Innovating our Future

Don’t Just Respond to Change, Create It!
by
Jim Roberts, CEO
June, 6, 2017 -

You know, it is really easy to complain and criticize, to worry and fret, or to get angry. I, for one, am guilty of these reactions; not often, but enough to disappoint myself. How good it feels to break out of the stupor and regain my sense of direction! You see, we all have a choice--to be overwhelmed by life’s circumstances, or to overwhelm those circumstances through Innovation and Creativity!

Yes, I know, there are certain circumstances we cannot literally overwhelm, but we can tweak our attitude and reactions to them. But this is a discussion for another blog. Right now, I want to speak for a moment about the power of Transformational Innovation needed in our stagnant Human Services field. As Innovation goes, our industry is decades, if not generations, behind technology and business Innovation. We have gotten so tangled in the weeds and trees that I think we have lost the capacity for forward thinking.

It goes without saying, but it feels like we are living in a time when culture, social norms, technology and everyday life are changing at warp speed. But what happens when you don’t adapt and adjust to these changes? You fall behind and become disconnected or irrelevant. I’m sure we all have friends or family who will have little or nothing to do with technology, social media, et cetera, whom now appear rather prehistoric. Organizations are the same, only the impact is far greater. If an organization is not innovating for its future, it will eventually fall behind and fade away.

The Family Care Network is so fortunate to have a Board of Directors who really support my efforts and vision to innovate for our future. We will soon have an “Innovation” Committee as well as an Innovation workgroup. As the brilliant Peter Drucker once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

The Human Services Industry must be driven by “Social Innovation”--developing more efficient, transformative, and cost-effective methods and practices to improve the human condition. People will argue that the whole “evidence-based practice” (EBP) movement is innovation, but it really isn’t. EBPs are proprietary, exclusive and basically moneymakers for their developers, and they have not had the scale to sufficiently transform our industry. The Human Services industry needs to rethink and retool everything we do: case management, therapy and interventions, supervision and monitoring, documentation, training, quality management, reporting, practice improvement and so on! Everything needs to be put on the change consideration table.

So what do we mean by “Innovation”? innovation means a change from a current practice, occurring when different elements, ideas or processes are framed, imagined, or combined in new ways to produce greater efficiencies and positive social impact. Without impact, innovation is just an idea with promise. Without scale, there is no opportunity for transformation.

Social Innovation is about risk-taking. The greater the risk, the higher the potential reward. In our industry, the laboratory is everywhere--our organizations are a laboratory--and by leveraging technology, we are able to reach a wider range of voices and perspectives. And unlike business and government, we have the capacity to take risk, to apply the long-view, to test, to pilot, and to change course if something isn’t working. We have nimbleness and adaptability.

From my perspective, Human Services need to focus on five distinct types of Innovation:

  1. Solutions Innovation--developing strategies, ideas, and products for resolving critical social needs and challenges;
  2. Process Innovation--improving methods, practices, systems, services and infrastructure to create efficiencies which produce greater positive social impact;
  3. Organizational Innovation–establishing governance, leadership, and management which is flexible and adaptive to change, and facilitates visioning, ongoing innovation, creativity and rapid response adaptability;
  4. Market Innovation–identifying, changing or creating new markets for generating new or reallocated resources to support the mission; and
  5. Collaborative/Partner Innovation–strengthening, or creating new kinds of partnerships, where partners leverage each other’s unique capacities to transform and improve an entire system.

So what does it take to get the Innovation engine running? PwC Corporation recently released a report, “Unleashing the Power of Innovation” based on a survey of 246 CEOs worldwide. I thought it was a good read. Here is their list of the key ingredients to guarantee successful innovation:

  1. Strong visionary organizational leadership
  2. Effective “change-management” and adaptability practices
  3. Having the right culture to foster and support Innovation
  4. The willingness to challenge organizational norms and to take risks
  5. The ability to solicit and capture ideas from throughout the organization
  6. Having the capability, capacity and environment to promotes creativity
  7. Strong collaborative relationships and partnerships
  8. The ability to recruit and retain the right staff to strengthen the organizational culture
  9. Access to and use of up-to-date, cutting edge technology
  10. Adequate resources

I, for one, am excited about the possibilities that lie ahead, waiting to be discovered and implemented through the process of Innovation. The viability and productivity of all Human Services organization depend on it. Now is the time to begin to Innovate our Future by allowing vision, creativity and imagination to flourish!