Social Innovation

Innovating with Purpose: Lessons Learned from Team Members

By: Jacquelyn M. Rose, MPH

This is the fourth article in our Innovating with Purpose series, which describes Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health’s journey to create and nurture a culture of innovation.  

Innovating with purpose is critical to an organization’s success. As you can imagine, nurturing a culture of innovation within any organization is quite a process. As we embarked on our journey within Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health, we quickly realized that we needed to seek input not only from those on our committee, but also from the program leaders and team members involved in every program of the Office. Our purpose in doing so was two-fold: to ensure maximum input into our developing strategy and to generate buy-in from those who would eventually participate in, and benefit from, our effort.

While I am excited to share the lessons we learned through engaging program leaders and team members in stakeholder interviews and focus groups, first I will recap how we got to this point in our process.

The Start of our Process

In the previous blog post, Innovating with Purpose: A Tale of Two Healthcare Entities, I compared and contrasted strategies deployed by two healthcare entities, Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health (the Office) and Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN). While, broadly speaking, our goal of nurturing a culture of innovation was the same, our strategies, tactics, indicators of success, and target audiences were different.

In the Office, our goal is to nurture social innovations that promote optimal health, development, and well-being where children and families live, learn, work, and play. Our initial efforts focused on program leaders and team members of Office programs, rather than targeting on the entire organization. We started by understanding how they want to engage and participate in a culture of innovation, and then focused on implementing those strategies and tactics to support their buy-in and participation.

WCHN sought to nurture innovations that enhance the quality, safety, efficacy, and value of healthcare in a clinical setting. To do this, WCHN implemented an organization-wide innovation challenge to strengthen the organization’s capacity to improve care, as well as patient and clinical outcomes, by igniting the development of innovative improvement ideas.

Key Findings from Interviews and Focus Groups

As described in an earlier post, Innovating with Purpose: Moving Beyond Semantic Saturation, the culture of innovation team deployed a multi-pronged strategy to: 1) solicit buy-in regarding the importance of nurturing a culture of innovation; 2) understand what innovation means to program leaders and team members; 3) understand how program leaders and team members want to participate in a culture of innovation; and 4) identify which resources are needed to support participation in a culture of innovation.

To gather this information, the innovation team facilitated engagement and innovation focus groups with team members of Office programs during the spring and summer of 2018 and facilitated a series of stakeholder interviews with program leaders. We synthesized the information gathered during the fall and winter, and presented our findings in the spring of 2019.

Through the process, we defined innovation as both the cultivation of new ideas and the growth of novel, effective solutions to identified needs. Our program leaders and team members provided us with the following insights:

  • Key attributes of a culture of innovation include, but are not limited to: a facilitated top-down, bottom-up approach that is multi-disciplinary and focused on improvement. It should serve as a mechanism to support passions and encourage a “yes and” environment as opposed to a “no but” environment.
  • A culture of innovation exists when leaders create environments in which change is supported, where leaders and team members are receptive to change and are willing to try new things – a safe work space where all ideas are welcome. Team members consistently identified a sense of safety as essential for a culture of innovation which is characterized by effective multi-dimensional sharing, transparency, and feedback loops.
  • Participants shared a common desire to further two types of ideas: 1) quality improvement ideas that are designed to improve existing processes, procedures, and workflows; maximize existing resources; enhance capacity for data collection and analysis; expand outreach and engagement with community partners and families; more effectively and efficiently share information; increase coordination; and improve advocacy and 2) ideas that increase the Office’s and/or programs’ capacity to promote children’s optimal health, development, and well-being by transforming the standard of care and creating a continuum of care and services to more effectively and efficiently meet the needs of children and families.
  • The need for a standard vetting process within programs when assessing the potential of new ideas.
  • The importance of understanding effective and ineffective strategies to solicit support for ideas.
  • Resources will be critical to ensuring success of a culture of innovation. Such resources include intentional time and space, financial resources, innovation champions, training, professional development, and increased understanding of quality improvement strategies.

Learn more about Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program.


In addition to the above-mentioned insights, our program leaders and team members offered a number of recommendations to guide our continued journey in nurturing a culture of social innovation. They include the following:

  • Define and assess a culture of innovation within the Office and its programs.
  • Develop a set of criteria to assess new ideas and communicate the criteria to program leaders and team members.
  • Create a framework to assess the potential of new ideas and proposed growth strategies for novel solutions that achieve their intended outcomes, including an effective communication strategy.
  • Clarify and communicate what resources are available to support innovation, including tools and processes.
  • Create meaningful opportunities for cross-sector, cross-program engagement, problem-solving, and collaboration.
  • Provide program leaders and team members with access to timely and relevant information about institutional and Office priorities and opportunities.

Moving Forward with Our New Culture

After compiling the above-mentioned findings and recommendations, we are now incorporating them into a variety of activities to ensure we are innovating with purpose. Such activities include drafting a culture of innovation definition; developing and administering a tool to assess our culture of innovation; developing and soliciting feedback on a tool to guide the development and evolution of innovations; and developing and soliciting feedback on a standard set of criteria to assess new ideas and their growth.

Our journey in nurturing a culture of innovation has been a busy one. And we are excited for what lies ahead as we continue to refine our process. In the final blog of our series, we will unveil the culmination of this process, which is the Office’s new culture of innovation framework.

Read additional blogs from Jacquelyn M. Rose here.

Jacquelyn M. Rose, MPH, is the program manager for Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program.

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