The Inventor’s Dilemma

Great ideas have the potential to change an industry, change people’s lives, and make the world a better place. Some inventors are practical, some are dreamers, but rarely do they lack passion. The grand vision for a new product or new company can be compelling. The idea is easy to sell, and everyone sees the benefit, yet selling the solution can be very difficult and sometimes impossible. People and companies will try it and love it but won’t buy it. The healthcare industry is fraught with great ideas that don’t sell. Why?

The Status Quo is a powerful force. The busier, riskier, or more complex an industry is, the more it leans on established methods and procedures. Healthcare fits this description perfectly. A massive industry, highly fragmented and frightening risks- both human and business. It’s 2022 and most providers have electronic medical records. That’s an example of huge change, this proves that the industry can adopt new things. Not so fast, after $30 Billion of federal government subsidies and larger financial penalties imposed by CMS on providers who fail to adopt an EHR, we have paved cow paths with pull-down screens and clunky technology that digitalizes the Status Quo.

Clay Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma reveals the tension between the Status Quo and the unmet needs of the future. The Dilemma discussed in Christensen’s book is about the ability of successful companies to surrender to new innovations even if they threaten a company’s key assets or products.

A corollary to the Innovator’s Dilemma for new companies with new ideas is the Inventor’s Dilemma. Should they adopt their idea to fit the existing mode of operation even if it makes their idea, product, or solution less innovative? Should they be easier to sell? More familiar? Or do they keep their concept pure and find game-changing buyers who see the future and accept the risk of doing something dazzlingly innovative?

Value Trading Points (VTPs) help Inventors and Investors explicitly choose the sequence of their paths and understand the trade-offs. Today’s marketplace is very conservative and investors are looking for concrete market success. They are looking for price points to be validated by real customers, and market opportunities to be expressed in consummated transactions. The practical realities of today’s funding environment require new companies to pander to the Status Quo, to feed the existing inefficiency. But that does not mean that they can afford to lose sight of their Grand Vision. That although they must zig and zag they must also be moving in a bold new direction that disrupts the market. VTPs are buoys that help young companies navigate toward the open sea without hitting sandbars, islands, and larger objects like established competitors. The Harbor Pilot knows that the path from the dock to the open sea isn’t straight, but he also knows you can not putter around the Harbor zigging and zagging through trial and error and still have the resources you need to make your journey to your next port. You must have a concrete plan to get to the next port because at the next port you can


and re-equip yourself for the next leg of your journey.