By Callie Patel, Director, Innovation Consulting
Crowdsourcing can be a powerful tool for healthcare organizations looking to innovate but strapped for resources. It can be a quick route to leveraging your access to large bodies of people to identify problems and source solutions while also engaging your workforce. Hearing directly from those on the front line is one of the best ways to understand the root pain points impacting your care delivery and operations as well as your team and patient satisfaction. If you’re a healthcare leader looking to prioritize organizational issues, crowdsourcing can provide a diverse and creative pool of untapped insights.
In the pursuit of mission alignment and employee engagement, it makes sense for healthcare organizations to implement innovation programs, system-wide initiatives and technology deployment. But traditional budgeting, technology and even innovation investment processes create roadblocks for health systems restrained by annual (or longer) funding cycles, with archaic procurement and vendor management practices. On top of that, health systems are frequently plagued with inefficient, mundane and redundant processes that fuel workforce burnout and discontent. Leaders are often out of touch with the daily concerns and pain points of their own front-line teams; and even when they do recognize a need for change, they can be hamstrung by missing the window on annual planning and forecasting. These are frustrating hurdles for leaders who want to create an agile, iterative environment where solutions can be tested and implemented quickly.
Employees often complain that leaders make decisions without seeking input. In a recent survey of professionals in the U.S. and Canada, 64% ranked this their biggest issue in the workplace, and 38% said their ideas are dismissed without even being explored. Both these issues contribute to a lack of initiative among staff—because when they are not heard, they begin to stop speaking up. Crowdsourcing is a powerful way to hear all voices within an organization, allowing leaders to uncover hidden inefficiencies and pain points and shine a light on innovative solutions. Employee engagement and satisfaction ramp up when leaders hear and act on employee feedback—whether quick wins or moonshot innovations.
How do you ensure your crowdsourcing doesn’t stop at surface-level idea collection?
First rule of crowdsourcing: communicate the goals, scope and alignment to your enterprise strategy. If your organization has guardrails around what it can and will act on, make it clear upfront. If the vision isn’t shared broadly, your effort will be wasted before it begins.
Next rule: no matter how well intentioned, asking for pain points is not enough. Do not just collect ideas—demonstrate that each submission is valued and considered. This requires you to invest in resources to understand crowdhacked ideas—and to categorize, communicate, follow up and implement the best suggestions, especially at scale. While that requires dedicated effort, there is a big payoff. 60% of millennials report that the simple act of recognition is enough to keep them engaged. Recognizing suggestions gathered in a crowdsourcing campaign is always a win-win. With the ideas and passion that come to the surface, you’ll be sitting on a treasure trove of insights. Don’t let them go to waste—and don’t let politics, bureaucracy or the loudest voices get in the way.
Give the task of decision-making based on crowdsourced ideas to a predefined cross section of leaders or stakeholders, with predefined criteria for how they will make those decisions—and bonus points for sharing that criteria with your crowd of idea generators in advance. A clear decision-making rubric cuts through the noise and makes for faster prioritization and decisions, no matter how many opinions are on the table.
Last but not least: do not make it a one-time deal. Effective listening, problem identification and continuous improvement are most effective when they happen on an ongoing basis. The business case for crowdsourcing is clear. Over a period of seven years, companies with more engaged workers grew revenue 2.5x that of companies with less engaged workers.
Technology is your friend when it comes to streamlining the entire crowdsourcing process—whereby submissions are collected and evaluated, and go/no-go decisions are made and communicated regularly. Innovation software can reduce the otherwise heavy administrative burden of surfacing these insights significantly, balancing the needs of various key stakeholders and maximizing your organization’s potential.
Discover some of the lessons learned from healthcare organizations that have been successful in driving innovation via crowdsourcing:
- Brigham & Women’s Hospital’s Digital Innovation Hub DO IT Challenge
- Hawaii Pacific Health’s Getting Rid of Stupid Stuff Program
- Intermountain Ventures: Intermountain Foundry Program
- OpenIDEO Challenges
- Orlando Health Strategic Innovations: Orlando Health Foundry Program
- UC San Diego IdeaWave
How do you get started?
Remember the first rule: apply your goals, scope and enterprise strategy to any initiative. Be transparent about those constraints to make it practical for all who want to participate. This is sure to drive workforce appreciation, engagement and satisfaction. Make the initiative problem focused, even when asking for suggestions. Capture ideas on a continual basis so that staff can offer insights as they occur, instead of waiting for an appropriate initiative (think agile, not old-school budget cycle). Involve a broad cross section of leaders and stakeholders to make sure the ideas you prioritize and act on align with your organizational goals. And of course, leverage technology to create a simple and nimble platform that helps you generate, evaluate and select ideas in an efficient fashion while serving as a valuable knowledge base over time.
If you are interested in learning more about Healthbox’s propriety innovation crowdsourcing tool, Idealy, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Healthbox, a HIMSS Solution and healthcare advisory firm, drives innovation from the inside and out, helping organizations build internal innovation programs, assess the potential of employee-led projects, and look to the market to find solutions to implement or invest in.