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Café Innovation – The heart of innovation is Process

Irrespective of what our individual politics might be, the Healthcare debate has the very real potential of touching us all in some way. I have been trying to keep up with it (be warned, it is no task for the faint of heart), and I ran into an interesting article in the most recent issue of the Harvard Business Review (January-February 2010).  In a feature titled, “Breakthrough Ideas for 2010,” there is a piece on “The Technology That Can Revolutionize Health Care,” by R. Dixon, MD, MA.

Within this piece, Dixon points out how, as a physician, he once sought to employ the revolutionary technology of email to stay in touch with and monitor the progress of his patients between visits.  He was told to cease and desist. Interesting directive, one might say, considering how this could have changed the process of doctor-patient dynamics for the better. In another instance, he used Skype to have consultations with a terminally ill patient.  In yet another instance, he used the revolutionary power of the telephone to regularly follow up with a patient with interactive guidance on certain activities; thus reducing the need for the patient to make frequent visits! In each instance he did something to improve the patient’s relationship with the physician – but he also did something that was not being done (and, in some instances frowned upon) by the establishment. He was rewriting the process!

The technologies Dixon employed are by no stretch of the imagination cutting edge inventions of the day – they are just a part of life for many of us. That is the point. True innovation is not solely dependent on a new killer app or invention, but how we rethink our processes to achieve better outcomes.

Why is this write up relevant? It highlights what can be achieved by merely re-arranging the pieces a little differently and by approaching certain tasks in new ways. Refining the process was what brought about much better outcomes in these instances, not the use of some exorbitantly priced technological marvel! The same might very well hold true for organizations and shareholder-value driven businesses.

2010 has got to be the year of simple but dramatic changes in how we look at things. Let us resolve not to shy away from innovating only because we are unable to take advantage of new technology! If only we remember that process is the heart of innovation, then we’ll know where to begin from! It is indeed possible to do a lot better with existing technology, if only we have the courage to rethink the process.

Let’s get going!

Happy New Year!

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