In business, as in life, things rarely go smoothly. Even when you’re prepared for the unexpected, there are still times when you will be caught off guard. Just consider 2020: Covid-19 has not only take taken a catastrophic toll on our health, but it’s also upended the global economy. And, for many businesses, it falls on executives to find a way forward.
How exactly do you solve issues like reconnecting supply chains or sanitizing your workplace so that it’s safe for employees to return? Sure, you can turn to your personal network, or even a consultant, but they’re not always going to have the answers. That’s exactly the void a new online platform called Ask ur Peer wants to fill.
Launched last week by healthcare professionals Greg Robinson and Michael Hyder, Ask ur Peer is a free-to-join platform aimed directly at business professionals who need to put a strategy into action. As the name suggests, the platform aims to connect industry peers from across the country and give members access to trusted vendors, consultants and resources that will help them overcome challenges in their field. But what may separate Ask ur Peer from other platforms is its “Luminaries” program—a service that promises to offer members meaningful access to star-caliber experts.
“There are a lot of luminaries out there in health care and other industries that have a lot of knowledge, have a lot of vision and certainly will present on that and share ideas,” Hyder, who is also the platform’s CEO, recently told Robb Report. “But there’s a gap between that vision and the execution. And we’re trying to sort of fill that gap.”
The luminaries, according to the cofounders, will be industry titans who will help lead channels of curated content on the platform. Working with channel moderators, they will help guide the conversations in their area of expertise across the site. But they won’t just be leading the discussions; they’ll be collaborating with other members to find solutions to real-world problems.
Among the site’s first luminaries is Aneesh Chopra, the president of CareJourney and America’s former (and first) CTO under President Barack Obama. Chopra, who has worked with Robinson in the past, is currently focused on reducing friction in the American health care system and plans to lead two channels dedicated to advancing industry-wide collaboration and communication across the field. One of his first tasks? Developing a playbook for website managers who represent doctors and hospital systems to help them better advise patients during the Covid-19 pandemic.
So how does Ask ur Peer help make that happen? “I think there’s a mindset in healthcare of top-down change. And, you know, we’re waiting on someone else to do a lot of work to make the system better . . . But a community like this and a playbook like this are really meant to focus on the other side, democratizing one doctor’s practice at a time, one community at a time,” Chopra told Robb Report. “And so this is about emphasizing that change that can be done in your neighborhood without having to wait for some master planner to do it for you.”
While he is no stranger to Zoom, Slack or LinkedIn, Chopra believes Ask ur Peer offers a unique service. “It’s the principle of building a very dedicated community, not a broad community, and allow that community to run much deeper in content . . . ” he said of the platform. “So my hope is that we will we will see the rise of these deeper-focused community activities.”
Indeed, Robinson and Hyder envision a platform that moves beyond the social network model, de-emphasizing communities of scale in favor of depth and results. Part of the challenge is finding trusted vendors and consultants—who can actually help solve problems. After all, it’s all too common to begin an online conversation and end up with an inbox filled unsolicited sales pitches. “We don’t allow that,” says Robinson, who is also platform’s CTO. “We are kind of a safe space for the sales-y type folks—on a supply-chain channel. But as a peer, we’re driving that experience to be very limited to solution.” Robinson says Ask ur Peer expects vendors to contribute to a dialogue and prove their worth. To that end, there’s a vendor rating system, so you know what you’re getting before you start working with someone.
To help foster the kind of results-oriented collaboration the cofounders are promising, Ask ur Peer makes use of a suite of online tools, many of which have become staples in the Covid-era. There’s videoconferencing with screen sharing, as well as a virtual whiteboard that can be edited by multiple users. There are also virtual rooms for group discussions, forums and a library to manage all your content. The tools are designed to allow you to work with others in real time or separately, on your own respective schedules.
“We actually talk and video chat through the platform,” Hyder said. “And while we’re video chatting, I can pull up documents and show you what we did around and have done around this specific area.” While none of the tools are particularly new, Hyder and Robinson believe that bringing them together under one roof will help spur the kind of collaboration that you may not get from your average Zoom meeting.
Because of Robinson and Hyder’s shared background, Ask ur Peer’s focus at launch will be overwhelmingly healthcare-centric. But they say that will change over time. Soon, the platform will cover everything from finance to academia to women in leadership. And there are plans to roll out a channel dedicated to social justice in the near future.
“We really want to expand out because that’s the goal behind the platform of all of this or is really just to enable that solution collaboration,” Robinson said. “Irrespective of industry.”