Bjorn Arneson

I started a new job about six weeks ago at UnitedHealth Group. I’m a part of a small research- oriented shop called Optum Institute. We are working to better understand health care in the context of national health reform and changing models of delivery and payment.

Again, I’m reminded what a privilege it is to work with clever people. Maybe it’s dumb luck, but this has been true for me throughout my adult life and is not something I take for granted.

Work with clever people is often a battle of ideas. Rarely in a personally adversarial way, but within a culture that rewards innovative solutions, associational thinking, accountability, and intellectual artistry.

In the spirit of artistry, we call upon one another to paint a picture that stretches the imagination. Rather than at an easel, we paint around a conference table, brush in hand, slapping wet paint on an rough idea for our (undoubtedly) dazzled colleagues. Suddenly, out of nowhere, after a few well-conceived questions from peers, our butt is in the corner and a sea of wet paint sits right in front of our toes.

Sometimes there is nothing to do but let this paint dry, go back to the sketching board and try again with a different palette of ideas.