More tips for healthcare innovation: Inspiration from other industries

By Angela Dunn
09:01 AM

My last post looked at 5 ways for finding inspiration for healthcare innovation from other industries. Interestingly, I found Harvard Business Review just started exploring this topic, and you may also be interested in “Bringing Outside Innovations into Health Care”  by Mike Wagner. Below are five more approaches that may inspire you to adopt new knowledge, and think differently.

1.  Find an “Open House”

One of the commenters to Wagner’s piece in HBR was surprised that Whirlpool had allowed Memorial Hospital to conduct “Innovisits.” An Innovisit is an organized outreach that sends staff members to visit businesses in other industries. Key questions are crafted in advance, and “innovisitors” bring back their experience to the hospital.  The commenter, Rahul, asked:

How was Memorial able to set up these “Innovisits”? Why do companies like Whirlpool allow other companies to walk in, ask questions and take their ideas?

In the protective culture of healthcare, such openness may seem unnatural, but utilized, can be transformational. Those who are successful are willing to share ideas. I had the privilege of working with the Ritz-Carlton Company when they first launched a program to share their secrets for wowing customers through “Legendary Service Symposiums." Their approach for “delighting customers” was adopted by people in many industries, including healthcare. Zappos also gives open houses to tour their facility, and to learn about their “Delivering Happiness” model. Healthcare will need to understand the formulae of stellar customer experience models as healthcare moves to a consumer-driven model. Foremost, is recognizing great experiences are based on delivering what a customer really wants. According to Pritpal S. Tambler, Pioneer of Wellthcare and the Clinical Editor of TEDMED:

Therein lies the unspoken tension that inhibits imagination in health and health care. It’s not what you think I should want that matters, it’s what I want that matters.

2.  Start Asking, “What If?”

Instead of dismissing possibilities for innovative solutions due to the nature of healthcare today, ask “What If”, and work to a solution.  What if something could be done, how would you do things differently? Matt Murrie and Andrew McHugh have started a “What If…?” movement to inspire innovation and to challenge the status quo. The core of their methodology is 1) Ask, 2) Share and 3) Change.

We use ‘active curiosity’ to push innovation forward a little faster. We start by asking better questions, so that we can create better solutions.

Be curious. In order to innovate, you must be curious. Dionne Lew wrote a great little essay on “The value of being curious in a modern world”:

Curiosity leads to unexpected synergies, it reveals new patterns and generates startling serendipity … Oh, now I see how this leads to that, or I could combine this research here on neurology with these observations by the long dead poet and…

3.  Create a Personal Learning Network, Engage in Collective Learning

Another area undergoing massive transformation is education. I find some of the most inspiring people on social media are educators and social scientists exploring learning in the 21st century. They are among the first to try and adopt new digital, social tools and technologies that make learning today more accessible than has ever been humanly possible. Do you have a Personal Learning Network or PLN? In “Are we in an age of collective learning?” Rotana Ty asks, “Are you curating smart networks?” He cites Gideon Rosenblatt:

The way we curate our connections shapes our networks in ways that affect their health and effectiveness.

4.  Connect with Nodes that Cross Industries

When building your PLN, you will intentionally connect with other experts in your field, but don’t forget to broaden your network with “connectors” – people who may not be specialists or experts in your field, but are connected to experts across many fields. Learn more about emerging patterns in social networks from Valdis Krebs, Chief Scientist of

5. Human Interoperability: Add a Generalist to your Team of Specialists

In “The Power of the Generalist, and How They’ll Rule the Future," Meghan Casserly describes generalists by their innate ability to adapt to many environments, and cites the work of Carter Phipps in Evolutionaries:

Generalists will thrive in a culture where it’s becoming increasingly valuable to know “a little bit about a lot.” Meaning that where you fall on the spectrum of specialist to generalist could be one of the most important aspects of your personality—and your survival in an ever-changing workplace. According to Phipps, “We’ve become a society that’s data rich and meaning poor. A rise in specialists in all areas—science, math, history, psychology—has left us with tremendous content but how valuable is that knowledge without context?” Context, he says, can only be provided by generalists whose breadth of knowledge can serve as the link between the hard-won scientific breakthroughs and the rest of the world.

Both generalists and specialists are important to an innovation team.

Who Inspires You?

Do you have an example of an innovation outside of healthcare used in healthcare? Is there a generalist or company that inspires you? Let us know in the comments!