Thinking outside the box? Decorate it instead

If the phrase “culture of heroes” (not to mention “apple pancakes” and “Mr. Delicious”) mean nothing to you, chances are you missed keynote speaker Kevin Brown, at AAHA Nashville 2017.

Fortunately, you’ve got another chance: Based on overwhelming positive feedback from this popular session, AAHA is excited to have Brown back to deliver the keynote on the final day of Connexity 2018.

In the March 2018 issue of AAHA’s Trends magazine, Kevin told our accredited-practice members a little bit about the messages he’ll be bringing to Connexity, his take on overcoming barriers to greatness, and what veterinary teams can do right now to implement immediate change in their practices. Read an excerpt below.

Trends: Your keynote on The HERO Effect was a hit at AAHA Nashville 2017. What should our members expect this time around?

Kevin Brown: There are many different facets to The HERO Effect message, which is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about bringing it back to Connexity. We’ll start out by revisiting the foundational truths and principles of The HERO Effect for those who missed me in Nashville, and then we’ll dive into how we can take those ideas and use them to create a culture of heroes—a culture that drives organizational excellence and client loyalty—in our practices.

Trends: What will Connexity guests take away from this session?

KB: Perspective. Curiosity. Action.

Perspective: Transforming a culture requires looking through the lens of optimism to see what is possible in the organization. Perspective comes when we step back and focus on why we do what we do. To have open and honest communication with each other about why we show up every day. To objectively look at what is working and what doesn’t feel very good. The right perspective is paramount to reimagining where it is we want to go.

Curiosity: When I was a little boy, I could spend the entire day playing with a cardboard box. The whole day. With a box.

As kids, we lived for the day when a neighbor would buy a washer or dryer. We would scramble to the curb and grab the box and race back home. Why? Because to us it wasn’t a box. It was anything but a box and everything we could imagine it to be. A racecar. A spaceship. An Army fort. If we were lucky, someone would buy a refrigerator. Jackpot. Now we have a time machine.

Then we grow up and become confined by the business box. The one that is so terrible that we tell ourselves and others to think outside of it. What I have learned is that great leaders are never confined by the box. They still know how to decorate it like when they were kids.

Curiosity is the key to making positive change. Asking great questions is the gateway to decorating the box instead of being confined by it. Asking, why? Why not? How can we? Why should we? Will we? When?

Great questions lead to better answers. Always.

Action: Nothing of consequence will change for the better until an accountable human being decides to make it so. There is no substitute for a committed group of people aligned for the right reasons and moving in the same direction.

Trends: What drew you to Connexity?

KB: The ideas of community and connection are very powerful. They are, in fact, the true essence of culture building: a community of people (internal customers) connected and committed to the pursuit of a worthy ideal and serving others (external customers) with excellence.

Trends: What one thing can veterinary teams do to improve their practice culture right now?

KB: How about some homework?

First, let’s be intentional about this idea of culture building. I would love for each of you to meet with your teams and have an open and honest discussion about the culture, direction, and future of your practice. Why are we here? Where are we going? Talk about the box. Is it bland, boring, and confining? Or is it rich with color, joy, and camaraderie? What can we do starting right now to “decorate the box” in our practice?

Secondly, organizations with outstanding cultures share an obsession about what they do to serve others. Let’s break from the traditional model of a mission statement and create an entirely new concept called the “organizational obsession statement.”

What is it that excites, ignites, and inspires everyone on the team? Why do you get out of bed and endure the complexities and challenges of business? What is the reward, the payoff for being amazing? What drives you?

Let’s start the conversation here. I promise it can transform the direction of your practice. I will stay connected and share some additional ideas on Facebook throughout the year until we meet in Denver.

In the meantime, stay extraordinary!

Ready to see Brown and other great speakers in action? Register now at




NEWStat Trends magazine