Checklist

Putting my nose to the grindstone for Humaginarium

During the past week of travel in Scotland, I was reminded every day of The Checklist Manifesto, the book by Dr. Atul Gawande that recommends the use of checklists in complex situations like an OR or airplane cockpit. For years I’ve used the Wunderlist app to make and manage lists of practically everything I set out to do. I don’t know if I could function these days without it! Even when traveling last week, starting each day with a neat list on my phone of goals to accomplish, whether large or small, and ending the day by making a fresh list; well, there is nothing more satisfying than that – except maybe a wee glass of Aberlour A’Bunadh before a hearty dinner of Scotch chicken and leek pie.

My checklist for the next four months is going to be broken down into daily milestones that I must meet before I turn in each evening. I am coming to the start of a nasty nose-to-the-grindstone quarter for Humaginarium, exciting and dreadful at the same time.

Wait, isn’t that what every quarter is like for a startup? Well no, not for this one. I love keeping lists, but I also love “slack time”: leaving plenty of play in every day for work that is not consciously goal-oriented; for example, writing this blog. My most satisfying accomplishments are often randomly inspired and unplanned. Alas, there won’t be much of that for the rest of this year.

My top priorities are to finish writing two grants – one to the NSF, the other to the NIDDK – for Phase 1 SBIR funding of R&D. The grants are more than seed funding; they are blueprints for an enterprise that will ascend in 2020 like a hot air balloon, with me and my colleagues in the basket holding on for dear life. I’ve been working on the grants for a while, but somehow not taking them seriously enough. They have not been properly committed to checklists! Now the time has come to get very serious. These grants are not quick wins or slam dunks. They require meticulous planning and writing, the kind I can do when I’m not enjoying myself very much. Oh well, nose-to-the-grindstone.

In the same period I will also facilitate a new cohort of experiential learners at the Northern Illinois University College of Business. These undergraduate business majors will be directed by Humaginarium and a team of financial consultants in Chicago and San Francisco who like what Humaginarium is doing with health promotion and video games. We’re going to study and make better sense of things like valuation and commercialization, if that’s not biting off too much between now and the end of the year.

A different cohort is likewise forming as I write this, one with enormous potential value if managed well. It’s a Circle of Industry Advisors including corporate stakeholders at provider, supplier and payer organizations who are strategically committed to my four pillars: health promotion, health education, health literacy and health equity. You know, the important stuff that I care so much about, but is hard for most folks to monetize even in their heads. The stakeholders will help ensure that Humaginarium moves the needle of population health in ways that industry endorses. I am not looking for funding from the Circle, just knowledge and brand equities.

That is an overview of my current checklist. Will I do just this and nothing more? Well, there’s one more little thing that may be added. Humaginarium was asked to create an innovative module of continuing medical education for practitioners of a medical specialty. I’ve been slow to take this up because it doesn’t feel particularly altruistic; in other words, it’s work for a fee and it isn’t likely to change the world for the better.

For reasons unknown to me at the present moment, altruism has become almost a filter that I use to evaluate opportunities. This is very strange, to put it mildly. It may be because I am painfully alienated by the economics of American health care. They are pretty disgusting and dispiriting, and I don’t like getting my hands soiled with them.

Yet the prospect of making boatloads of money from consumers with health problems is a key driver of Humaginarium. I’d better put that goal on a checklist so I can chunk it down to bites I can swallow, maybe with the help of Aberlour A’Bunadh.