By Steve Moran

Google has an internal incubator they have named “X,” also referred to as the Moonshot Factory. They are focused on discovering/creating radical new technologies that will solve some of “the world’s hardest problems.”

Monkeys and Pedestals

Whenever they start down a path, they think in terms of monkeys and pedestals, like this: Imagine for a moment that you want to train a monkey to juggle flaming torches while standing on a pedestal in a public park. I mean, you could attract a huge crowd and get people to pay real money to see this spectacle.

There are two parts to making this happen:

  1. Training the monkey
  2. Making the pedestal

The question for you is this: Which would you do first?

Most people would start by building the pedestal because it is a no-brainer. In fact, you could just go buy one at any party store, craft store, or home improvement store. Except this is wrong thinking because if you can’t train the monkey to juggle flaming torches, the pedestal has no value.

This seems obvious, but it really isn’t. Just one example: California has for 20 years been working on a plan to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area. They have already spend $10.3 billion on the project, and it is not even close to completion. An honest assessment would suggest the whole thing is doomed.

There are three big problems (three flaming monkeys):

  1. Political jockeying, which has made the route unnecessarily long and complex
  2. Getting through the Northern California hills
  3. Getting through the Southern California mountains

Rather than figuring out how to solve any of these three problems, the state decided to build the first 120 miles or so down the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, where the building is easy but the need is next to nothing.  They are building the pedestal, which means more wasted money.

Senior Living and Pedestals and Monkeys

As senior living owners operators, I find myself wondering if we are spending too much time building pedestals rather than figuring out how to train monkeys, which means we have some of the best pedestals in the world, but no one is really all that impressed.

Here are the big problems we need to solve first:

  1. Making senior living more affordable
  2. Creating great life experiences for residents, families, AND TEAM MEMBERS
  3. Actually telling our story
  4. Really keeping our residents safe
  5. Integrating with the health care system in a meaningful way

Don’t get me wrong — these are big issues that seem intractable, but when we get them right, people will flock to senior living.

A footnote: Thanks to Annie Duke, the author of the book Quit, for inspiring this article.