Today, to be a “hacker” is to rise against the rules of a system, whether that’s through writing a cutting-edge computer code or coming up with a new way to keep aging seniors living independently. Being a hacker is synonymous with being a creative rule-breaker, and many companies view this as a positive sign of a person’s entrepreneurial spirit — so why aren’t more healthcare systems supporting this type of thinking?

Many already know that the best kind of inventions — whether they help address a serious medical issue or improve upon an ineffective treatment or process — are a result of a person’s passion and care. Acting on on your creative and emotional intelligence can yield new forms of product discovery. In the healthcare industry, for example, when an innovation can make a tangible difference in a person’s life, that’s an idea worth pursuing. So allowing innovators to feel fueled by a problem worth solving may be key to re-imagining the current medical field. But if change-making thoughts are powered by feeling, why then are so many organizations de-humanizing the innovative process? looking at the sky from inside a cardboard box 

Understandibly, most organizations are focusing on their bottom line, which is why so many leadership announcements, statements and speeches fixate on words such as process, superiority and differentiation. On the surface, there isn’t anything startling or “wrong” about these words, but on an organizational level, this type of sentiment is not inspiring an emotional connection — they are simply trying to uphold the status quo. If an organization aims to innovate, however, employee inspiration is required.

When Lakeland Health — a Michigan-based health system with nearly 4,000 associates taking in nearly $500 million each year — wanted to revamp its patient experience, hospital leadership sought to inspire each employee to think with his or her heart, according to a recent article by the Harvard Business Review. Instead of asking employees to think innovatively, the CEO wanted them to think emotionally, drawing on their deep patient empathy and understanding to change up older and slower processes.

Lakeland leaders organized a series of more than 20 kick-off events, with the theme, “Bring Your Heart to Work,” in full display. Drawing on the common motivation of wanting to care for one’s patients in the best ways possible, the hospital teams began to evaluate how much they care about their patients. Instead of relying on training materials or patient script, the employees were simply asked to introduce themselves to their patients in a more genuine way, according to the article.

The result of Lakeland’s novel effort? On paper, their patient satisfaction score improved. But intangibly, emotional connections and patient hope was restored, allowing for a more “healing relationship.” Overall, emotionally connected innovating that broke traditional rules had the biggest impact on Lakeland’s patient care. If companies aim to spur innovative thinking, allowing employees to feel emotionally connected to their work and free to try their ideas out is an essential first step. To do so, simply throw out the rulebook.

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