I just finished reading Harper Lee’s sequel-but-written-before-the-prequel Go Set a Watchman. The work certainly reads as an experiment, a first draft of bigger ideas that would grace high school reading lists in To Kill a Mockingbird. Although Watchman was a good read I am saddened by Atticus Finch’s revealed racism, a misguided paternalistic variety steeped in holier-than-though incrementalism that is the result of privilege arising not only from race but from his stature as the legal pillar of the community.

So now the world asks: why did Watchman need to be published (setting aside the profit motive)? It now twists our interpretation of To Kill a Mockingbird into something post-modernly frustrating. The hero of Atticus Finch is now a flawed individual. What was once tidy and well understood is now conflicted and stressful. We must make sense of this.

I think a similar story is taking place in the European market for heart defect closure devices. These percutaneous devices are implanted to seal holes within the heart, like in the atrial septum. These conditions are congenital so the market is small and flat. In fact, it will decline in countries with shrinking populations. It’s a tidy little market with established players, stable prices, well trained physicians and good patient outcomes. Like a rural Alabama town in the middle of summer, it could putter along like this for decades, not bothering anyone since fortune and glory lie elsewhere.

This begs the question: why is Medtronic now distributing congenital heart defect closure devices in Europe from a Chinese manufacturer, Lifetech Scientific? This will likely result in price competition, driving down revenue in a market with virtually flat procedure volumes. From the perspective of established players the market will lose its settled nature for the worse. They will be forced to re-evaluate their strategy and struggle to come to terms with stressful price competition. And for Medtronic, is trying to enter such a small market really worth the effort?

After Watchman I woefully re-evaluated Atticus Finch and now I must do the same for this device market. I can no longer rest on a hammock of comfortable assumptions watching the world go by holding a cold sweet tea in one hand and a straw fan in the other. I must get up and join this conflicted and stressful world. I must make sense of this.

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