In 1993 Mike Salomon began working with Dr. Howard Dittrich to improve care delivered to medical patients by facilitating collaboration among doctors. This effort included enabling the first transmission of electrocardiogram video data across the Internet.
Along the way something else caught Mike’s attention: in order to be effective Dr. Dittrich depended on his ability to manage the barrage of information and to coordinate his many high-stake commitments.
And this was true in his professional and personal life. As a medical doctor—seeing patients and coordinating with hospital staff. As a medical researcher—collaborating with the lab staff involved in the clinical studies he led. As a member on boards of biotech companies—reviewing reports and attending meetings. As a university professor—delivering papers at conferences internationally. As a husband and father of two—spending quality time with his family.
Mike became intrigued by the question that emerged: What would it take for a knowledge worker like Dr. Dittrich to optimally manage the important information and the commitments in his life?
Dr. Dittrich was an extreme test case—he deals with a large volume of important information and has many commitments involving people in multiple organizations spread out geographically. And his enthusiasm to explore this challenge led to experimentation with a wide spectrum of IT solutions that Mike implemented—from server-based thin clients to calendar synchronizers.
The results were positive—Dr. Dittrich no longer felt that he was “moving from one fire to another.” But Mike was convinced that more could be done.
While Mike was working with Dr. Dittrich, he was also becoming involved in activities from rock climbing to high-altitude mountaineering to big-wall climbing to open-ocean kayaking to caving.
Mike was keenly aware that these endeavors presented similar challenges to those that Dr. Dittrich faced. The success or failure of an expedition was measured by the ability to manage large volumes of mission-critical information and to coordinate activities in a dynamic environment—often among a team separated geographically.
The difference between the knowledge worker’s challenges and the challenges presented by activities like high-altitude mountaineering and big-wall climbing? High-altitude mountaineering and big-wall climbing had developed proven approaches to meet the challenges.
Mike studied these approaches and applied them in practice. He kayaked solo from San Diego to Catalina. Caved in the Thunder Canyon Cave System in the Anza-Borrego Desert in Southern California—the first successful expedition of its kind caught on film. Participated in a mountaineering expedition to the 21,000-foot Imja Tse peak in Nepal. Ascended Argos in Baja California, Mexico.
These feats gave Mike a deep appreciation. For system. For practice. For ritual.
This appreciation and insight inspired the development of the Sherpa Workflow Program.