Regardless of where you work in healthcare, it can be a struggle to break through existing barriers and structures to implement new ideas. This is particularly true in the areas of marketing and strategy in the healthcare industry. When this roadblock proves unyielding, some may accept the status quo and stop trying to spark change. But that doesn’t mean the quest for new approaches and understanding of differing ideas should cease.

While on the surface they may appear at times to be stagnant or steeped in bureaucratic resistance, the fact is that the worlds of healthcare marketing and strategy are actually ripe with opportunities to evolve–provided you approach them through the correct lens. And that lens is empathy.

Empathy and the “Beginner’s Mind”

If you look it up in Webster’s dictionary, empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”. Pretty simple, right? Ok, so empathy is a mindset. It’s a sensitivity to the challenges and needs of others. It’s the capacity to “experience” or “share” the feelings of others. But it’s also a commitment to knowing them… and ultimately understanding them. We ask, we listen, we explore, we discover. Discovering unexpected opportunities and rethinking the familiar depends on curiosity.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Another concept that can be particularly helpful as you seek to freshen your perspective without straying too far from your strategic imperatives is employing a “beginner’s mind.” This idea, born in-part out of the Zen Buddhist framework of Shoshin, compels even experts to approach the world around them with openness, eagerness, and a lack of preconceptions–much like a child views the world around themselves.

Embrace Empathy and Think Differently

Whether you’ve been on the job eight years or eight months, never lose the fresh-faced wonder and curiosity of being new to the scene.  Follow these five steps to ensure you approach your role as healthcare marketer or strategist with fresh, empathic eyes:

Connect with Your Purpose

Do you remember why you started down your career path in the first place? Was it to help people learn about medical treatments available at a state-of-the-art facility? Was it to effectively communicate and reach the public about health and wellness? Was it to fundamentally change the face of wellbeing the world over? Remembering the “why” behind the career choice, what inspired you, and what felt important can help you rekindle the excitement and purpose you once felt.

Connect with Your Organization’s Purpose

What are your healthcare institution’s purpose and mission for growth? Tapping into your organization’s vision, values, and goals provides a connection to the mission, allowing you to look ahead with renewed insight. By learning where your healthcare institution has been and where it hopes to go, you widen your understanding. From there you can see if you’re reaching those goals, and decide if your current actions support the vision. If you’re unsure that your actions line up with overarching purpose, find opportunities to improve, define barriers and draft plans to overcome.

Uncover the Strategic “Why”

What is driving your strategic imperatives? Are you establishing the organization as a thought leader? Are you revamping existing marketing efforts to obtain a greater reach? Maybe redesigning brand and voice? Or are you simply trying to be a healthcare brand that stakeholders feel they can come to, no matter the need, concern, or joy, to receive empathy and compassion? Stay in touch with the marketing initiative. Keep the goal in sight, but question existing parameters to allow room for change.

Create Challenges for Growth and Learning

No matter your role within your organization, you should always be on the lookout for new information. Seek out training seminars or workshops and ask for departmental approval to host internal training for the team. Spend time learning about unfamiliar stakeholders inside and outside of your organization by actually engaging in conversation. Broadening the horizons and exposing yourself to new ideas can yield great learnings while at the same time help you to overcome the inherent biases born out of your own personal experiences.

Make Yourself Uncomfortable

Many people find comfort in routines. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Innovation, however, can’t coexist with complacency. It is uncomfortable to abandon what we know; to perform an objective analysis into the ‘why’ behind the work that we produce, the messages we transmit, the implications of the interactions we orchestrate. Don’t settle for being comfortable with processes and procedures—the comfort we abandon when centering design at the core of our strategic impetus. Step outside yourself and your team and view marketing initiatives as a patient or potential consumer. Find flaws, ask probing questions, and praise successful endeavors.

Why now?

Humility, curiosity, and extreme stakeholder empathy are the cornerstones to human-centered work, and this fact rings particularly true when it comes to marketing in the healthcare industry. It’s not always easy, but if it feels uncomfortable, we know we’re challenging the status quo.

Healthcare marketers of all backgrounds are at a turning point where the world as we know it and understand it has fundamentally changed and a firm grasp of the past will no longer be enough for us to effectively face the future. Consumers are making healthcare decisions through a lens never before seen in our lifetimes, and the way we affect those decisions must acknowledge that fact.

In short, there has never been a better time to take a step back and look at your work as a healthcare marketer and strategist with fresh eyes.

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