Sunday, May 9, 2010

Innovation in a controlled environment

Healthcare in Australia and New Zealand is a political process, even private, for-profit healthcare, is dominated by public policy, centralised industrial relations and Government regulation. It is a process that discourages innovation and free-thinking; it is a process driven by the procedures and processes manual. Does it need to be this way?

In these circumstances, the focus becomes more one of maintaining employment than looking after patients - not that you would ever hear anyone in the health sector actually state this; instead the language, if not the actions, always reflects a concern for the patient.

My concern here is that the patient becomes the reason for doing nothing new or different. When people do not want to think or they want to succumb to their 'lizard brain, to quote Seth Godin, they respond by saying, let's do what is in the best interest of the patient. Of course they are often saying let's do nothing; because if you look around you can see that we have many satisfied patients.

Yet innovation is not an outcome, it is a process of thinking, of reflection, of questioning assumptions, of experimentation and of bringing together like minded people to examine the alternatives. When we point to the patient we are often pointing to an outcome while avoiding the process of innovation. We are also excusing ourselves from the need to think. When we point to the P&P manual we excuse ourselves from taking any sort of risk.

Being innovative in a political environment requires bravery; the sort of bravery that is demanded on the sports field, where someone is prepared to put their head over the ball for the better good of the team. When our salaries are at threat, or our friendships or our social standing; many will talk about bravery but few will be brave. Yet many who cannot be brave continue to be dishonest and talk up their innovation credentials. Innovation in a political environment requires someone to come up with new ideas, to take the hits and to understand that the system will repel them at every turn, until you can prove it is safe for the majority to do something different. Maybe that is the challenge for innovators; to focus on creating safety and reassurance for the masses more than excitement for the innovation.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO

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