Does your organization formally manage innovation?
If your answer is "no", you're not alone. Only 27% of healthcare executives say their companies formally manage innovation. In our recent post Adventures in Healthcare Leadership: Charting New Waters, we shared some key findings of research with 20 healthcare CEO's who are leading disruptive change in the high seas of the post-reform world. Now, the rubber hits the road as we extend the conversation to innovation. Effective healthcare leaders of disruptive change create a culture conducive to innovation, invest in processes to enhance it, and build infrastructure to support it.
Researchers Carol Geffner, President of Newpoint Healthcare Advisors, LLC, and co-author Chris Corwin, consultant at Witt/Kieffer who authored the whitepaper, Hospital C-Suite: Leading Disruptive Change (free download), provide a transformation roadmap for healthcare leaders to be their organization's primary agents of change and innovation. According to Carol there are three phases to such an initiative: Appetite, Process, and Infrastructure.
Develop an appetite for change and creativity.
Change the culture from business as usual to visionary to achieve critical business objectives. Culture shifts are one of the most difficult challenges leaders face, acknowledge that this won’t occur overnight or without resistance.
From the front-line to the C-Suite let everyone get involved. Make sure critical upward communication is invited and rewarded. Repurposing and creating brand new processes or products is frightening, doubly so if senior leadership sends the message they aren’t open to feedback. Nurture creativity wherever it grows and make sure there’s an avenue for productive debate. Leaders of disruptive change create a culture of innovation.
Demonstrate that ideas are welcome.
Begin to show employees the path forward from the status quo to truly surprising destinations. Provide incubation periods once brainstorming has run its course. The journey isn’t a straight line from A to B but a series of detours and looping back. Communicate that this is to be expected and is valued by senior leadership.
Create a process to support budding creativity that leads to new ideas.
Be strategic in your approach. In what ways does your company already have processes that spur brainstorming? Does the workflow need to be altered? Would training help? Are there processes that could be custom tailored to your company? Would a consultant provide a unique perspective and solution?
Engage employees in the process.
Share a vision of the future that gets everyone excited for the long road ahead. What will this mean to the company? How will this improve outcomes for patients? How will the world be changed for the better because of this new initiative? Tap into employees’ intrinsic motivation, curiosity, and creativity to move the initiative forward. According to Malcolm Knowles, intrinsic motivators propel employees toward problem solving and improve job engagement.
Fuel the process and lay the groundwork for infrastructure.
Your car won’t leave the garage without fuel. Without resources the company can’t get from where it’s stuck to where it needs to go. Support the initiative with human and capital resources. One of your most important resources for increasing creativity is time. Theresa Amabile’s research demonstrates that time pressure can reduce employees’ creativity. "Think of it as the way you might enter a maze and explore for a solution. With increased time pressure, you take the simplest pathway, not one that's elegant or creative. But if you're able to spend more time exploring the maze, you're more likely to hit on exciting or new solutions."
Choose a path.
Will you start small and incrementally rev up? Or will you go large and restructure to manage innovation? What resources are available for your initiative? What’s the return on investment? If it’s small, start small and go from there. If it can take your organization to the next level then consider going large.
There are opportunities for small interventions everywhere you look. Think about departments that would benefit from an infusion of new ideas. Is there a service or product line that’s stuck in first gear? Start there and build on what works.
Harness the potential of a new organizational engine. Change the way you do business. Carol Geffner recommends a department that integrates organization wide but also has the independence to pursue promising roads. Incent workers to build on success. See what others have done, look outside the industry, and learn from others’ experiences but go your own way.
Mitigate Resistance. Cultivate Resilience.
As the rubber meets the road expect friction -- at all stages of healthcare innovation. Learn to recognize the difference between resistance to be overcome and caution signs that you’re going in the wrong direction. Managing resistance well can be the difference between success and failure. Cultivate resilience in the face of setbacks. Innovation isn’t an easy road to travel but coming around a bend to find a whole new horizon makes the journey worthwhile.