Health care facilities generally are reluctant to adopt practices used in other industries, and often for good reason. Certainly, few other industries have the exacting technical standards and life-and-death consequences of health care. And even fewer industries must combine this precision with the customer service and compassion required in dealing with patients and their families.

Still, there are many commonalities between hospitals and other types of enterprises from which health care facilities can learn, as reflected in the industry's current interest in "lean" operations. Derived from Japanese automotive manufacturing practices designed to remove inefficiencies from any production process, lean has gained adherents throughout the health care industry, as hospitals attempt to improve performance in an era of tight budgets and looming reform initiatives. While interest initially started in the C-suite, many of Health Facilities Management's own reader groups now are grappling with the application of lean in their specific fields.

Indeed, moving beyond lean, there are a number of other lessons health facilities professionals can learn from businesses outside their own. From advanced maintenance systems used in the aviation industry to improved project management techniques practiced in the commercial construction field to customer-driven service practices applied in the travel industry, there's an unending supply of models from which to gain knowledge.

Of course, not everything practiced outside the health care industry is applicable or desirable, but the discovery process itself often opens doors to new ways of doing things. All it takes is an active curiosity, keen intelligence and an open mind — characteristics that Health Facilities Management's readers have in abundance.