The Innovation Bulb Guest contributor Lucien Engelen​ - February 13, 2018

Organizing Innovation Photo By Alex Iby On Unsplash

In one of the chapters of my new book "Augmented Health(care)™ : The end of the beginning", I elaborate on the need for process and flow for real innovation to happen. I wanted to share the bigger picture behind that here with you. Having been challenged many times in the projects that we ran, I can clearly see a pattern. 

While 'money', 'technology', 'government' or 'the board' are typically pinpointed as the barriers to innovation, the real elephant in the room is 'us'. It's all of us that are the real problems blocking change. Although we all want change, almost nobody really wants to change their work, their behavior and certainly not their job. In reality, it is often the 'other department' that has to change, because 'we' are doing the stuff correctly. 

Where innovation is often seen as the solution to many of our problems it actually often distracts us from facing the real problem: culture. Most people have no need for change. They actually benefit from the status quo and want to keep it that way. So if there is no need or a 'burning platform', it comes down to the will of people to change or to the leadership painting a horizon that people actually want to be part of. 

"To innovate you need a clear pathway and model you can use"

The vision of that horizon needs to be supported by a strong authentic leadership securing it as the way to go and making subsequent decisions into that path. That requires a layer of strategy that people can adhere to: brief, compelling and with simple logic. The majority of the strategic plans require so much 'artistic lingo' to explain what we do and why we do it, that the bulk of the people cannot buy into it. To innovate you need a clear pathway and model you can use. 

I often describe innovation into three phases : (creating) awareness (by show and tell), (doing the) groundwork (for more solid scaling) and (creating) breakthroughs (by making it the new normal). 

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"Culture is an ongoing part of your business and should in no way be the reason to start an innovation process"

Together with these three phases, comes the real challenge; the culture to make the horizon happen. This does not come easy and should NOT be part of your innovation process, but should have happened long before. It is part of your HR approach, of your leadership and of the training that comes with the change. Often I see companies struggle during an innovation process, with a backlog of work on the aspects of 'trust', 'feeling valued', and lack of a clear vision. 

Culture is an ongoing part of your business and should in no way be the reason to start an innovation process. Innovation, however, can help supporting cultural change, if played right.

And lastly, often greatly overestimated are the processes and technology. Even though I use technology often as my 'trojan horse' (boys and girls still like toys) to me it never has been the goal, but nothing more than a tool. Some colleagues of mine try to change healthcare and medicine by doing research, or improving the quality and safety. My approach is through innovation supported by the technological opportunities of this era. 

Lucien Innovation Bulb

One of the things that strikes me over and over again, is that after a successful innovation, the final step to 'kill' the old way of doing things is often omitted: the old technology, for instance, is kept alive. While giving the laggards a choice and a tool to avoid working through the new normal, we also 'punish' the ones fiercely working and using what has been achieved. 

My plea to innovation teams is therefore to create a 'demolition team" that clears away our old 'habits' and perhaps puts them in a special room - or museum - to conserve them for later. You know, with things like a fax, paper records, and email (just kidding, or am I?).

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Lucien Engelen 2
Guest contributor Lucien Engelen​

It is at the intersection of technology and patient empowerment, which is where Lucien, in his role as founding director of the Radboud University Medical Centre