Taking cat photos v innovation in health – what’s easier?

The thought struck me as we unpacked the joke present from my young nephew. Now it’s not every day you get a cat photo booth. As much as I love my cats, not sure if it’s on the list of needed!

The cardboard booth came in a series of pieces to be fitted together with no obvious instructions. Looking at the box they came in we could see potentially how the system would go together to get the best fit. A simple clip together approach where each board slotted into each other.

There was discussion between the makers of the booth as to the best way to do it. Several ways were tried until we finally had the finished item; a shaky structure pieced together with good will, best intentions and colaboration.

The booth sat in the middle of the room as the makers tried to encourage Jakey and Missy to enter. The aim to get some cool photos for my nephew showing his original pressie in use.

As you can imagine it did not go well. It’s easy to make a box, but cats are independent souls who can be stubborn if they want to be.

They are also quite good at destroying boxes.

So in the end we got a few photos before the booth was destroyed – job done, happy nephew. Not so sure about our cats who seemed to be a bit confused with the whole process. Plus Missey always picked hula girl when available, other choices were astronaut, cowboy, pirate, superman. Not enough gender diversity and user centered design cat booth makers?

So how does this relate to innovation in health?

If you work in health or are a patient I’m sure you can start to see patterns you recognise. The way that innovation is put in place without thinking of the people trying to implement the change or the end user. Sometimes there needs to be more involvement and diversity at every level to make a system work.

Early Telehealth is a great example to show how not to do innovation – Did people really want a massive black box cluttering up their living room to send their observations to a remote centre? Likewise great gadgets are available now, but need to connect seamlessly with the existing system or else they will fail. This is the boring, but essential stuff of transformational change and innovation. Ignore this at your peril fellow innovators.

We need to look across the system to innovators at every level – patients who are not waiting for someone else to fix the issue and diversity of people at the frontline who get it and understand how their innovation neatly fits with the system and supports patients.

The cat photo booth is a great example for innovators. If the people who make the product can’t get the end user to adopt it the innovation will fail.

So what’s easier taking cat photos or innovation in health?

It’s a close run competition, but cat photos win by a sneaky incentive called ‘Dreamies’. (Anyone who has a cat will know the power of dreamies.)

Where is the ‘dreamies’ incentive in health and social care?

The Innovaton and Technology tariff goes someway to support the process in healthcare. What’s needed is more sense checking with patients and frontline staff at an early stage. By doing this you can fast track innovation, not wait to find the difficulties during onboarding. Plus you can establish whether the problem has already been solved at the frontline by dedicated and innovative staff.

Look for a way for all staff to be supported and developed to make innovation the way we do things here!

Innovation needs to be within the dna of the NHS through its staff in collaboration with patients and carers.

Is this happening?

I am contacted by innovators frequently, both healthcare staff and patients who are looking for innovation development and support within the system. There are great programmes out there, but still more to be done to pull together all useful resources within the system and from other sectors.

My MSc research with innovators and conversations with patient innovators in the UK, USA, Canada and NZ found key themes that promote success. My mission is to build on the research and show how you can make a difference. This will be through connection with others, shared purpose and a knowledge management platform.

I will be posting developments here on the platform as my notes from the edge #NFTE and a way to work out loud #WOL on the process of writing my book for innovators.

Love you to join me on this adventure into the unknown.