Top ten list for building innovation capacity in healthcare organizations

It has become more and more common for hospitals to create innovation centers or build innovation capacity. Hospitals that excel at continuously innovating over time can look very different from each other however, and many underestimate what is truly involved with achieving success. In my research and experience, there are several capabilities and strategies in common to hospitals with achieving high success to innovate:

1. Decide what type of innovation you want to pursue. Open collaboration, incremental, disruptive, etc. More disruptive innovation is needed in healthcare. You will need to build the ready strategy, resources, skills, time, training and technology to support it.

2. Create a mission, vision, and values. They will act as your north star and help others understand what you and the group are striving for and how to utilize your skills.

3. Catalytic leadership that empowers staff to solve problems that matter, as well as help to identify what the right problem to solve is.

4. Build a curious culture where staff have time to go beyond their day-to-day obligations, question assumptions, and constructively challenge each other and the status quo. Invite people into the process.

5. Hire diverse teams of different gender with varying attitudes, backgrounds, experiences and capabilities to generate breakthrough ideas.

6. Make it human. Talk to your customers. Find out what their needs and behaviors are. Customer centric is the norm now. Organizations that don’t understand their customers are in danger of getting left behind, but many healthcare leaders are so mired in operations, finances, metrics, demographics, optics, and “the way it has always been done” that they aren’t considering the human beings they are serving – whether patients or staff. This is a dangerous condition.

7.  Open doors that let information and insights flow into the organization from outside walls (including board members, beneficiaries and partnerships) and across the organization itself. Consider hiring an advisory board of outside experts to help your innovation center be cutting edge and not become too insular.

8. Provide idea pathways that provide structure and processes for identifying, testing, and transforming potential concepts into needle-moving solutions. Don’t pass the concept or prototype off to developers or operations to implement without your involvement, as the concept might lose the connection to customers needs. This also helps innovation stay front and center in the organization.

9. Be transparent. There’s a myth that it's better not to talk about things or to share information. This is simply not true. It leads to silos and a lack of collaboration. Transparency can lead to loyalty, increased knowledge and richer ideas.

10. Be disciplined. Innovation isn’t about sitting around eating m&ms, playing foosball, throwing darts, and just coming up with ideas. Anyone can come up with an idea. Innovation itself and the front end processes require tremendous discipline, rigor and iteration.