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Nothing beats customer visits

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As the newly minted president and COO of Medtronic, Bill George had to cool his jets for a while at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, waiting to begin a day on the job learning about the company’s products firsthand.

Soon enough, the head of the medical devices manufacturer entered the operating room. The procedure, an angioplasty using a Medtronic balloon catheter, was not going well.

First, technicians scrambled to repair a fluoroscope. Then things got worse. Soon after the doctor inserted the Medtronic catheter into a patient’s femoral artery, the device fell apart in his hands.

Delicately, the surgeon withdrew the bloody catheter from the patient. Enraged, he threw it at the COO, who ducked just in time to avoid being hit in the face.

Lesson: George had known that Med­tronic’s catheter sales weren’t great. Now he knew exactly why.

— Adapted from How the Wise Decide, Bryn Zeckhauser and Aaron Sandoski, Crown Business.

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