How to Create Cluster Clutter

How to Create Cluster Clutter

Digital health ecosystems have spread around the world. Like all clusters, they have a life cycle that starts with koombaya and the enthusiasm of creating something new and exciting but, unfortunately, at some point , devolve into conflicting interests who seem more interested in WIIFM with consequent confusion or blurring of the original vision, mission, values, value proposition, business model and leadership challenges. Nascent centripedal forces pulling people towards a common goal turns into a centrifugal force pulling them apart into their own universe as the digital cosmos expands.

The results are the 6 dysfunctions of communities:

Dysfunction #1: Low Awareness or Understanding

  • The intended member of the community of interest is unaware that you exist or misunderstood what you do or how you work or your competitive strategy or vision. They think they are laying brinks when, in fact, they are building a cathedral.
  • Solution: Active online communications about vision and how they contribute to the big picture.

Dysfunction #2: Wrong Value Proposition fit to stakeholders

  • What you are offering does not meet expected jobs, resolve pains or offer enough expected gains or coincide with their values
  • Solution: Craft the right value proposition for targeted customer segments

Dysfunction #3: Lack of Trust/Interest

  • Potential stakeholders don’t want to engage if they don’t trust you or are not interested in what you have to offer
  • Solution: Build trust by saying what you’ll do and doing what you say

Dysfunction #4: Poor Relationships

  • Thus, prospects don’t want to risk their emotional investment in the community
  • Solution: Build both the quality of the relationship and quantity of the community of interest by paying attention to members

Dysfunction #5: Lack of Engagement

  • Those who are connected do not actively engage
  • Solution: A strategic communications and engagement plan moving them from awareness to relationship to engagement to advocacy and hiring someone with the talent and skills to execute it

Dysfunction #6: Failed Mission

  • The community of interest is unable to achieve its mission due to lack of engagement, alignment and ability to execute and failure to think strategically.
  • Solution: Reset and rethink your value proposition, business model and execution strategy

Like most startups, accelerators are driven by the vision and energy of their founders So, when that energy or enthusiasm wavers, or, if, as a result of the changing environment or stage of development, competing entities become more attractive, the founders leave. They generally do so because they like to create things, not run things.

Reversing this law of cluster physics requires constant vigilance or energy, lest the ecosystem suffer from the inevitable entropy. The key is to ask some strategic questions from each component of the cluster:

  1. Is the existing business model still viable?
  2. What do you do best and what should be delegated to others?
  3. What are the KPIs, output and impact you have created so far?
  4. Does the leadership team need to be supplemented or replaced?
  5. How do you encourage outside in participation from members of other clusters that will drive progress, like aerospace, materials science or cybersecurity?
  6. Should your organization be given a merciful death, rebranded or repurposed?
  7. How successful have you been in getting, keeping and growing your members?
  8. Do you have a sustainable revenue model and pricing structure?
  9. Do you have enough investor, public sector, non-profit and academic support?
  10. How successful have you been promoting equity, diversity and inclusion?
  11. How would you describe the information rheology in your cluster?
  12. Does your cluster need a culture check?

Like a start up company, at some point, early digital health clusters and ecosystems need to figure out how to scale and figure out what they want to be when they grow up. Otherwise, like we are seeing now, the universe just gets filled with zombie entities spinning in their own orbits creating just a bunch of cluster clutter and space trash.

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Arlen MyersArlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at

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Arlen Meyers

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is an emeritus professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine ,teaches bioentrepreneurship and is Chief Medical Officer for Bridge Health and Cliexa. He is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at and author of the Life Science Innovation Roadmap.




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