Innovation generally refers to creating or changing processes, ideas or products, so they are more effective. It does not necessarily mean you are an inventor. I feel at times there is a gap between the amazing projects people are doing at their place of work, and with identification with the word innovation. People are not confident that what they are doing is actually innovative. Over the years, I have met so many wonderful allied health practitioners, and I can tell you, there are so many creative, driven, amazing, innovative people in our industry. You definitely do not have to invent things to be innovative in allied health. In our industry, creating dynamic service delivery for improving existing services, and implementing new ideas, will improve the ability and likelihood of a service or practice succeeding. Whether you are in private practice or a public funded service, innovation can help grow and develop allied health nationally by improving the way clinics are run, improving the way we achieve outcomes for clients, improving the way we staff our centres and developing positive workplace culture. Innovation can lead to greater education and knowledge for all practitioners, regardless of location and access to supervisors. When it comes down to the nuts and bolts of innovation, the underlying driver of innovation is creative problem solving. Fostering this creativity into your workplace can have a direct positive impact on productivity and performance. Sharing, then, of these creative ideas further enhances the development of the allied health workforce nationally, which is something I am very excited about.
So, what are you going to do to develop and engage innovation into your workplace?
- Conduct an analysis of your immediate working environment, including your customers and clients wants and needs. Are there processes within your service provision that are clunky or inefficient? Are there additional ideas that you can implement to add greater client satisfaction during their visits? If you were a client, what would you like to see?
- Connect with clients, referrers and employees to gain ideas for how you can improve the service that you are currently delivering. Look both internally and externally at your service as well. It is worth looking at what avenues your competitors are doing, what changes they are making in their practices. Remember, innovation is a key component to competitive advantage for your service.
- Be open to ideas and adaptive to change. Resting on the notion that things are ok because ‘we have always done them like that’ doesn’t necessarily mean your service will move forward. In private practice, not being open to change and developing new ideas, leaves the door open for your competitors to get ahead of you. Allowing creative problem solving amongst your team also fosters greater commitment from everyone to changes that might be about to happen. Employees, or people that you supervise, will be driven and motivated to think innovatively if the leadership is inspirational and innovative as well.
- Develop a plan. Write a goal (SMARTER preferably: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timed, Ethical and Recordable). Research avenues that you can take with your new project or idea. Seek advice if needed, from others who have experience in the area you are looking into. Will you need a grant? Or will you fund the idea internally yourselves. Remember to set a time line and record the steps you will need to take to develop the innovation. Set out the details of the procedures everyone involved will take to ensure the innovation is implemented well.
- Make sure you utilise your resources well and delegate tasks effectively to ensure you use the skills and experiences in your team. Involving people will more than likely accelerate your project as people inject their contributions of ideas as well.
- Make sure you work out how you will evaluate your innovation. It might fail initially, but what is important is you have a set out process for evaluating what worked and what didn’t, so you can change track if needed, or reconfigure how your innovation will work for your service.
- Be inspired by others. I love visiting other practitioner’s clinics because they give me such a boost of energy to go back to my practice and improve areas of customer service, employee management or client engagement that I had not thought of before. Make sure also though, that as well as learning and being inspired form others, that you also share your ideas and projects with others. You never know who will be empowered by something you have achieved. You may think it small, but to someone else, it could be a great light bulb moment that can help improve the way they are delivering their service – overall creating a greater hand therapy experience for all, nationwide.
Director, Riverina Hand Therapy, Riverina Kids Therapy, Maida Learning