By Professor Cheryl Metcalf, Head of School of Healthcare Enterprise and Innovation
‘Innovation’ is a strange word isn’t it? It means so many different things to people. It’s certainly overused – if you want the grant to be awarded or the paper to be accepted, pop ‘innovation’ in the title and away you go (we wish it were that simple!).
Innovation generally means the process of change in a positive way, but you can certainly have negative consequences of innovation and that usually means you haven’t done the groundwork properly, you don’t know the area well enough (or that you’re not listening). The worst kind of innovation (in my opinion) are those that create really ‘cool’ widgets to solve problems and when they (eventually) take them to a user, the user say: ‘but that’s not a problem – I don’t need to solve that, what I need help with is…’
Innovation is often born out of two things: 1) frustration and/or 2) emersion. That’s why healthcare innovation is such an important area – because when it is done well, it capitalises on 2) to solve 1).
The next time you have a good idea, take a step back from it and try not to get absorbed in the brilliance of your creativity but by the knowledge and environment that surrounds it.
Do people really need the change, or is it just something you think is a good idea? Have you asked other people if they think it’s a problem? And do you know that what you’re proposing will solve a problem instead of creating new one? By solving the immediate problem, you might be creating another one further down the road. Responsible innovation is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about (not the term – that would be boring even for me! but the principle). In healthcare , responsible innovation is really important – by changing a part of a system (adding something in or taking it away), are you interfering with a process that will have unintended consequences – by streamlining this system, or automating this process, are you removing the need for someone to work? Are you deskilling a workforce? Are the materials you’re proposing to use accessible? What happens at the end of life of the ‘product’? Is the change you’re proposing sustainable after the funding has finished and your research project ends? Don’t use a laser, if a drawing pin will do the same job – whatever your solution is, it must be affordable.
Take home message: The next time you have a good idea, take a step back from it and try not to get absorbed in the brilliance of your creativity but by the knowledge and environment that surrounds it.