Healthcare Organizations Lead the Innovation Charge

As a leader in your organization, you are probably always looking for new ways to be innovative.  And sometimes you will find ideas where you least expect it.

I recently learned that healthcare management and technology is the fastest-growing field in the world right now.  By 2018, one in 10 American jobs will be in this sector.  Expanding coverage and an aging population are two major reasons for this shift, but we also have to consider the exciting developments inside the top healthcare organizations.

Uri Neren is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Generate Companies, which created The World Database of Innovation, a repository of the world’s innovation best practices and experts.  Nuren says that instead of looking to companies like Google and Microsoft to reliably deliver innovation, we should more carefully consider best-in-class healthcare organizations like The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

According to Neren, here are the conditions that form the basis of The Mayo Clinic’s innovative culture:

Limited Resources

The town of Rochester was only an outpost when Mayo began and today, as a world-renowned provider, it is still situated in the midst of cornfields in this town of 100,000. Scarcity of resources is the single strongest driver of innovation, which hopefully makes you as a leader feel better as you struggle through these tough economic times.


Early on, Mayo created an atmosphere open to new ideas and engaged in world travel to observe other physicians and spread the Mayo name. Mayo created the Surgeons Club in 1906 to allow doctors to watch surgical procedures. Today, Mayo’s graduate school maintains the open door tradition.  I encourage you to think about this approach the next time you are tempted to operate in a silo.


Mayo established and promoted the country’s first “group practice” concept, where physicians in different disciplines would collaborate on patient care. Their approach is sometimes called cross-functional teaming, and is now common in health care and corporate innovation practices.  Perhaps you have used it yourself.


Additionally, the Mayo Clinic isn’t afraid to be controversial, or to reinvent itself or the field of medicine. Neren cites the example of how Mayo placed doctors on salary, which allowed them to focus on health outcomes rather than volumes of health-related transactions, and gave them the space for creativity, education, and research. This decision was not an easy one to make, and the internal conflict nearly destroyed the organization, but in the end it was paramount in creating one of the world’s greatest medical centers.  Controversy and reinvention are admittedly scary, but if done strategically, they can really drive your team’s accomplishments.

Is innovation an inherent part of your organization’s culture?  If not, what can you as a manager do to take the Mayo Clinic’s lead and foster it in your colleagues and team members?

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