Social Innovation

Innovating with Purpose: Nurturing a Culture of Innovation

By: Jacquelyn M. Rose, MPH

This is the fifth and final blog of a series describing Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health’s journey to create and nurture a culture of innovation.  

As I look back on our year and a half-long process to create and nurture a culture of innovation within Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health (the Office), I am proud of what we have accomplished and where we are headed.

First, let’s take a look back at how we arrived at where we are now.

As I shared in the first blog of this series, Innovating with Purpose: Semantic Saturation, my goal to innovate with purpose began at a conference, where the mandate for innovation was clear, but the motive, goals, and intended outcomes were not. Over the course of a year, a multi-disciplinary team from across the Office worked to advance our culture of innovation and figure out how our Office and its programs could innovate with purpose.

As described in the second blog, Innovating with Purpose: Moving Beyond Semantic Saturation, our team deployed a multi-pronged strategy to solicit input to understand what innovation means to team members, assess what resources exist to support participation in a culture of innovation, and identify what additional resources are needed. During the summer and fall of 2018, the multi-disciplinary team facilitated engagement and innovation forums with team members, as well as stakeholder interviews with program leaders. These were fruitful conversations that not only generated ideas, strategies, and tactics regarding how we can define, operationalize, and support a culture of innovation within the Office, but generated excitement around the opportunity for more collaborative problem-solving and creativity. To read more about what we learned, see another blog from the series, Innovating with Purpose: Lessons Learned from Team Members.

Using the information gathered during this inclusive, intentional process, our team developed a culture of innovation framework to guide innovation efforts and empower team members to develop novel solutions to challenges that negatively impact children and families. At its core, the culture of innovation framework consists of a definition, goal, and values. These will serve as the steadfast North Star while associated priorities and activities will be dynamic, evolving based on the needs of our team members and characteristics of the challenges their innovations address.

Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health’s Culture of Innovation Framework

Definition: an enabling, safe environment that supports the ideation, development, testing, implementation, and growth of novel strategies.

Goal: advance novel strategies that help all children and families reach their full potential.

Values:

  • Communication: active listening, constructive criticism, and feedback
  • Accountability & Integrity: ownership, reliability, consistency, and pride
  • Experimentation & Learning: challenge the status quo, reward risk taking, failing fast, being inquisitive, and commitment to ethics
  • Multi-Disciplinary Collaboration: information sharing, seeking different perspectives, open mindedness, and safe spaces
  • Leadership: mentorship, professional development opportunities, and empowerment
  • Professionalism: be ready to engage, assume positive intent, and be respectful and trusting

The Office’s culture of innovation framework is unique for a few reasons. First, instead of developing the culture of innovation framework at the most senior level within the Office, we deployed a process that created the opportunity for all team members to have an active role curating and developing the framework. Second, the Office’s culture of innovation framework gives equal focus and attention to ideation, development, testing, implementation, and growth, as opposed to a narrower focus on ideation and development. Third, instead of having team members hand off their ideas to an innovation team for development, the Office seeks empower them to lead and guide the development of their innovations by offering the necessary supports and resources. In addition to developing the culture of innovation framework, we are also developing a tool to guide the evolution of novel strategies from ideation through scale and spread; a set of criteria program leaders can use to assess the potential impact of ideas; and a tool to regularly assess the culture of innovation within the Office and its programs.

While extensive, the strategies and activities our team deployed to curate the culture of innovation framework and understand how to nurture a culture of innovation within the Office are really just the beginning. The real work begins now, with the culture of innovation framework positioning the Office to innovate with purpose.

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

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