In Action!

Getting out of health care in action:

Being prepared to dedicate time and money to creativity is clearly one lesson but Adrià’s ability to look beyond the world in which he works is crucial. Teamwork is a recurring theme and both Adrià and Great Ormond Street Hospital have been inspired by the seamless operation of the Formula One pitstop team.

Dr Allan Goldman is head of paediatric cardiac intensive care at the hospital, and it was while watching a race with his colleague Martin Elliot that they saw they could learn from the pitstop team’s smooth functioning. For the doctors, the critical post-op handover from the theatre to the intensive care team was an area of concern.

“We spoke to the F1 teams about the processes and safety culture, and designed a simple process we could use,” says Goldman. By compartmentalising the handover it became less haphazard and errors were reduced by around 35%.

“In medicine, who is in charge is often not defined, but it became clear the anaesthetist was the most suitable person, so they head the process now. Talking to people outside made a big difference.” The Guardian

Innovating based upon what really matters

Stephen Shapiro on his 24/7 Innovation blog writes about Clayton Christensen idea of the innovator’s dilemma and the U.S. economy:

The dilemma arises because most companies focus their innovation energies on building faster and more sophisticated technologies: becoming bigger and better. … Unfortunately, the newer, cheaper developments – even if they are lower quality (in the beginning) and don’t perform as well – will ultimately be the winners.

The US economy – and most of the “Western world” – is based on constantly improving everything: becoming bigger and better.

Here’s the spot-on take away which is especially relevant to the health care world:

Some would claim that we need to become more creative.  Use our right brain more.  Focus on design and experiences.  Taking things to the next level.  Although this may be true, I wonder if it perpetuates the innovator’s dilemma thinking.  Bigger and better.

What if the answer is to find ways of offering more affordable, more accessible, and more simplistic offerings?

I’m a big proponent of more right-brain thinking in health care; for far too long we have completely ignored design and experience in care delivery.  But who can argue that innovation focused on more affordable, more accessible, and more simplistic health care delivery should guide our thinking?  They should; but there’s no doubt that creativity and right-brain thinking need to be a part of that process.

The Right-Brainers shall save us

Dan Pink highlights a recent Barron’s interview with Jeremy Grantham—he was one of the first to warn of a credit crisis a few years ago.  Mr. Grantham explains what got us into this fix (italics added):

I ask myself, “Why is it that several dozen people saw this crisis coming for years?” I described it as being like watching a train wreck in very slow motion. It seemed so inevitable and so merciless, and yet the bosses of Merrill Lynch and Citi and even [U.S. Treasury Secretary] Hank Paulson and [Fed Chairman Ben] Bernanke — none of them seemed to see it coming.

I have a theory that people who find themselves running major-league companies are real organization-management types who focus on what they are doing this quarter or this annual budget. They are somewhat impatient, and focused on the present. Seeing these things requires more people with a historical perspective who are more thoughtful and more right-brained — but we end up with an army of left-brained immediate doers.

So it’s more or less guaranteed that every time we get an outlying, obscure event that has never happened before in history, they are always going to miss it. And the three or four-dozen-odd characters screaming about it are always going to be ignored.

If you look at the people who have been screaming about impending doom, and you added all of those several dozen people together, I don’t suppose that collectively they could run a single firm without dragging it into bankruptcy in two weeks. They are just a different kind of person.

So we kept putting organization people — people who can influence and persuade and cajole — into top jobs that once-in-a-blue-moon take great creativity and historical insight. But they don’t have those skills.

It reminds me of micro-level health care thinking.  So if you don’t have any creatives/weird ones/right-brainers in your c-suite, the opportunity is now upon.  Black swans happen.  How is your management team dealing with the reality of (significantly more) difficult health care times ahead?  Diversity is a start (read: people that think differently than you!).

“Take two Matisses and call me in the morning”

Creativity is king.

From Dan Pink:

American medical schools, those bastions of left-brain muscle-flexing, continue their march toward whole-mindedness. Yesterday’s Boston Globe reports that Harvard Medical School has followed the lead of places like Mount Sinai Medical College and begun taking its students to art museums. The goal: To improve young physicians’ observation and diagnostic skills.

This isn’t about the artsy-fartsy or touchy-feely. It’s about dollars and cents — and sometimes life and death. As The Globe notes:

A study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine show[ed] that after completing the class, [the Harvard] students’ ability to make accurate observations increased 38 percent. When shown artwork and photos of patients, students were more likely to notice features such as a patient’s eyes being asymmetrical or a tiny, healed sore on an index finger. Observations by a control group of students who did not take the class did not change.”

For more insight into the power of right-brain thinking, pick up a copy of A Whole New Mind.

Creativity will set us free

Ponder this: could our education system be responsible for our breaking health care system?  Could a flat ignorance of creativity be part of the reason we can’t seem to make necessary changes to embrace sustainable health care?  Increasingly the answer is looking like yes.

Dan Pink posted his commencement speech at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design on his Johnny Bunko website.

The entire speech is worth watching (and the Bunko book worth purchasing), but I’ll extract a quote here for use in relating to health care:

“The abilities that now matter most in a very, very hard headed way are really the right brain ones.  Artistry. Empathy. Inventiveness. Big picture thinking.”

Part One:


Part Two:


Sir Ken Robinson proposed the question, “Do schools kill creativity?” at Ted 2006.  His ideas inspire a new approach to education.  He says that creativity is as important in education as literacy.

“I have a big interest in education, I think we all do.  We have a huge vested interest in it.  Partly because it’s education that’s meant to take us into this future we can’t grasp.  If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065.  Nobody has a clue, despite all the expertise that has been on parade for the past four days, what the world will look like in five years time and yet we’re meant to be educating for it.”

The creativity necessary to fix health care in this country is increasing with each passing day.  While the major problems we are trying to solve will likely remain the same in root cause, the iteration of those issues will be very different.  Preparing students for the problems of tomorrow is a challenge—it is difficult to foretell what those problems will look like.  That’s where creativity comes in: we must not strip students of their creative abilities.  In fact, we must nurture them.

We live in a problem-solving society.  I’ve no doubt that we’ll get to where we need to get at some point.  However, improving our educational focus on creativity (at all levels) would expedite the process.

The solution just may be of the grassroots variety.  Read this post.  Jen and Ted and Berci think medical education needs some re-engineering.  As Jen writes:

If we’re working towards a more consumer-centric, patient-directed system, the educational component of such a revision must not be neglected.

And med students desperately need this kind of information and training included in curricula, NOW. As in next semester. As in 2 months from TODAY.

Not 3 years from now after lengthy Board meetings, celebratory approval, news releases, additional tenure-track positions secured and outside consulting agencies engaged.

This group’s creative thinking is moving the agenda forward.  Thankfully.  We just need more of it.