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.

4 thoughts on “Raspberry Scrubs”

  1. Ahoy Chris!

    I had no idea about the raspberry scrubs being intentional. It totally makes sense though. Welcome to the blogosphere, it looks good on you,



  2. I really got a close look at the hospital, doctor, nurse, patient relationship when my father was in the hospital recently. After some comments from the nurse I already was designing ideas in my head. Our design for the health spa nature retreat was to make the child with cancer more at home so they wouldn’t be reminded of the constant visits to the hospital. I do want to put some of these design ideas to paper after hearing about the concerns from the staff. I love the idea of the raspberry scrubs!


  3. …takes me back to a time when we’d borrow the surgical scrubs to help MedSurg staff improve handoffs at shift change. The current Merlot even better validates the innovator change agent. I agree with you. It says, “you’re in it WITH me.”


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