The Ergonomics of Innovation

The Ergonomics of Innovation by Hayagreeva Rao and Robert Sutton

the IHI case teaches us that innovations spread quickly when organizations focus relentlessly on selecting and spreading ideas in ways that ease the burden of thought and action for everyone involved. This mind-set differs from the one that burdens most organizations, where innovation
is seen as difficult, expensive, and protracted. The IHI staff’s ergonomics-of-innovation mind-set focused on making things easier and cheaper for everyone, including the staff itself.

IHI focused on small things that had a big impact without placing a big load on hospital staffs (reducing the number of infections, for example, hinged on frequent and thorough hand washing). In this way, the organization adopted what Karl Weick calls a “small wins” strategy.

Berwick and his team believed that simply asking hospital staffs to “try harder” to save lives wasn’t enough; people need concrete, easily learned and implemented tools.

Related: Saving Lives: US Health Care Improvement5 Million Lives CampaignPBS Documentary: Improving HospitalsHospital Reform – IHI on CBSArticles on Improving Health Care PerformanceDrug Prices in the USAposts on innovation

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