Getting Organized

By Mike Mackert 

As we look ahead to 2018, I’ve been thinking a lot about where the Center for Health Communication (CHC) is going, how we can best organize our team to get great work done, and how that organization can also keep the work fun and invigorating.

Over the holiday break I was listening to the NPR TED Radio Hour show Getting Organized. One segment was about how ant colonies organize themselves without any visible leadership (see: The Emergent Genius of Ant Colonies). Another speaker on the show talked about how he applied some of the same ideas to running a company, and it came up again when the founder of Patagonia was on NPR How I Built This (Patagonia: Yvon Chouinard). The Patagonia founder was particularly entertaining talking about this, as he worked hard to hire incredibly independent, self-driven team members who knew what work needed to be done and could organize themselves to do it. They were successful at Patagonia, but according to an outside consultant basically couldn’t work anywhere else.

One of the things that can be exciting about health communication is the diversity of the work. We have teams working on everything from improving communication training for pharmacy students to promoting a tool for prescribers to address the opioid epidemic in Texas to developing an app to engage men in prenatal health. Some of the team members are working on multiple projects, which coalesce for the duration of a project and can move on to other things when the work is done. It’s an ongoing organizational challenge, but it keeps the work highly diverse and lets us think about research, education, and community involvement across many populations and health conditions.

The CHC has a start-up mentality, and we’re constantly experimenting with better ways to work together and serve the missions of the Moody College of Communication, Dell Medical School, and UT-Austin more broadly. I listen to a lot of podcasts, but lately I’ve found NPR How I Built This to be helpful thinking about our ongoing growth. It’s definitely worth a listen – the interviews are fun, engaging, and educational. A couple favorite episodes include Nolan Bushnell (Atari and Chuck E. Cheese) and Howard Shultz (Starbucks).

2017 was a remarkable year for the CHC, and we’re all looking ahead to an exciting 2018!