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Innovation Series: #1

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

[February 13, 2021] by Kathy Scott, PhD, and Bridget Sarikas


Series Introduction

It doesn’t require much convincing these days to see and understand that our organizations and systems are, and will continue to be, inundated with shock waves of change for a long time to come. These shock waves are shaking the earth beneath us, shifting both our thinking and our activity. They require us all to consider new and better ways to live, lead and learn – ways that weren’t even considered a year or two ago, or perhaps were considered but not accepted as viable options at the time.

Things are different now. We all need to be innovators to some degree, challenging the past based on our new reality, and finding ways to improve our personal and professional lives as we move forward.

In our innovation series we will explore what innovation is and is not, why it is so desperately needed, and ways in which individuals, teams, and leaders in organizations can intentionally cultivate innovation and move into a healthier and more sustainable future.

Humpty Dumpty’s Fall

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.

--Traditional Nursery Rhyme

Then …. Along came a princess with an eye for the new

She created a mosaic made of stone, shells and glue

And all of the kingdom viewed the mélange art

Up on the wall as a beautiful heart.

We are experiencing many humpty-dumpty falls as the ground beneath us continues to shake from the volatility, uncertainty, chaos and ambiguity around us. Many of us are trying to put the pieces back together as they were, using the force of the king’s strong horses, or the logic of the king’s men. And it’s not working.

When a nation, community or organization faces a crisis, the dominant logic is no longer valid. Logic is the underlying set of principles that inform a justifiable understanding of a situation. Logic leads us to a particular way of thinking that is considered reasonable and based on good judgment. When this dominant logic is challenged, it results in shifting structures of meaning and power all around us. A new logic is needed that is better adapted to the new external environment. In other words, our old thinking will not get us out of this chaos, nor will we be returning to business as usual because “status is not quo” (Scott, Sarikas & Bessler, 2020).

The need for innovation and new logic occurs when any one of several dynamics shake our world (Drucker, 2013) – and this past year, we have experienced all of these. They are as follows:

  • Unexpected occurrences, or failures. The occurrences this past year were not expected or anticipated by the majority of us. When this happens, rather than focus on “it shouldn’t have happened,” we need to turn our thinking to “what are the unanticipated possibilities?”

  • Incongruities. Dissonance and disconnects occur within the logic or rhythm of a process, or between economic realities, or between expectations and results. We need to pay attention to these incongruities and explore the underlying thinking that promotes them.

  • Processes fail. When our series of designed steps are unable to deliver the intended results, the process fails. The list of process failures is long with many of our systems being challenged beyond their capabilities. [Can you relate?] The pandemic, climate change, social and political unrest have each put a light on so many of our vulnerable systems, some previously known and some not.

  • Industry and market changes occur. Our industries and markets can and do change, and when this change is sudden, it provides tremendous opportunities for innovation. Yet often, established companies concentrate on defending what they already have rather than adapting their way into something of more value. [We bet you can name a company or two that continues to defend the status quo.]

  • Demographic shifts. Demographic shifts have well-known lead times, yet they are often ignored for way too long. Innovation opportunities made possible by an aging population, occupational shifts and geographic mobility abound today.

  • Changes in perception. While a change in perception doesn’t alter the facts, it does change the meaning of the facts and can do so very quickly. What determines whether a person sees a glass as half full or half empty, is a mood that can be defined, tested and exploited. The same is true for the collective mood of a group, mob, population or nation. [Think GameStop -- with the little guy influencing the overall financial market.]

  • New knowledge. New knowledge comes in the form of scientific, technical and social. While there is a protracted span between the emergence of new knowledge and its movement into every-day living and working, particularly in some industries such as healthcare, a crisis can speed up the process. Taking advantage of new knowledge often requires convergence of many different types of knowledge (such as technical, industry-specific, role specific) as well as insight into the needs of a particular market. It requires the work of diverse thinking and skill sets. And It requires a collaborative fearlessness!

Think about the collateral impact of the events over the past year on your job, industry and life. Our schools, workplaces, fitness centers, homes, neighborhoods, physician practices, hospitals, retail favorites and transportation services have all been dramatically impacted. Ask yourself, if I was planning a business or service today, what would I do differently based on the learnings from 2020? What is the logic that has changed? How can I take advantage of this movement to improve my own life and the lives of others?

Industry Shifts

Examples of logic and industry shifts are many and ripe for the picking. Let’s take a look at a couple:

  • Restaurants – The underlying logic has changed from restaurants as primarily places for as many people as possible to dine-in and socialize, to places that routinely prepare, package and distribute food in a variety of ways. The underlying logic about restaurant safety has also changed from one of primarily food safety, to one of overall health safety. Knowing this, we would make sure our new restaurant included substantial outdoor seating, drive-through capabilities with unobtrusive food pick up, even at high-end restaurants, and distributed work stations. The menu would include meals for family consumption – a bit healthier, perhaps proportioned differently. Inside space would be designed with flexible waiting space that could be converted to eating area if needed to allow for social distancing. Staff training and workflows would be rethought to enhance overall health and efficiency with this new model.

The good news – the restaurant industry has stepped up. They are adjusting and innovating daily. And we thank them for their highly creative adaptations and culinary delights!

And then there’s healthcare.

  • Healthcare – For healthcare, the underlying logic is shifting and the industry is in turmoil as they try to respond and adapt. One of the shifts is from “patients and consumers coming to providers for care” trending to “health- and medical-care coming to consumers virtually and remotely.” Another shift is from “patients as passive recipients of care,” to “patients and family members as consumers of care and valued members of the care team.” This logic is in turmoil as family’s have been completely sidelined during COVID hospital lock downs, unable to give and receive information as needed. And a third shift is from “the physician as captain of the ship” to “the care-team captain being the person with the most expertise and relevant scope of practice to manage a client’s particular situation.”

The implications for each of these shifts are many as it relates to power, decision making, financing, incentive structures, technology, pay structures, scope of practice communication processes, and standards of care. Healthcare is ripe for innovative new approaches to health care and care delivery. #OhThePlacesWeCanGo!

Innovation as a Driver of Progress

Innovation is an important driver of social and economic progress. It is an idea, practice, tool or service that is perceived as something new and is reflected in products, processes, technology advancements, business models, organizational structures and services in all sectors.

Innovation can be something radically new, but most often combines current practices, tools and techniques in new ways to achieve different results. The metaphoric princess did just this when she boldly created a beautiful heart-shaped mosaic from the broken egg pieces and other available products, resulting in a new focus of inspiration for the kingdom. Never has there been a better time to be bold!

Innovation is much more than a creative idea or creating something novel, however. Innovation solves a problem, meets a need, or fills a gap! This is the starting point for any innovator and requires an understanding of the problem, potential users and their expectations, values and needs.

Effective innovations generally start small and are focused. Successful innovations may have several failures before achieving even modest results – but modest results can lead to changing standards and determining the direction of a new technology, service or product ahead of the herd. And in this time of upheaval, innovation can take us from surviving to thriving!

To be an innovator requires personal credibility, effective teamwork, leadership and an understanding of context and change management. All those good ideas you have for solving day-to-day problems and creating new opportunities can lead to new possibilities with some determination. Think about how many times someone has told you something is impossible – start there!

Join us for innovative insights, learning and support. This will be the focus of our innovation series over the next several weeks as we encourage you to “get your innovation on!”

Titter Time:

“The human body has two ends on it: one to create with and one to sit on. Sometimes people get their ends reversed. When this happens, they need a kick in the seat of the pants.” – Roger von Oech


Drucker, P. (1985). The discipline of innovation. In (2013) On Innovation: HBR’s 10 Must Reads. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Rogers, E. (2010). Diffusion of Innovations. Simon and Schuster.

Scott, K., Sarikas, B. & Bessler, C. (2020). Stupid Gone Viral – When Science and Reality Collide. Great Britain: Rethink Press.

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