Tag Archives: Innovation

Communicate, Collaborate and Innovate to Reduce Infant Mortality

Peter Gloor, PhD
Peter A. Gloor, PhD

Compared to other Western countries, infant mortality in the US is shockingly high.
High infant mortality is a social problem that can only be solved through massive collaboration and out-of-the-box innovation.

To tackle this issue I propose to tap into the “creativity of the swarm,” using collaborative innovation to help parents and caregivers take the best possible care of their children even before they are born and increase the quality of care in the first years of an infant’s life.

A good starting place, I believe, is to connect parents and healthcare providers in what I call Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs). These are dynamic teams in which diverse stakeholders with a shared vision collaborate to achieve a common goal. COINs form from the interaction of like-minded, self-motivated individuals who enable innovative ideas to be pushed forward. The participants join because they are committed to the common vision and want to be part of the innovation that “will change the world.”

How many people could be motivated by the goal of reducing infant mortality?

Through COINs, we can collectively address key topics such as breastfeeding, screening for developmental delays, and recognizing maternal depression. We can increase the quality of care for infants by creating peer learning and innovation groups of parents, where knowledgeable parents help others learn to take better care of their babies. Weaving a network of social support around parents in need helps them weather the storms of daily life. Just like in the beehive where bees take care of their young as a community, mothers and fathers in a collaborative innovation network can learn from and support each other.

One of the key factors for high-functioning COINs is communication. As we have found in our research, better communication leads to better collaboration, which in turn leads to more innovation. Ultimately, we want to increase the collective intelligence of these teams. In research at the Center for Collective Intelligence, my colleagues found that there are four key predictors that will increase collective intelligence of groups:

  1. The more team participants communicate with one another, the more collectively intelligent the team is.
  2. When participants communicate equally, instead of a few participants doing most of the talking, the collective intelligence of the team is higher.
  3. When everyone contributes equally to team success, a team is more collectively intelligent.
  4. The higher the emotional intelligence (measured through a test called “Reading the Mind in the Eyes”) of each team member is, the higher the collective intelligence of the team is.

It all starts with connecting parents and healthcare providers, encouraging them to better communicate such that they can innovate more. Talking more, talking more evenly, contributing ideas more evenly, and taking care of the emotional needs of each other will help to create better networks that will generate better ideas to reduce infant mortality.

Peter Gloor, PhD, is a research scientist at the Center for Collective Intelligence at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and is the pioneer of the Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs) concept upon which NICHQ’s Infant Mortality Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN) project is based. Mr. Gloor is serving as an expert advisor to NICHQ on this project.

Let the wild rumpus start! Your ideas wanted!

mariannephd

Image

Those who teach the Model for Improvement often ask, “What will you do by next Tuesday?” It’s a quick way of jump starting the rapid testing that is one of the hallmarks of improvement science. At the end of this post, I offer a “next Tuesday” challenge.

Today, Peter Gloor, founder of the concept of Collaborative Innovation Networks, led a session with NICHQ on how to bring more innovation into our work. (His concept is one of the methods at the core of the Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network to Reduce Infant Mortality, the expansion of which we are honored to be leading.) Peter shared with us his most simple roadmap for innovation, and it went like this:

  1. Collect crazy ideas.
  2. Select the craziest.
  3. Find people willing to work on the craziest ideas.

Peter is an innovative thinker, to say the least. Yet his approaches are also very grounded…

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What Rosie Revere, Engineer Teaches Me About Innovation

Marianne McPherson
Marianne McPherson

My daughter loves to read Rosie Revere, Engineer, a children’s book about a young girl who dreams of and practices at becoming an engineer. Rosie nearly gives up that dream when she’s laughed at by some of the people closest to her after her first few inventions aren’t first-time successes. But with some encouragement from her great-great-aunt Rose (homage to Rosie the Riveter), young Rosie keeps at her innovating and engineering, building a flying machine called a heli-o-cheese-copter. In the process, she comes to realize that:

“Life might have its failures, but this was not it. The only true failure can come if you quit.

I’ve been thinking about innovation a lot lately, in large part due to a renewed commitment at NICHQ to be a hub for creating and spreading innovations. I am so excited about this commitment because I know that new ideas and new approaches—and building them together—will help create a world in which all children achieve their optimal health.

“But questions are tricky, and some hold on tight…”

Further advancing my excitement for innovation, NICHQ was recently awarded a cooperative agreement by HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau to lead the national expansion of the Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN) to Reduce Infant Mortality. This initiative provides a platform to transform children and their families’ lives, drawing on quality improvement, collaborative improvement, and innovation to do so. We feel privileged to join with an incredible group of partners and build on the work of CoIIN participants in the first 19 states in which this initiative is already underway. As we spread the effort to up to 31 new states and eight territories, we are honored to hold on tight to the tricky question (as young Rosie would say) of how to reduce infant mortality, improve birth outcomes, and address health disparities in this country. We hold onto that question because we are committed to the vision of a nation in which every child celebrates his or her first birthday. (If you are, too, and especially if you’re already working in this area, please comment on this blog post so we can follow up.)

Baby Luke
Baby Luke

One of the reasons that I hold onto this question is that my cousin, Luke, never got to see his first birthday. In 2010, 24,586 families experienced the life altering heartbreak that my family experienced. We can do so much better. For every family to celebrate their child’s first birthday, we will learn and work in partnership, we will improve where the path is clear, and we will innovate where it is not.

“You did it! Hooray! It’s the perfect first try! This great flop is over. It’s time for the next!”

I invite you to join our conversation and join in our work. As Rosie knows—she has a closet full of parts for building her inventions—and as Steven Johnson writes in Where Good Ideas Come From, “the trick is to get more parts on the table.”

What might that look like, exactly? To start, NICHQ will be putting more of our parts (and combinations of parts) on the table externally in, for example, more blog posts like this one. We invite you to join the conversation and help us make the next great flying machine (tell us if we’re flopping and how to fail forward!). Bring some parts to put on the table (maybe even guest blog about them!), follow us on social media like Twitter (@NICHQ, @mariannephd). Our table is not just the one in our office conference rooms. That table is in our conversations with those who, like we at NICHQ, are committed to a world in which all children achieve their optimal health. We recognize that those parts may come from healthcare, or from architecture, or from children’s literature. So please, come to our table and join the conversation, and invite others to join it, too.

“It crashed. That is true. But first it did just what it needed to do. Before it crashed, Rosie…Before that…It flew!”

As Rosie taught me, getting parts on the table means that some combinations of those parts won’t work, either on the first try or ever. Just as I’m committed to NICHQ putting more parts on the communal table as we iterate and innovate, I’m committed to us sharing what combinations haven’t worked. In the months that I’ve been leading our innovation initiative and learning a TON as I go, I’ve held onto a few things:

  • Innovation is rare. Because it’s so rare, it’s both a destination and a journey. And that journey involves a lot of great flops on the way to the flying machine.
  • Innovation is not a solo flight. (See above re: parts on the table in public!)
  • Innovation has a lot of buzz, but it’s buzz worth striving for, especially if it means that just one more child will have her first birthday, that just one more family will have a safe outdoor space for their child to play, or that just one more adolescent receives timely treatment for substance abuse.

So, what is your heli-o-cheese-copter? What is the next one we’ll build together? Join us at the table, and please bring some parts.

Marianne McPherson is the Director of Applied Research and Evaluation at NICHQ.

Like Halloween Every Day

Contributed by Rachel Sachs Steele, MEd
COO and Vice President of Business Development.
Originally posted November 2013.

Rachel Steele
Rachel Steele

I love Halloween. For one day every year, I get to try something new, look totally silly, celebrate fear and play with possibilities, all without the usual external or internal constraints. Can you imagine what life would be like if we had that freedom all the time?

Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to take risks without fear? If we had the opportunity to look at what we are doing, evaluate our actions openly and try new ideas until we find the best outcome? And how about having a whole community of people taking risks, embracing crazy ideas and experimenting with new approaches together?

Guess what? No trick here — this “imaginary” world exists.

While wearing sparkly wings and a silly hat this year with my 3-and-a-half-year-old niece, I noticed many parallels between Halloween and collaborative improvement work. Being part of an improvement effort is a humbling experience. We walk out into the world knowing we’re going to look silly, but trust we won’t be judged — because others will look silly too. And then there is the scary stuff: when we push ourselves and others to improve, we expose errors and inefficiencies, identify root causes, and test new ways of operating.

And guess what happens when we test new ideas? We are going to fail. That’s how we learn.

One may argue that Halloween is a low-cost game, but when taking risks in a professional setting, mistakes are not typically encouraged and change can be difficult. And, as if exposing ourselves to failure isn’t scary enough, when we embrace the idea of trying and failing for the sake of improvement, we must also confront the fears and limitations of the larger systems in which we work. Let’s not forget that improvement will prove, without a doubt, that we don’t know everything and — yikes — we may need to let go of something we once thought essential to make room for the new and better.

These are scary concepts for many of us, but the beauty of improvement work is that we get to encourage and celebrate “failure” as an important part of learning. Improvement work requires us to embrace our fears and understand that fears represent risks and risks represent opportunity. And because we do improvement work in collaborative environments with others who are also trying, risking and stumbling, we’re not alone. Over and over again in NICHQ’s work, we see amazing examples of project teams taking risks that result in tremendous leaps forward.

Sure, confronting failure is daunting, but it’s also exhilarating to see opportunities and find better ways of doing things. It’s our obligation as leaders and as people to find and release things that no longer get us the results we are seeking and make way for better. But let’s face it, things are going to change regardless of our own level of comfort and no matter how hard we try, we won’t ever be perfect, can’t predict the future and can’t know what we don’t know. So why not have some fun with it? Join us in improvement work: jump in, try something outside the norm, and experience, in a way, the freedom of Halloween anytime. What we learn in the failing can surprise us — and ultimately pave the way to meaningful and lasting improvements.