In conversation with: Scott Hawkins, MOBE’s Chief Strategy… | MOBE

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In conversation with: Scott Hawkins, MOBE’s Chief Strategy Officer and Chief of Staff.

Scott Hawkins is MOBE’s Chief Strategy Officer and Chief of Staff. Before joining MOBE (then as Vice President of Strategy and Product Solutions), he held senior-level positions at Medtronic, J.D. Power and Associates, and Harris Interactive. He has degrees in medical microbiology and biotechnology.

In this article, MOBE’s Scott Hawkins talks about his career, business life lessons, advice for cost leaders, and his hopes for what MOBE can achieve in the next decade.

To get started, tell us a little about what you do in your two roles at MOBE.

Scott Hawkins: The Chief of Staff and Chief Strategy Officer roles have a lot of overlap. Mostly, I spend time with Mike Ott, our CEO, talking about everything going on in the business and helping the organization stay focused on our priorities. We also spend a lot of time thinking about the future, including our quarterly, annual, and multi-year strategies. In my Chief Strategy Officer role, I also think about the products we’re trying to build and look for business opportunities in the market.

You have degrees in medical microbiology and biotechnology—so you’ve been interested in health care from the beginning. What drew you to health care, and how did you wind up at MOBE?

SH: I got into health care because I wanted to help people. I originally thought I’d go to medical school, but after earning my master's degree in biotechnology, I worked at a company where we were developing decision-support tools to help doctors treat patients with cancer in a data-driven way. It was a good mix of science and business, which I discovered I had a knack for, and I found it very fulfilling. It helped me appreciate that there are many ways to help people. After that, I spent time doing primary market research, interviewing stakeholders (primarily patients and health care providers), to understand their needs and discover innovative ways to address them. This helped me discover the power of data in driving strategic decisions.

Eventually, I put everything I’d learned in science, business, and market research together at Medtronic. We conducted research, designed products, monitored market trends, and introduced innovative products into the market. At Medtronic, I also learned that patients needed more than just the device to feel healthy. They had complex needs that required a holistic approach. So, when I learned about MOBE, it aligned with my values. It was clear that MOBE was treating the whole patient in a personal and compelling way. MOBE filled a gap I felt was missing in my career and the health care industry as a whole.

MOBE is experiencing rapid growth and has ambitious goals on many fronts. How would you describe your experience working within a growth company?

SH: I love working at MOBE. I honestly love it. The mission motivates me every day and I enjoy being part of our growth. Throughout my career, I’ve always been a part of a company that is in growth mode or turnaround mode. At MOBE, we’re looking for ways to accelerate our growth, which feels different, and it's just a lot of fun to come in every day and think about: How do we do things better? How do we serve our clients better? How do we serve our participants better? The great thing about MOBE is that the best ideas always rise to the top.

When I worked at large, publicly traded companies, they gave me a lot of wonderful experiences, and I met really, really good people. However, at those large companies, the orientation toward quarterly results was often destructive to creativity and sound business decision-making. I haven’t felt that at MOBE. We do the things that will help us to accelerate our growth, and we're going to do them quickly. That's very refreshing.

What has been your proudest moment at MOBE so far?

SH: I have to say it was when we were working with a large health plan client, and we did a case-control study. We randomized a portion of their population into a control group and others into a treatment group that received MOBE’s services. The results came back showing that we were driving significant savings. That was probably the proudest moment for me because I realized that our program was having an impact in a very scientific and controlled way. That allowed me to have confidence in our ability to deliver on our mission to guide people to better health and more happiness, and to do it without adding cost to the health care system.

Cost leaders at health plans and employers are under pressure to manage costs while ensuring people have options for care. What do you say to those cost leaders?

SH: That’s a tough question, especially in health care, because health care costs continue to skyrocket. They’re unsustainable. There are several competing priorities or orientations within the health care system that continue to stifle efforts to lower costs. Most people want to do the right thing for patients, but it’s easy to get caught up in the allure of excess profits. Everyone is trying to get a bigger slice of the multi-trillion-dollar health care pie—sometimes with products that don’t produce good outcomes. That has to change.

So, if I were advising cost leaders, I would tell them to focus on outcomes. Their choices must come down to making tough, data-driven decisions. At MOBE, we have sound data and science that help us understand what good outcomes look like and what’s driving those outcomes. We know we're lowering costs and we are doing it with a human-centric approach, with people caring about people. We’re helping people think about their health care differently, creating behavioral change, and making things better.

You’re a leader at MOBE, and you’re also a leader at your church. How do your different leadership positions complement each other? What lessons have you learned?

SH: I attend a church that doesn’t have a paid clergy, so the members are given responsibility over local congregations. I've been given the opportunity to have several leadership roles, and they’re great learning opportunities. Right now, I oversee several congregations in Minneapolis.

I would say what I’ve learned the most through my church leadership opportunities is the importance of humility—that a leader doesn't always have to have the answer. In fact, most of the time you won’t. But by being a good listener and being inclusive—making sure that you're hearing a lot of different perspectives—you can make informed decisions that everyone feels good about. I try to apply those same principles at MOBE. I don't always have to know the answer. I know I’m surrounded by smart and capable people. And together we will likely find a better solution than I could come up with on my own.

In your position, you’re a mentor to many people. What do you tell people who ask for career advice?

SH: I’ve found the orientation of people who ask that question is often, “What do I need to do, personally, to advance in my career and climb the ladder?” Over my career, what I’ve learned is that you’ll be most successful if you put the patient first, put the customer second, the company third, and yourself fourth. It’s not always about “me.” When you do the right thing for the right reasons, good things will come of it—good products for the patient and good results for the customer. As a result, the company will ultimately thrive, and you’ll be a big part of that. As the company grows, great things will come to you as well. This takes patience and persistence. But if you start with, “How can I climb the ladder? What do I need to do to get ahead?” Oftentimes, you’ll fall short because that's not really what it's about.

Looking back over your career so far, what is a key lesson you’ve learned about business?

SH: I’ve been a part of several different companies now, both public and private organizations. In each case, there were major issues that needed to be addressed. That doesn’t mean that the company was unsuccessful or on the wrong track. It just means there are always challenges to solve. In those times it’s important to keep things in perspective—the sky isn’t falling. Organizations need steady hands and fierce prioritization. The most impactful solutions will often be the simplest ones.

Fast forward 10 years. What do you hope MOBE will have accomplished?

SH: Ten years down the road, I hope several things have happened. MOBE will be seen as a company that has driven meaningful behavior change for our participants. And as a result of that behavior change, we have removed costs from the health care system at the individual level. I also hope that in 10 years, we don’t look back and say we changed our model for scale or efficiency purposes.

Another thing that attracted me to MOBE is that our business model is about people working with people. We aren’t just another digital health app. Our Guides spend a lot of time with our participants trying to understand who they are and what’s happening in their lives. We help them set goals, see progress, and be accountable to make changes in their lives that have meaningful impacts. My hope is that 10 years from now, we will have changed a lot of people’s lives for the better. And that we will have created a sustainable behavior change model that’s driving down costs and contributing to the solution to what ails our health care system.

Find out more about MOBE, including how we deliver on our mission to not add cost to the health care system.