More than 10 years ago at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, a burst of creativity led to a small change that had a big impact on young patients. Window washers dressed as superheroes, waving to the kids as they rappelled the building and performed their duties.
The joy that it gave the children led to repeat performances over the years. Patients, families and staff have come to look forward to these superhero takeovers of a common task. It’s an example of what author Josh Linkner calls “micro-innovation.”
Linkner, who will be a keynote speaker at the AHA Leadership Summit virtual conference July 28-29, says micro-innovations are small breakthroughs that can unlock big rewards over time.
“Too often we think of something as innovative only if it is a ‘million-dollar idea’ or if it changes the world. In that context, innovation feels so out of reach and high-risk that most of us do nothing,” says Linkner, who is chairman and co-founder of Platypus Labs, an innovation research, training and consulting firm. “The notion of micro-innovation is to cultivate these small, daily acts of creativity that are lower-risk and within the grasp of all of us. They build skills and add up to big things.”
A select few individuals will come up with once-in-a-generation innovations like developing a new drug or a life-saving medical procedure. Linkner encourages leaders to focus on innovations that bring incremental advances, which can bridge to larger breakthroughs.
In his new book, “Big Little Breakthroughs,” Linkner provides a practical template to unlock dormant creative capacity. Cultivating high volumes of micro-innovations reduces risk in the creative process and builds much-needed skills that lead to significant transformations.
How to Support Micro-Innovation
Build a culture of innovation.
One of leadership’s core goals should be to create a fertile environment in which creativity can flourish.
Recognize that innovation is everyone’s business.
Room exists in every role for contributing to innovation. All staff members should know that it is part of their responsibility to be an innovator.
Make it safe to share ideas.
All ideas should be celebrated. Build rituals and rewards that support creative thinking. Conversely, fear-based environments will inhibit people’s creativity. Simply put, fear and creativity cannot coexist, Linkner says.
Devote time to creative thinking.
Try this experiment. Challenge staff to devote one hour per week (even in increments of 15 minutes) to creative thinking for one month. Schedule the time as though it is an appointment that can’t be broken. In making this challenge to business leaders around the world, Linkner says the feedback he receives is that there is no drop in productivity and participants feel more engaged and often permanently adopt the practice.
Register now to attend the AHA Leadership Summit virtual conference and hear Linkner’s keynote presentation and view the entire program schedule.