Collaborative Innovation: Book Review

I titled this post Collaborative Innovation because recently I was asked to review Dr. David Lawrence’s new book, Best Care, Best Future: A Guide for Healthcare Leaders, which I recommend to all leaders who want to improve care outcomes and prepare their organization for an uncertain future. I will be teaching a three-hour seminar on innovation (session # 56) with Prof. Leonard Friedman and Dr. Amy Stockhausen at the ACHE Congress Tuesday, March 17, 2015.

Dr. Lawrence wrote that performance improvement is necessary but insufficient; leaders must also be prepared to create and respond to innovations that change the game, for example when leaders at Virginia Mason found a way to get patients with back pain back to work in two weeks (rather than the previous six-week convalescence) at 2/3 the cost of the traditional model. Leaders need both performance improvement and innovation to bring their organization into the 21st century (pp. 189-90).

Collaborative Innovation: Guiding Principles

It is challenging to build a culture that supports innovation, particularly those innovations that disrupt the status quo. In general, collaborative innovation thrives when (p.193):

  • new ideas and their generators are protected with separate funding, staffing, and c-suite oversight, so that they are not squashed by the status quo
  • support is present during good times and challenging times; Dr. Lawrence recommends a Board commitment of 5-10% of annual revenues or a fixed amount per year
  • there is clarity about what defines innovation, why it is important, how it will affect the organization, and how people are expected to engage with it
  • outsiders familiar with innovation are chosen to bring a different perspective to in-house efforts
  • there is accountability; results must be measurable and convincing to encourage leaders to incorporate them into the mainstream

Collaborative Innovation: A Complementary Viewpoint

Philip Newbold, CEO of Beacon Health System, recommends the following five core principles (“Launching an Innovation Revolution in Healthcare,” in Cohn & Fellows. 2011. Getting It Done. Chicago: Health Administration Press, 72-74):

  • Immersion, where everyone has the opportunity to participate in innovation
  • Acceptance, where people become more comfortable with messy, non-linear processes over time
  • Prototypes, rapidly developed inexpensive models that provide proof of concept and lead to next steps
  • Champions, passionate believers who know how to obtain results and whose accomplishments and learning are celebrated publicly
  • Culture, where rewarding learning rather than punishing failure empowers people to embrace challenge and strive for improved products and services

Through collaborative innovation, employees, physicians, and volunteers begin to speak a new language, seek new possibilities, and enjoy the new processes and tools.

As always, I welcome your input to improve healthcare collaboration where you work.  Please send me your comments and suggestions for improvement.

Kenneth H. Cohn
© 2014, all rights reserved
Disclosure: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content.

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