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Post-Raspberry


I have nothing against raspberries.  Though in an HBR article from exactly a decade ago, my life temporarily was all about that color.  It explored the democratization of innovation in healthcare and on innovative approaches that drove breakthroughs in thinking and value. Back then, I would jump into my raspberry-colored scrubs to explore hospital environments with nurses, doctors, patients, and other scrubbed-up innovators. Ten years later, those HBR insights from 2010 are still relevant.

Takeaway 1: It’s about humans.

As in 2010, the focal point remains centered on the people who are experiencing the challenge.  And this is both the end-user and the other humans involved. There are pain and joy points for both, and focusing on only one type of actor skews the design. One additional group that I now explicitly include is leaders. They play an essential role throughout the innovation lifecycle, but they are not often thoughtful included. Worse, if they are excluded in the innovation journey or are in the wrong mindset to lead innovation, even the best ideas get thwarted. 

Hopelab’s partnership with the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) is a great example. The solution called Goal Mama is powerful because it solves patient and nurse needs. NFP leaders were part of the innovation journey every step of the way.  When the innovation team was divergent, their leaders were exploratory. When the team was preparing for the pilot, their leaders were operational. They matched phase for phase and a great solution came out of that work. 

Takeaway 2: It’s about value. 

If there is no way for your invention to drive value, it is not an innovation. What was not well understood ten years ago (by many of us) was how the business model is very much part of the design too.  In working on Nod with our partner Grit Digital Health, not only did we create a solution that reduced loneliness, we designed it in context to how Grit would get it into its college distribution channel, and thus in the hands of young people.

Takeaway 3: It’s about democratization.

Lew McCreary, the author of that HBR article, made this explicit: “ …by democratizing the methods of innovation, [they] are democratizing health care, giving patients and [caregivers] a louder voice in designing the future.”  In 2010, I was on an innovation, diversity, and inclusion panel.  I focused on what I believed was the inherent diversity/inclusion of human-centered design and talked about how we ensured there was a diverse group of users who were co-creating with us.  Ten years later, I now know that was not enough. Justice and equity must be bedrock design principles for the innovation AND the innovation team – they are inseparable.

In one of my final projects at Kaiser Permanente, our design team focused on improving the transgender-person care experience.  While sharing at a conference that we were about to launch this work, a woman approached me and said, “I am a designer. I am a trans-woman, and I am a KP patient. How can I help?”  Within weeks she was on our team helping kick off this work, contributing to and reviewing the design research plan, and ensuring we were doing our homework BEFORE entering the field. 

And so ten years later, it is still about the humans, about driving real value, and the ideal of innovation democratization. I don’t imagine this will change as I look out to 2030, but I do see a continue deepening and sometimes re-imagining as we solve real problems that real people have and ensure we do so in a just and sustainable way.

The Big Bold Future


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Wow. The Autumn 2011 Innovation Learning Network InPerson Meeting was a chaotic magical dream state. I am not quite sure if I’ve woken back up. 150 innovators and leaders from around the country gathered to build the future of healthcare. The theme was complex yet simple: connected health. And it encompassed broad reaching policies and deep, yet to be developed technologies.

We sent the innovators on an innovation safari on Day 1 to fifteen extraordinary SFBay organizations. We exposed them to 10 super cool technologies and concepts in a progressive lunch (we paired finger foods with technology…and wow was that a cool way to learn!). And then we gave six hours to brainstorm and prototype healthcare in 2031.

From SmartBathrooms and SmartSupermarkets, to a Healthcare Political Party and friendly cloud computing the future were as brilliant as they were diverse. All gave us a glimpse of what we know is to come.

Now the hard work: dragging 2031 as fast as we can to the present. Our innovators will coalesce around the most promising ideas, the ones were passion is high and collaboration is needed….and do something about it. Stay Tuned!!

Finally a special thanks to my home Kaiser Permanente and to my dear friends the California Healthcare Foundation. We co-hosted and sponsored this event.

Touch the Insight Part 1


We’re trying something totally new (for us) and totally cool (to us). Rather than prototyping solutions (which is the norm), we are prototyping insights. Same pathway, very different outcome. Solution pathways are meant to solve the problem or create new business opportunities. Insight pathways are meant to assist an organization in deeply understanding the issues they face.

Insights are pieces of the design puzzle and come early in a project. They are what drive opportunity identification, ideation and “solution” prototyping. But what if the problem is so complex, so gnarly, so diffuse that even understanding the insights are challenging? Insight prototyping breaks down this complexity and allows the organization to play, ponder, and plunder the insight; stretching and twisting them into first self meaning, secondly group meaning, and finally  organizational meaning.  They are designed to foster deeper discussion and smarter action, and reduce simplistic reaction.

Now with all this praise for insight prototyping, we’re literally prototyping it. And so far so good.

So this blog is a tease.  You will have to come back for Part 2 to see if this technique is a flop, success, or something in between.  We debut our insight prototypes next week…..

Playful and Messy


Christine Richter and Chris McCarthy being playful and messy. 😉

Christine Richter and I just finished presenting a very special WebEx on KP’s innovative nurse shift change called Nurse Knowledge Exchange Plus (NKEplus). The format of the WebEx was a new feature of the Innovation Learning Network to help diffuse innovation across systems. This blog post is not about that, but about one question that really caught my attention:

“what special skills does your group bring to implementation? Meaning what would we be missing if we tried to implement without you?”

The answer is “being playful and messy”. Too often when implementing new stuff, the “serious factor” rises exponentially. There is pervading sense that all must go right and tolerance for the imperfection plummets. And this is exactly what we combat when we implement new ideas. We try to help the end user and management take on a playful and messy attitude. Get them to smile, laugh and stumble….laugh again, and get it a little more right. Official permission for playfulness goes a long way: stress is reduced, and users become more perfect, faster.
So give it at try. You will be amazed at the serious results from being truly playful.

(and smile).

For those of you interested in implementing NKEplus you can signup and get more info here: http://goo.gl/FhwW8

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