5 Steps to Creating a Culture of Innovation

No one knows exactly what the future holds. I for one thought we would have flying cars by 2020. The future is both the same and very different than today in unexpected ways. The tactics that have made us successful in the past do not guarantee success in the near future. I believe this is why the term “innovation” has become so overplayed. Our very existence depends on our ability to embrace change, to develop new solutions and to take action.

Here’s an interesting analogy: Embracing healthy eating and an active lifestyle is as important to a person’s future as embracing a culture of innovation and change is to an organization’s future. Innovation is not an interim program or a shotgun initiative. Innovation is not owned by any one person or a lone genius. Like wellness and behavior change, it is a consistent approach to decision-making in daily life. Similar to healthy behaviors, if done right, innovation can become a habitual part of our organizational DNA.

In response to this uncertain future, we present five steps for organizations of any size to establish a foundation of innovation and a culture of healthy decision-making. Think of them as “mindsets” that you can bring into your process and any project. The mindset helps shift your perspective and gives you a host of tools to use as needed. These mindsets are highly flexible and scalable, from developing a presentation to user experience design to strategic planning.

  1. Reframe the Problem
  2. Take a Human-centered Approach
  3. Adopt a Design-thinking Platform
  4. Prototype and Pivot Rapidly
  5. Leading Change

While some people are naturally inclined to this way of thinking and working, I’m convinced anyone can become highly proficient. I am always amazed to see a team’s culture transform over the course of a project. The terminology is foreign and awkward at first. Then there is a curiosity. After a while, it starts to click for the team; they see the simplicity and effectiveness of these approaches. The terminology in meetings shifts from phrases like “We can’t…” to “Let’s reframe the problem to be about…” or “What is the minimum viable prototype we can use to test….”

I think most surprising of all is that people find themselves having fun. It is empowering to take the problem you are given and shift it to something meaningful. It is inspiring to use empathy to deliver on the needs of our patients, families, frontline staff, and communities. It is great fun to imagine the future and generate ideas with colleagues. (Co-creation sessions sometimes “go viral” within organizations.) It is refreshing to create simple prototypes, get real feedback, and rapidly improve concepts. And it is surprising to see a project become a movement for change.

This is the funnest, hardest, and most important work I’ve ever done. Will you join me?