July 1, 2019

Just in time for your summer travels, Advisory Board's experts offer eight recommendations on the podcasts you should listen to now to understand unconscious human behavior, decipher the health care investment landscape, learn more about the day-to-day of clinical specialties, and even gain productivity by living out self-help book advice.

10 must-read books, according to Advisory Board experts

1. Crazy/ Genius

Rebecca Tyrell, Practice Manager, Pharmacy Executive Forum

The latest addition to my podcast lineup is The Atlantic’s "Crazy/Genius," which tackles "big questions about technology, science, and culture." Derek Thompson covers everything from self-driving cars and blockchain, to influencers, online dating, and smartphones. The episodes are short, but thought provoking—offering both topics for cocktail chatter and new ways of thinking about complex problems. Often, I can even apply these new ideas to the seemingly unrelated research I’m conducting for our pharmacy members.

I particularly enjoyed an episode from last September, Can Artificial Intelligence Be Smarter than a Human? In it, Thompson draws a distinction between convergent intelligence—the ability to answer a question correctly—and divergent intelligence, or the ability to generate many potential answers from a single question. While the first type provides AI the ability to outperform humans at rule-based games and complex calculations, AI's real comparative advantage over humans is with the second type, Thompson argues. For instance, one application of this type of divergent intelligence would be generative design, whereby a biologist might simulate the effect of a new drug by testing thousands of variations in a biological simulator before testing them on humans. I can only imagine the potential impact of these types of applications.

I'd recommend listening to this podcast if you have a problem you're stuck on—or just if you want provocative new takes on modern problems.

Learn more about the path to artificial intelligence

2. Hidden Brain

Anna Yakovenko, Practice Manager, Service Line Strategy Advisor

Ever since our office moved 30 minutes farther from my house, I've strived to pass my commute in the most productive way possible. Enter podcasts. (Yes, podcasts have become the way I relax in Washington D.C. traffic).

One of my current favorites is NPR's "Hidden Brain," which focuses on the unconscious patterns and thoughts that drive our behavior. Hosted by NPR correspondent Shankar Vedantam, Hidden Brain explores research across fields like psychology, neurobiology, economics, and sociology to show how our many unconscious thoughts and biases impact our decisions.

My favorite episode so far? All The World's A Stage—Including The Doctor's Office, which explores the power of placebo treatments and what that power means for how doctors practice medicine. (Hint: it promotes an empathetic bedside manner). If you're a research nerd like me, you can also go to Hidden Brain's website to read related resources and studies on each podcast topic.

Bonus:

Taylor Hurst

Taylor Hurst, Consultant, Physician Executive Council

One of my favorite episodes of "Hidden Brain," the Edge Effect, explores the relationship between diverse teams and creativity. From scientists to fashion designers, there's compelling research that deeply understanding another perspective fuels creativity and leads to better outcomes—an important finding as care teams expand across disciplines and the continuum of care. In my conversations with CMOs and physician leaders, I hear on a near daily basis that they're aiming to break down professional and personal silos to improve care. Check out this episode for a compelling case for why leaders should do so to create more "collisions" in daily practice—and why we should all stray from what we know. 

How to break down professional silos by deploying APPs

3. Running Through Walls

Megan Tooley, Practice Manager, Cardiovascular Roundtable

Running Through Walls is a podcast from Venrock, the esteemed venture capital firm with a strong history of health care and IT investment. It features frank discussions between investors and entrepreneurs that have "made it" in this increasingly complicated and noisy health care investment ecosystem. Think of it as a "How I Built This" for health care companies, with a stronger lens toward the business versus personal lives of the entrepreneurs (although that certainly plays a role in any startup story), and no Guy Raz. It's a great reminder of how quickly our world has evolved, but also how difficult it can be for health care innovations to break through—and what characterizes the people and ideas that do.

4. Science vs.

Deirdre Saulet, Practice Manager, Oncology Roundtable

When I'm not listening to true crime, my go-to podcast is "Science Vs." Now in its third season, Australian host Wendy Zukerman has covered a gamut of popular topics—from gun control to fertility to the effects of alcohol on our health (reader warning: don't listen to that last one after imbibing too much wine!). Her goal is to work through society's commonly held opinions on the issue at hand and, after reviewing the literature and conducting expert interviews, separate fact from fiction.

What I particularly love about the show is that it gives you easy-to-remember, lay-friendly anecdotes and factoids…which has made it easier for me to participate in—and even win—dinner table debates about gun control, vaccines, and veganism. It's great prep for family gatherings and holidays!

5. Invisibilia

Thomas Seay

Thomas Seay, Editor-in-Chief, Daily Briefing

NPR's "Invisibilia" bills itself as an exploration of "the intangible forces that shape human behavior." If that sounds like a vaguely defined theme, well, it is—and that's for the best, since it lets hosts Alix Spiegel, Hanna Rosin, and Lulu Miller range widely in exploring why humans do the weird things we do.

Each episode is reported with a journalist's depth of inquiry, a poet's flair for vivid detail, and a deeply human sense of empathy (yes, even in a recent episode called The End of Empathy). Many, perhaps most, episodes veer into topics of psychology and mental health, but people who work in health care might be especially interested in two episodes from the show's fifth and most recent season:

  • The Remote Control Brain, about a woman who, through a cutting-edge surgical treatment for OCD, gained a limited ability to manage her moods using a handheld electronic device; and
  • The Fifth Vital Sign, a somewhat controversial episode about a treatment methodology for young people suffering from Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome that asks them to—essentially—push through their pain.

6. The Undifferentiated Medical Student

Amanda Berra, Senior Research Partner

In a quest to help his fellow medical students pick a career direction, Ian Drummond interviews physicians working across all the clinical specialties and subspecialties a physician can pursue (or at least the ones that AAMC lists on its Careers in Medicine website). The interviews cover how that physician decided to pursue that specialty, a typical day in the life, what patients they're likely to see, outcomes for those patients, as well as other topics germane to people trying to imagine a career in that specialty. 

I recommend to this podcast to anyone who, like me, is a non-clinician working at the business/strategy/organizational behavior end of the health care spectrum. I think we can benefit from frequent reality checks about the day-to-day of clinicians and care delivery. In particular, strategy research has a tendency to roll up the clinician workforce into broad categories: nurses, physicians, or in this case, "specialists."  The "Undifferentiated Medical Student" clarifies how each specialty is distinct from the others—the unique goals, highs and lows, and ongoing challenges these specialists face at work. And I like how it's professional, personal, and organizational all mixed together, since that is what the real world of work is often like.

Bonus for your kids: Wow in the World

Here's a recommendation specific to car trips with grade-schoolers. "Wow in the World" covers the wonders of the animal kingdom, space, the human mind, and more. What makes it good is that it's both interesting and silly. It contains a hefty dose of sheer, non-scientific comedy—for instance, my kids find it hilarious when the hosts pretend to drive around in a pickle car. While that keeps them entertained, I notice that they also have retained a surprising amount of the content. I’d especially recommend the episode about the karate-kicking cockroach, and the one about how video games appeal to your brain because they help it achieve a flow state.  (Cue the repeating conversation about how many non-video-game activities also help your brain achieve a flow state.)

We have tried our fair share of kids' podcasts—and many of them bored the kids, or made me want to freak out, or both. This one is good. Give it a try.

7. By the Book

Heather Bell

Heather Bell, Editor-in-Chief, Daily Briefing

There's a never ending stream of advice on how to live a healthier, happier life—so much so that sorting through it all can actually add to your stress. "By the Book" aims to help. In each episode, Kristen Meinzer, a proclaimed self-help book skeptic, and Jolenta Greenberg, a self-help book enthusiast, spend two weeks living by the rules of a different self-help book.

The banter is light and fun, but what I love most about this podcast is how Meinzer and Greenberg are not afraid to go deep and get real. Through the lens of each book, they tackle challenging behavioral health issues like relationships with food and being kinder to oneself, as well as important topics about professional development. In one episode, Meinzer used the strategies she gained to establish herself as a better leader at work and foster a better environment for her employees. So if you ever find yourself interested in a self-help book, but don't have the time to read it, listen to Meinzer and Greenberg live it for you. 

8. The Readout LOUD

Jackie Kimmell

Jackie Kimmell, Senior Analyst, Daily Briefing

Biotechnology news is not often considered exciting. Rather, most people likely regard learning about recent clinical trial results, pricing debates, and patent battles as more of a chore than fun listening. Enter the "Readout LOUD." Created by STAT News, "The Readout LOUD" takes a panel format to the latest news in biotech in a way that's engaging, fun, and highly informative. The hosts never spend too long on any one topic, providing a fast overview of what you need to know that week, and what to expect in the weeks ahead.

A recent episode, for instance, delved into the problems with potential FDA approval for longevity drugs, explained the implications of a court case that relied on consumer DNA sites to find a murderer, and even touched on Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes' "alleged" wedding. After 25 minutes, I left feeling quite informed, entertained, and, perhaps most important, able to impress my colleagues by correctly pronouncing failed Alzheimer's drug aducanumab.

Learn more about the failure of aducanumab and what it means for providers

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