By Steve Moran

I am a huge fan of Mark Rober, a Silicon Valley engineer turned social media star. You might know him as the guy who did the squirrel challenge course or the porch thief glitter bombs.


Some time ago he put out a video on how to skip rocks and built a rock-throwing robot to figure out the best shape and size rocks and best technique. You can watch it at the end of this article.

In this video, he lays out the four-step process he uses when creating anything new.

  1. Research. This means reading everything you can find that is related to your idea. Watch any videos, and then talk to anyone willing to have a conversation.
  2. Build a prototype. It is imperfect but cheap to build and has enough flexibility to try different things with it.
  3. Do a sensitivity analysis. Take the prototype, and then run lots of experiments with different settings and different configurations to see what matters and what doesn’t.
  4. Build the final version.

He then makes the point that most people jump straight to step 4. And when the first three steps are skipped, it either won’t work or won’t work well. He then goes on to say it is even worse if it does work. It makes the “inventor” believe they have created an optimal solution when it is not.

Skip to Step 4: Senior Living

When I look at senior living, there is a lot of skipping to step 4. It is almost shocking the lack of willingness to create low-cost prototypes, then explore all the parameters. Rather, what we see is one of two strategies:

  1. Hope. This is typical. Organizations keep doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different outcome. Mostly there is hope that the coming “Age Wave” will fix everything. The argument is going to be, “Well, senior living is real estate based, and that makes jumping to stage 4 an imperative.” 

    Not so fast.

    Ask yourself this question: Are there things you could research and prototype in your existing communities? It would be interesting to do a brainstorming session and make a list of things you could prototype in your communities. It is not just real estate. Here are some areas for exploring: dining, staffing, transportation, marketing, and sales.


    Over the years we have suggested a few ideas, as have others, and few are tried.

  2. Delusion. Some operators and developers believe they are doing things radically different and amazing, not really realizing that what they are doing is already being done, or that when they have tried something new, it has been at best incremental.

If you went through these four steps, what would you and your team come up with?