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I Kept My Pregnant Teenager Home

A (Very) Low Fidelity Pharmacy

I had the incredible opportunity last week to participate in a poverty immersion. With so many uninsured and underinsured getting ready to enter the healthcare world in just a few years, the simulation was a chance for those providing healthcare to gain a better sense of their lives. It by no means could ever replicate it, but I was surprised at the choices I made and the feelings that emerged. The immersion started with me as a dad in a family of four. I was laid off for months without health insurance, with a full-time working wife, a seventeen year old pregnant daughter, and an eight year old son. The object was to get through four 15-minute periods each representing a week with as much of my family needs met as possible. Suffice to say, I chose to keep my 17 year old daughter home for one week to watch my suspended 8 year old, so that I could go to social services to get food stamps.

Everyone who participated shared similar thoughts…mostly amazement at the choices we were forced to make, and how complicated the safety net was. It built a whole lot of sympathy, and more importantly got the room thinking on how services might be more seamless, timely and precise. And that is what a good simulation should do.

Simulations can hard to pull off. This one provided three nuggets on how to make them better:

  • Don’t over simplify. We as designers and facilitators often try to make the experience as easy as possible. Why?!? Life is complex and we’re dealing with smart people. They’ll figured it out.
  • Allow sufficient time. I groaned at hearing the simulation was 2 hours long. TWO HOURS. Well, that turned out to be the right amount of time. Two hours, allowed the participants to not only get into role, but be the role….for a long time. About a third of the way through I stopped being me and was really worried about my simulated family. It also allowed me to start optimizing my life because I was in the simulation long enough.
  • Low fidelity works. This was a great reminder just how low we can go. For a pharmacy, there was only a piece a paper with “pharmacy” written on it. For a bank, “bank”. Simple, but such powerful associations that nothing more was needed. Why waste on time on tasks that our brains are so powerful at doing for us.

What are your nuggets?

Hygge, Innovation, and a Good Glass of Wine


Getting cozy and real at the ILN Wichita InPerson Meeting


The Innovation Learning Network made the gossip columns and I couldn’t be prouder.  The “gossiper” grabbed a hilarious quote from a great collaborator, Kevin Colin of Via Christi Health (http://bit.ly/9tECXK).  Another article spends the first three paragraphs describing the space and environment followed by the same quote (http://t.co/R2lTbm8). What both of these reporters picked up on was the relaxed atmosphere that was created for these two collaborators to candidly share their experiences.  This “atmosphere” is called hygge pronounced (hyoo-ga) and it was very intentional.

Hygge is Danish.  I stumbled on it while completing my MBA at Copenhagen Business School.  The city of Copenhagen oozes with hygge.  The best I can describe it is warm, cozy, comfy and content. The official Danish tourist website spends 14 paragraphs trying to explain it.  Suffice to say it doesn’t really translate into English.

I use hygge for re-imagining how healthcare should be.  I use hygge to create both my work and home environments.  I use hygge to welcome co-workers and friends into experiences. I use hygge when I cook and entertain. And I ALWAYS use hygge when constructing the semi-annual Innovation Learning Network  InPerson Meeting where these two collaborators gave us that newspaper worthy “fireside” chat.

Wanna give hygge a try?

Pull some cozy chairs together, gather a few people that you are fascinated by, dim the lights, light 5 candles randomly placed, and uncork a good bottle of red wine.  Finally take a deep breath….smile. And feel the hygge.

Raspberry Scrubs

I have to thank Lew McCreary, author of the Harvard Business Review Sept 2010 article “Kaiser Permanente’s Innovation on Front Lines”, for the surge in emails subjected “raspberry scrubs”.  For the record they are “merlot”…and you can find photos here.  So many people have asked me, “really?” And yes, really.

Lets be clear here.  I am not a nurse, a doctor, or a pharmacist.  In fact I have no clinical training except as first responder 15 years ago so that I could land that awesome lifeguard job on Cape Cod’s National Seashore.  I am however a design thinker, but not a “Designer”.  In layman terms that makes me a jack of all trades in the design world.  I explore. I think. I build. I test. I measure. I beg. I cheer. I manage. I smile. I cry.  I laugh.

To be a good explorer, we choose to blend in with the locals the best we can.   Most of our work has been hospital-based these past 7 years, and scrubs are the most ubiquitous clothing in this setting beside the hospital gown…  and yes, we’ve worn the gowns too!  By blending in it allows us to not distort the scene so much.  Clinicians can focus on being clinicians and patients can focus on being patients. And we scrubbed “design thinkers” can absorb the realness of what is happening before us – the wonderful, terrible, and average. We can peek into those workarounds.  We can see the side work, side conversations, and side pain.

I would not see this if I were dressed as a business dude. I would not see this if I was dressed as a “Designer”.   So yes, raspberry scrubs are important.  Very important.

Next time you want to see the realness of what is happening in your system, wear what people in your system wear, go shake their hand, have an open mind, closed mouth, and ready heart, and see their world with their eyes.  You will be amazed.

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