Raise Your Innovation Bar

APRIL 13, 2015
Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA

I find most sick-care or disease-prevention efforts fail because managers (not leaders) set the bar too low. The results are solutions looking for problems, process improvement that improves value minimally, or tinkering. Everybody gets a gold star and they call it "innovation".

But, when that happens, patients don't really benefit that much. Here's why:

1. The outcome end points used to measure value are ill defined.

2. The value multiplier is too low.

3. Project team members don't have a clear understanding of "new and useful" as a definition of innovation.

4. Innovation is about leading conflict and paradox. It's hard to get it right at the right time and it takes a certain skill set.

5. Everyone thinks social intrapreneurship is about starting a business. It's really about creating user defined value within the organization.

6. The vision is too limited and time defined. It looks at the present market needs rather than future market needs that might change in a heartbeat given the competition or substitutes. It also looks at one customer when, in health care, there are many involved in a systems problem.

7. There is no enough incentive to stretch, let alone participate.

8. There is no safe place to fail frugally fast.

9. Team dysfunctions

10. There are too many blind spots. Silos create people who don't know what they don't know.

The only thing worse than wasting time and money on minimally effective innovation initiatives is promoting one of the team members to be Chief Innovation Officer – managers rising to their level of incompetence. I guess if you can't raise your standards, the next best thing is to raise someone to the floor above with a much better view.

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