Thinking differently about innovation

By Sean Peacocke

A common strategy organizations use to increase innovation is to throw more money at it. Yet we know success factors for innovation comes down to more than just funding, it involves modifying structure, process, people, training and culture to embed innovation in all areas of your organization. Experts at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto, Ontario have developed a new training program that focuses on innovative thinking and culture rather than the traditional focus on practice, invention or technology.

“We realized that in order to solve really complex challenges within childhood disability, we needed to support and nurture our leaders to unleash the creative potential within their teams,” said Dr. Kathryn Parker, co-lead of the program and senior director of the hospital’s Teaching and Learning Institute.

In 2017, Holland Bloorview launched its strategic plan, No Boundaries. In order to create a ‘no boundaries’ ethos within the organization, there was a need to think differently about how to structure and deliver services. The Accelerate Innovative Mindsets (AIM) program was designed to support innovative thinking amongst Holland Bloorview leaders as they work with their health care teams to move strategic initiatives forward. AIM was built on best practices in Design ThinkingTM methodology and is being applied in solving complex problems for children, youth and families living with disability.

AIM supports development by providing opportunities for leaders to build their capabilities in core areas related to innovative thinking through the following activities: an orientation to innovative thinking, engaging in innovation simulations, participating in a design thinking workshop, and developing a learning plan. In addition, leaders host an Innovation Jam – a purposeful gathering of diverse perspectives to solve a complex problem – where they use design thinking methodology with their teams.

“The Innovation Jam really enabled us to challenge our assumptions about what we thought the solutions were,” said Laura Thompson, team lead and occupational therapist at Holland Bloorview, involved in co-creating innovative transition pathways with youth and their families. “It took our work to a place we didn’t think we could get to.”

Throughout AIM, leaders also have access to innovation resources (e.g. articles) and ongoing access to coaching sessions. “Coaching provided participants an opportunity to bring clarity to their ideas, embed design thinking principles and accelerate their innovative projects,” said Doug Miron, co-lead of the program and director of Organizational Development and Learning at Holland Bloorview.

So far, the AIM program has trained eight leaders in innovative thinking and their work has had over 300 points of contact across the hospital and within the system. The participation of leaders in the program makes a notable impact on them, their teams and, most importantly, their work in childhood disability.

“The AIM program was instrumental in helping us develop a successful internal engagement approach for Dear Everybody (), Holland Bloorview’s campaign to end childhood disability stigma,” said Stewart Wong, vice president of communications, marketing and advocacy at Holland Bloorview. “The innovation framework provided us with the tools and language to truly understand the perspective of our staff and what would enhance their ability to be champions of the [Dear Everybody] campaign.”

The AIM program has been embedded within the Organizational Development and Learning department with the plan to continue sharing and spreading innovative thinking methodology across the hospital.

Sean Peacocke is the manager of strategy and Centre for Leadership at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.

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