It’s no secret that healthcare is a unique and complicated industry. Once we ‘gain our bearings’ navigating the space as healthcare professionals, it’s only natural for us to follow our trusted instincts. It’s called homeostasis—a comfortable sense of stability in knowing who we are and what we are capable of.

It takes significant time and effort to craft a sense of self-confidence in our roles as business, clinical, and strategic leaders. Confidence that comes from a foundational understanding of this industry and an ability to recognize patterns—allows us to move faster and to make decisions quickly without second-guessing. We learn to anticipate the outcomes of difficult conversations with patients, the financial impact from encroaching competitors, requests for crucial resources, and how our communities will respond to our branded content and marketing messages.

Our experiences continually shape who we are. We base our decisions off the comfort we recall from successful decisions (or learning from failures) in our past—this is the tried and true knowledge we have worked so hard to establish.

Cultivating our roles with purpose and honing the ability to navigate an industry as consequential as healthcare demands this of us—exhaustive, comprehensive expertise with little to no room for error. There are no ‘free’ moves in our roles—from the messages we send to our community to delivering on those messages in every detail of every experience…down to the meticulous precision required in the operating room. So often, we simply cannot make mistakes—our jobs, the success of our brand, and ultimately the lives of others are at stake. Not only that, but we are forced to bear the repercussions of our decisions individually and as an enterprise—from financial losses to medical errors to upholding our reputation and respect within the community.

All the more reason to stay true to what we know, agreed?

We beg to differ. For these very reasons, it is our duty to up our game as healthcare leaders – continuously evolving and improving ourselves and our contributions to improve this industry. The communities we are tasked to serve trust and rely on us at their most vulnerable of times. We have a responsibility to never settle and grow complacent in what we put out into the world—from the stories we tell to the services we provide to the experiences we deliver.

To continue to grow, it is crucial that we challenge ourselves to approach our work objectively and to embrace a different way of seeing and doing—and what better way than through the lens of design and design thinking. Here are four tips to get you started:

  1. Read something unrelated every day : : We wake up, grab our coffee, and read the news. Take a few minutes to explore seemingly unrelated blogs and magazines for insight and inspiration. Revamp your list of frequently reviewed sources and refresh them frequently and share with others in and outside of healthcare.
  2. Wear a different hat : : How would you approach this situation if you were a patient, family member, or even a competitor? Vet all sides of the equation by thinking through what others may see and experience. Get specific—how would a respected colleague or fellow industry leader interpret this situation?
  3. Explore all the options : : Before jumping to the obvious solution, engage in ‘mild to wild’ brainstorming. Start with ideal solutions that may be entirely out of reach—envision the perfect scenario—what you could deliver free of constraints, then dial back to what is attainable with your time and resources.
  4. Look beyond the industry : : What’s going on in other fields of thought? What innovative approaches are brewing in retail, finance, education and technology? Investigate solutions beyond their face value and consider what brought about these ideas and what is it that makes them so valuable.

There is inherent value in abandoning what we know to be true—to question what we think, feel, how we act, and the decisions we make as leaders—to challenge the future of the healthcare industry as our interactions with it continuously mold its shape.

How often do we question the result of our efforts, the dynamic of our culture, human emotion and behavior that underlie and drive business analytics? We run the inevitable risk of facing what is revealed when we scratch beyond the surface and provoke investigation of all we know to be true. When the lights switch on, we don’t know what’s to be seen. It is uncomfortable to abandon what we know; to perform an objective analysis into the ‘why’ behind the work that we produce, the messages we transmit, the implications of the interactions we orchestrate—the comfort we abandon when centering design at the core of our strategic impetus.

Four years and $100 million later, IBM, a technology and consulting mega machine, has succumbed to the ‘dark side’ and centered design thinking upon its cultural axis, as reported in a recent article by Wired. No small undertaking for a massive, engineering-minded entity. IBM has made a commitment to transform its internal culture to enhance products, services and experiences for its users. They have published their take on design thinking and utilize employee bootcamps to infuse design into their culture. IBM’s new loop logo, similar to that of The Institute of Healthcare Design Thinking, speaks to the value of iterative thinking and ongoing, critical exploration.

The loop becomes a loop when you realize the iterative process is never actually done; perhaps the loop’s most important requirement is reflecting on what’s been created and constantly improving it.
— IBM’s Got a Plan to Bring Design Thinking to Big Business, Wired

Design by nature is an intuitive, scalable process. As a design thinking organization, we at LIFT firmly believe in the importance of not forcing things to happen—we do not retrofit solutions for our clients, we do not lead by assumption, and as result, we too experience the waves of comfort and calamity of a culture conceived by design. For us, the value of design thinking far exceeds the growing pains and initial discomfort brought on by its adoption. And for a multinational corporate entity as gargantuan as IBM to adopt the mentality and cultural practice of design thinking, what holds you back?

Interested in cultural transformation by design? The Institute of Healthcare Design Thinking offers an extensive array of tools, resources and experiences from interactive workshops to custom, curriculum development to cultivate a capability for design within your organization. Join the Institute and learn more.