• Article
  • November 1, 2016

Q&A on Consumerism with Social Trends Expert John Gerzema

John Gerzema
John Gerzema

John Gerzema is a world-renowned social theorist on consumerism and its impact on growth, innovation and strategy. He is an expert at using data to identify social change and help companies anticipate and adapt to new trends and demands. As an author, strategist and consultant, he has given numerous TED Talks and will present the Don Black Memorial Lecture on Innovation at the 2016 Annual Leadership Conference on Nov. 7.

What are some themes you see across multiple industries? Millennial values and the rise of mindful consumption have fueled an entire market of social responsibility branding. Millennials are not only the largest group in the workplace, but they also actively champion brands and companies with a purpose.

According to our data, 63 percent of millennials would work for less money at a company whose values they admire, while 72 percent buy brands from companies who share their values. As we look to the not-so-distant future, corporate social responsibility and brand building will be the same thing.

How can health care organizations approach data when problem solving? I can imagine amazing developments in personalization, whether in medicine, genetics and care that are going to revolutionize the industry. It's probably not big data, but better data, in the kind that people can access whether doctors, nurses, plan providers, pharmacists or patients to improve decision-making, change habits, and reduce stress, cost and time to make people's lives better. This is an entirely new generation of customers coming into the industry and they will not expect business as usual.

What is your view on consumerism in health care? Imagine a $4 trillion marketplace rife with disruption, new competition and led by non-experts. It is kind of a 'the patient will see you now' world. As responsibility shifts to the people, the era to 'own your health' has begun, but we've done little to nothing to prepare people to navigate this matrix of confusion. I'm excited to see how great consumer brands might tackle this space soon.

What do you think is the greatest challenge to organizations as they pursue problem-solving initiatives in the health care industry? Building on the above, we see how Warby Parker has disrupted eyewear; Uber in transportation, and Airbnb in lodging. In a sense, your biggest challenge may be perspective: the ability to see your category the way a disruptor would.

In what areas of the health care industry do you think that these ideas will be most influential? Navigating the system for one, followed by ways that technology can enhance health, whether by giving people control over their health and wellness management, or by helping them build communities of support. Patient care from drugstore-style clinics to apps and other platforms will become ways to simplify a process that's as painful as being sick in the first place.

Explain the idea of the Athena Doctrine principle. We live in a world that's increasingly social, interdependent and transparent. And in this world, feminine values are ascendant. We surveyed 64,000 people around the world to reveal that feminine skills and competencies are now more desired than the macho paradigm of the past.

The most innovative among us are breaking away from traditional structures to be more flexible, collaborative and nurturing. And men and women are adopting this style, which emphasizes cooperation, long-term thinking and flexibility. Informally, and in countless ways, they are following the Athena Doctrine, named after the Greek Goddess, the warrior whose strength came from wisdom and fairness.

How can this be applied to health care? I can't think of a more human category than health care. What you provide is collaboration, nurturing and empathy. And in this, the most emotional of need states, there is a long way to go to making it more human for more people.