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Delve Talks: Scott Sagehorn, Stryker

Delve Talks is a podcast that digs into the challenges around design, product development, leadership and innovation. Our second season continues to explore how to create a culture that supports innovation through interviews with leaders of startups, educational and banking institutions, and multinational corporations.


Dave Franchino [00:00:33] Hello, everybody. Dave Franchino here and I'm joined again by our Vice President of Strategy, Stefanie Norvaisas, and really excited about today's guests, Scott Sagehorn, who's Director of Marketing for Stryker, one of the world's leading medical technologies company and a real driving force in innovation. Stryker's success in the marketplace has really been remarkable. I'm mean, Stryker works across a really incredibly broad range of areas, something I'm sure will want to dive into, including orthopedics, medical, surgical, neurotechnology, spine.

[00:01:08] It's really a company with a very, very broad focus, but a lot of consistency in their approach to improving patient and hospital outcomes. And Scott has been with the company in a variety of different capacities for 15 years. So, Scott, welcome and thanks so much for joining us today.

Scott Sagehorn [00:01:25] Thanks, Dave. Glad to be here.

Dave Franchino [00:01:27] So once again, what we're trying to do with this podcast is explore creating a culture of innovation. And to do that we've been facilitating conversations with a wide variety of people that we've met that we think have perspective, experience and background on the field of innovation and creating innovation and can help us with some insights and wisdom that could be applied. So, Scott, welcome. Stefanie and I are really excited to talk to you today. One of things I think, you know, is I have an engineering background and Stef has a background in cultural anthropology. And so, we often come at this conversation from different backgrounds. But one of things we'll be looking forward to is having Stefanie kind of chime in with some questions.

[00:02:07] Maybe you could start by telling our listeners to a little bit about your background ... you've got kind of an interesting and eclectic background... and what drove you into the field of innovation and Stryker in particular.

Scott Sagehorn [00:02:19] Right now, I'm in the marketing department for our acute care division at Stryker. It's about a $1.2 billion subdivision of our medical division, which rolls up into our med-surg division, which is the largest entity next to orthopedics. So, Stryker is really split up between med-surg and then our orthopedic implant business. I've been in my role here now at acute care. So, acute care is our beds. We make beds and stretchers. So, we bend metal, we make mattresses, we sell mattresses. We have a very clinical side. Our call pattern is a lot different than what a lot of folks know of Stryker, which is operating room, implants, saws, and drills. I call it the sexy side of medicine. It's where all the money in health care is right now. And we're kind of on the side that cares for the patients pre-operative and post-operatively and the acute side of the hospital.

[00:03:25] So, I've been in my role right now as the senior marketing director for acute care for about eight months. And prior to this, I was a marketing director at our surgical diversion. We did power tools. So that's a little bit more of the well-known within the healthcare division side of Stryker. from a brand equity side out in the market, what most people see that aren't in a hospital they recognize our beds and stretchers. You see our cots on the back of ambulances all the time. You see them in the movies, and you see them at football games and NFL games and basketball games with the big yellow cots that have really good brand equity in the market. 

But, while I was at the surgical side, I ran a downstream marketing, which was all brand. I had about a year stint in upstream marketing, which was new product development on the marketing end and then business development and organizing and executing on our acquisition strategy for Surgical.

[00:04:20] Prior to that, I spent about eight to nine years on the commercial side and sales. So, I was one of the rare few that came from college right into Stryker. I just got lucky and found Stryker at a time where they were hiring folks right out of school to come into sales. So, I ran a sales territory for about six or seven years. I was a regional manager and ran a sales team for four or five and then made my way into marketing through Surgical and now I'm here. 

So, that's kind of my background. It's not unique for Stryker. It may be unique for the industry that we do tend to bring people up through sales and into the internal part of the organization. And I do appreciate the kind words you said about me and the folks that you've interviewed in the process. I don't feel like I belong with the group of amazing leaders in innovation that you've interviewed. And I am still learning and growing and developing. And hopefully, I can provide some unique insight here from a Stryker perspective. So, appreciate the opportunity.

Dave Franchino [00:05:29] Scott, I'm going to go completely off here, and I hope this question doesn't throw you, but one thing I know about your background is that you were actually an elite athlete both at the high school level and the collegiate level. And I know that Stryker has a history of looking for people who had sort of athletic backgrounds. And so I was curious if maybe you could just talk about what you feel that type of a background in a competitive environment may have provided to you as a leader and, if that's allowed, talk a little bit about sort of Stryker's mentality or mindset in terms of looking for athletes and team leaders within their organization.

Scott Sagehorn [00:06:07] Yet that is very off script, but it's a great question. So, I think if you ask somebody at Stryker, there's our kind of canned answer, which I'll give you. And then, I think there's also maybe more of the reality of why we hire athletes and why a lot of the folks that we have, whether there are elite athletes or ... we have Olympians and we have college athletes, we have folks that played soccer and softball. And it's a very diverse mix of people like if you looked at all the profiles of our employees, you would also see a lot of, you know, ex-military and very much kind of the same profile, the same experiences. The uncanned answer that I think is probably what drives most of it is that we tend to hire from within.

[00:06:59] So, it's a lot of networking and people that know other people. And I think 80 to 85 percent of the employees within our medical and our med-surg business came from inside referrals. So, it’s a lot of people that are kind of cut from the same cloth and you know, the background and the history and how that person performs. So, I do think that 10 to 15 years ago a lot of our employees were coming in through the athletic ranks. we tended to bring folks that were our friends and our comrades from college and high school and things like that. And so, it's a really good network of people that have a good history with each other. And I think a lot of that is just a domino effect with people bringing in folks that they know. 

And when I say canned answer, I don't really think it's a canned answer. But I do think that there's a couple of things. One, there tends to be our work environment here, It's very -- there's a ton of autonomy. And I think the beauty of Stryker is ... and I tell folks that I interview when they ask about Stryker is that we're a really big company with big company resources that functions like a small company. So, there is autonomy and entrepreneurship in our spirit. There's ownership of role. We don't feel like a really large med device company where it's a top-down approach and the mandates are coming down. You really do have good ownership of what you do in that organization. There's a high expectation to deliver quality, better outcomes, good product, quality of work is high. 

And I think with that comes the expectation of discipline. And you've got to be able to get yourself out of bed every morning, know what you're doing that day, be a self-starter. And for the most part, we tend to find that in athletes.

[00:08:55] And, you know, our organization is not littered with athletes. We have a ton of athletes here and some of our best if I think about our general managers and our VPs and our group presidents, all of them have some sort of a background, most of them have a background in organized sports. And I think a lot of that is the discipline that you get in organized sports that's just driven into you throughout the course of your life. I think that there is a muscle that you build when you're competing, and you learn how to win. And we like that muscle and we like people that want to come in here and compete and win. 

Our Gallup profiles of all the folks that work in the organization, a lot of us have high achiever, high competition. It's just literally in everybody's top five. And I think that's the type of culture and the type of people that we like to hire. So, that muscle that you build when you win, we like those types of people and I think athletics really teaches people, you know, what their limits are, what they can and can't do, and how to persevere and push beyond them. 

I know my time as a former athlete, I had a coach in Miami of Ohio where I played, his name was Terry Hepner. He passed away of a brain tumor years ago, was an amazing coach. I learned a lot from him. But my God, I just remember a handful of times when I had made some mistakes on the field or I showed up to practice late for one reason or the other. And I ran and ran and ran and ran and ran and ran. And I didn't think I could go any longer. And I did. So, you just learn that you get used to pushing yourself beyond your limits. 

And Stryker is a little bit of an old-school organization. We don't have the polish and the sophistication that maybe some of your really large Fortune 500 companies have. We just have good, old-fashioned, hard-working, driven individuals. And you learn to work hard and push yourself beyond your limits. And the job is demanding. The hours are long, and you just build that muscle. And I think a lot of that, you know, I learned and like a lot of the employees that we have, learned that through athletics. So, it's just a really good if you look back at people and how they perform. 

The greatest predictor of how somebody is going to perform in their job is how they've performed in the past. And if they've got a good record of a disciplined work environment prior to work, it's most likely that they're going to be able to deliver that at Stryker. And I think that's a handful of reasons why we hire athletes. And I think from my experience, what I learned as an athlete is just staying disciplined and pushing myself beyond the limits and learning how to work on a team.

Stefanie Norvaisas [00:11:42] So, Scott, I think that's fascinating and really it matches my experience working with Stryker folks. One of the questions that I'm wondering about is how, as you say, moving into more and more innovation roles at Stryker, how do you feel that personality profile supports or hinders innovation?

Headshot of Scott Sagehorn from Stryker
“The problems that we’re solving can’t be identified by the people that are solving them.” — Scott Sagehorn

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Delve has merged with Bresslergroup. Learn more →