Are You Afraid Technology Will Make You Obsolete? You're Not Alone

A little over a year-and-a-half ago, I wrote a column for Marketing:Health focusing on the emergence of technology-aided content personalization. It was one of my most popular essays. People either strongly agreed or disagreed with the notion that technologies that allow for the automatic delivery of personalized health information to consumers could pose a threat to marketers. 

Recently, my thoughts turned once again to the disruptive potential of technology after I read a surprising statistic from a study SAP and Oxford Economics released earlier this month. According this research, workers from around the world are much more concerned about becoming obsolete than losing their jobs. 

This is shocking. We are barely out of the economic woods and people are more concerned about the skills gap? 



Is this data surprising to you? Are you worried that your hard-earned skills haven’t prepared you for our digital future? 

I ask these questions because the Oxford Economics/SAP research clearly suggests that traditional skill-building methods (such as sending people to conferences and holding workshops) are not enough. What else should health marketers be doing to prepare for tomorrow? 

Is Self-Transformation the Answer? 

Since completing my book late last year, I’ve been paying particular attention to the top-performing people in digital health, including marketers. I’m doing this because I believe they can provide us with vital clues about how to close the digital health competency gap so many executives and leaders have told me about. 

I call these top-performing individuals “digital health mavens.” This is partly because they share a number of common traits that contribute to their success. 

Two of these mavens are Fabio Gratton and John Nosta. Both of them come from a health marketing and communications background. And, they are thriving in the digital arena. 

But, in order to succeed, Fabio and John had to transform their perspectives and careers. The following two stories will explain what I mean. 

Fabio Gratton: From Marketing Executive to Product Alchemist 

Fabio and I have known each other for some time. One thing I’ve observed about Fabio is that he’s always been interested in innovation. But, it was only after he sold his company (Ignite Health) that I witnessed a profound change in him. Freed from the rigors of agency life, he was finally able to spend time coming up with solutions to long-standing problems. 

For example, he told me how frustrated he was that it was so difficult to gather relevant patient insights quickly for time-sensitive tasks such as new business pitches and concept testing. I soon learned that he had partnered with WEGO Health, an online community platform, to develop a technology called Truvio. This tool elegantly solves the problem that had frustrated Fabio for so long. Now pharmaceutical marketers can tap into the collective wisdom of patient influencers to conduct near real-time market research. 

This may seem like a simple solution in hindsight, but if Fabio hadn’t been free to evolve his perspective and approach, Truvio would not have been born. 

John Nosta: Thinking Big About the Future of Health 

John is another marketing executive who underwent a significant transformation when he struck out on his own after years working at a major agency. 

I met John a few years ago at the South by Southwest Interactive festival. He was already a well-regarded Forbes contributor. But, from our conversation it was clear that John was hungry to make a larger contribution to the digital health arena. 

Soon after our initial meeting, John left his agency, Ogilvy, and started his firm Nosta Lab. Shortly afterward I noticed a change in John’s thinking and writing. He was tackling bigger issues, making greater intuitive leaps and developing content that was more courageous. 

For example, recently he published a brief blog post about his experience speaking at a TEDx event. Reading his words gave me a clear sense of the joy he was experiencing at finally being free to live the life he had always wanted and pursue “genius.” 

Are You Sensing a Pattern Here? 

What both of these stories illustrate is that being freed from the agency environment allowed Fabio and John to think more clearly, make profound connections and deliver higher quality product. 

Here’s my question for those of you leading and working in agencies, hospitals, consultancies and other highly structured health marketing environments: is allowing employees greater freedom to follow their instincts, explore and solve big problems one way to close the digital competency gap? I think there’s something here worth exploring further, but I’d love to hear your opinion about this.

By the way, in addition to leaving a comment on this post, please take a few minutes to listen to an interview I conducted with John about his career, work in digital health and more. It’s bound to make you think, hard. Click here to get started

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