Why health innovation requires risk-taking.
Why should you do it?
Working in health innovation over the past decade, I’ve heard this response, or something similar, more times than I can remember. It’s seductive to yearn for sufficient knowledge and understanding before testing ideas, waiting for conclusive evidence before committing. But for the really tricky, complex problems – be it raising children or transforming health and social care systems to be high performing for our citizens – we often have no clear idea what the solutions are or how to go about putting them in place.
So what should we do? There are risks in blindly trying solutions, but as many from not trying any. How do we create a safe space for people to discover what works for their situation and iteratively develop, refine and scale these ideas to enable successful transformation? The People Powered Results programme aims to do just that.
Nesta’s Health Lab is working with the Rapid Results Institute to pioneer a new approach to transforming complex systems, working with frontline health and care professionals to achieve meaningful change at speed. People closest to the action are empowered to test out new ways of working, giving them the opportunity to work across professional boundaries to solve the problems that matter for their communities.
I’ve worked on and studied a range of rapid cycle improvement approaches that have been in vogue at one time or another - be they Lean, TQM, Improvement Collaboratives, Flow… - but there is an aspect of the People Powered Results approach that particularly interests me. Building upon sound behaviour change theory, the People Powered Results team works collaboratively with system leaders to create an enabling environment for innovation and change without being prescriptive on the specific approach or method you must take to transform the system. As team members gain first-hand experience of what it is like to work in a different way, they develop skills, new networks and behaviours. They also create evidence of tangible improvements to care processes and outcomes for their population.
“Our greatest asset is the team itself… how we have understood how we work and how useful we can be for each other”
While coaching a team in South Essex, a team member announced: “this is the best experience of my working career”. When asked about why that was, she described how the programme enabled her to put into place ideas that she and her colleagues have known about, but have never been able implement; how she’s developed connections between professional groups that have been needed for years.
As a GP practice manager from a different site put it: “our greatest asset is the team itself… how we have understood how we work and how useful we can be for each other.”
It’s early days, but outcomes over the last 18 months are encouraging, particularly considering that it is a different way of working for many who are used to a more prescriptive approach to system change. As a system leader said to me at the end of a 100-day cycle, “this work has been fantastic in helping us learn how to work differently”.