How a strategy co-lab helped Adam Simson's Medibank team think differently
Testing ideas with Melbourne Business School professors is helping one of Australia's largest health insurers navigate COVID-19.
After completing a Full-time MBA, Adam Simson secured his dream job – working in New York and Hong Kong, including a vice president role with top investment bank Goldman Sachs.
While he enjoyed the world of finance, Adam couldn't resist the opportunity to test his skills in a new sector. He was approached to join the CEO’s team at Medibank, working on firmwide strategy for one of Australia's most iconic companies.
Last year, Adam took on a new challenge – heading a team of more than 40 which support Medibank's Health Solutions division. This year, they’ve been put to the test by COVID-19.
"We've worked alongside our clients in the government, businesses and not-for-profit sectors as they adapt and expand vital health support services for those in the community struggling with the impacts of the pandemic," he says.
"And we had to do it all in a matter of days, not weeks or months."
Adam had wondered what other leaders were doing to support the community during COVID-19, so he reached out to the Career Management Centre to reconnect with his Melbourne Business School network.
That conversation led to an online "co-lab" with members of Adam's Medibank leadership team and two Melbourne Business School strategy professors, Geoff Martin and Kwanghui Lim.
Together, the group discussed what kind of thinking was needed to best cope during times of crisis, and how it could be incorporated into Medibank's approach.
"Kwang and Geoff challenged us to be bold when meeting the future health needs of all Australians not just Medibank customers," Adam says.
"Just as the GFC was a tremendous learning opportunity, so too is COVID-19, and I don't want my team to miss a trick. Seeking out different perspectives and being intellectually curious is critical to this."
Adam says the Medibank/MBS co-lab was a productive meeting between leaders facing real challenges and experts with real knowledge of identifying the best responses. He says its biggest value came from encouraging his team to think differently.
"For me, it was as much about reiterating to my team the importance of thinking outside the box," Adam says.
"I think, sometimes – particularly with Australian corporates, much more than those overseas – there's a tendency to be a bit insular. But seeing the bigger picture, and having a broader perspective is important. We took away a bunch of things from the co-lab that we're going to follow up on."
Curiosity is a trait that has served Adam well, from his time studying at Melbourne Business School to working overseas for Goldman Sachs.
"As one of the youngest students in my class, I took away just as much from my classmates as I did the incredible MBS faculty. Their insights added real depth and global perspective to what we were learning," he says.
"Shortly after my time at MBS, I was offered the opportunity to relocate to New York and later Hong Kong with Goldman Sachs. My five years abroad taught me a lot personally and professionally – in particular, how much I enjoy variety, be that working with different types of people, clients, businesses or cultures.
"This extends to sport and competition, which has always been important to me when balancing my work life. I grew up playing and coaching Aussie rules football, and while living overseas got into endurance events, which are a great physical and mental test.”
Adam is an avid ultra-marathon runner who has competed in some of the toughest races globally. Last year he ran the Western States 100 Endurance Run in the US, which is the oldest 100-mile race and pinnacle of the sport.
The chance to join Medibank gave Adam an opportunity to apply the skills he honed while studying a Full-time MBA to new challenges in a completely different sector.
"Making the move to Medibank has really enhanced my experience and skill set," he says.
"Goldman Sachs gave me a strong financial and analytical foundation, while Medibank has complemented this with hands-on experience in strategy, operations and business transformation."
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Medibank has set up new telehealth and homecare services and recruited over 500 additional frontline clinicians. The Medibank Health Solutions business alone has handled more than a quarter-of-a-million interactions about the pandemic so far.
"What I'm most proud of is how my team has risen to the challenge," Adam says.
"We've actually seen our team's engagement metrics increase through this period to reach record highs. We’ve worked hard to not lose sight of our team’s personal health and wellbeing initiatives. I also think this speaks to the pride in what we're doing to support the community."
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