this year, I squished together a failed hunt for a moose with finding happiness in practice. I honestly think that one of the best ways to make something new is by combining two things that are both interesting.
So why am I talking about all of this? The same technique that I use to try to make things worth reading works beautifully to innovate almost everywhere else. Want to make your front desk experience flow better? Think about how you could squish your front desk together with a customer service experience you had at Disney World. Want to get the attention of new clients? Take what is great about your practice and smash it together with what you see the positive brands on Instagram doing.
There’s no set system for how to innovate. If there was, it wouldn’t be innovation. Just remember that you don’t have to be given permission to try new things, and you can always pilot things in your practice and then go back to the old way if they don’t work.
So what are you going to smoosh together? What makes you happy outside the practice that you could combine with an aspect of work inside the practice? Maybe roller skates in exam rooms aren’t a great idea… but what would a veterinary drive through look like?