Dreams are made when your great idea gets out there in this social world and goes viral. The very thought that thousands of people (likeminded as you) are looking at your good idea and thinking – “That’s a great idea, I could do that”
especially in our health and social care world when it isn’t necessarily the idea that’s new (although sometimes it is) but the ability to engage others to get them to follow your lead, for the benefit of patients and families.
So when things take off in this way, is it just good luck, or is there something we can learn? How does a good idea move from being MY great idea to something that a lot of other people want to do too?
In his New Yorker article ‘Slow ideas’ Gawande started my thinking on this topic (and a million other things!) when he discussed the evolution of surgical anaesthesia compared with the uptake of antiseptics to prevent sepsis. He described how the former spread almost worldwide in 7 years, the latter taking more than 30 years (and you might argue that the inability to clean our hands consistently even today means that we still haven’t cracked it).
It’s easy to imagine the difficulty undertaking any surgical procedure on a patient not anaesthetised (not least for the patient) – having your colleagues hold down the poor patient until such time as they (hopefully) passed out with the agony of the ordeal. Then you hear of an innovation where the patient inhales a gas and goes gently to sleep, allowing the procedure to be done with ease – a no brainer in terms of its likelihood to be adopted by others… and swiftly! The action of holding down the screaming patient and wrestling to undertake the procedure was clearly very personal and real for all those present.
However, the use of antiseptics to prevent an infection that the practitioner might never even see personally, leaves a lot to the imagination and limited personal cost, with the exception more latterly of professional reputation and in some quarters accreditation.
This situation was also exacerbated by the unpleasantness of the environment, where the practice of good antisepsis in the early days meant that theatres were gassed with antiseptics, hands scrubbed raw with early chemicals – all to prevent something that the practitioner might never witness… Perhaps, then, it’s easy to see why that adoption took longer than 30 years. Or is there more to it than that?
Gawande’s article goes much further and is very thought provoking but he fundamentally sets out how, if we want our ‘thing’ to be taken up by others at scale, then “…technology and incentive programs are not enough. “Diffusion is essentially a social process through which people talking to people spread an innovation,” wrote Everett Rogers, the great scholar of how new ideas are communicated and spread.”
He goes on to say that while our new social world can get the ideas out there
as Rogers showed, “…people follow the lead of other people they know and trust when they decide whether to take it up. Every change requires effort, and the decision to make that effort is a social process.”
I think these might be key concepts for us to consider with our personal improvement efforts. How hard do we make it to do the right thing?
Looking around at some other recent great ideas gone viral that I have become aware of – I thought it might be helpful for us to take a closer look at these and consider their spread from this perspective – I thank Delivering the Future Cohort 11 for their help with my developing thinking #DTFcohort11.
And also to consider how would the business world more broadly consider this issue?
Great marketers certainly start with two concepts that absolutely relate to our world and reflect Gawande’s thinking:
Know your audience
Make an emotional connection.
So looking at 3 examples of great ideas that have gone viral a little closer to home, can we identify the critical success factors that made them work so that we can apply that learning to our own work?
Case 1 – What matters to me
||Jennifer Rodgers @jenfrodgers Lead Nurse for Paediatrics NHS GG&C
||What Matters To Me (WMTM)
WMTM is a 3 step approach
1 Asking what matters
2 Listening to what matters
3 Doing what matters
||“Clinicians, in turn, need to relinquish their role as the single, paternalistic authority and train to become more effective coaches or partners — learning, in other words, how to ask, ‘What matters to you?’ as well as ‘What is the matter?’”
||Yorkhill Children’s Hospital Glasgow – global
||Last 4 years
||Originally Jens’ Quality and Safety Fellowship project, building on the concept of Lauren’s list in the USA; national and international presentations, Used the Model for Improvement as the improvement method. Started by asking one child to draw what mattered to them, and staff making every effort to include and react positively to this information – now used routinely as part of the paediatric admission process. Spread includes other specialties such as the Care of Older People and those with Dementia.
Case 2 Hello my name is…
||The sadly very recently deceased Kate Granger (http://hellomynameis.org.uk @grangerkate) a young doctor battling at the time with terminal cancer, made observations about the human interactions she was struggling with at a very vulnerable time.
||Kate decided to start a campaign, primarily using social media initially, to encourage and remind healthcare staff about the importance of introductions in healthcare.
||She made the stark observation that many staff looking after her did not introduce themselves before delivering her care. She felt it incredibly wrong that such a basic step in communication was missing. After ranting at her husband during one evening visiting time he encouraged her to “stop whinging and do something!”
||NHS England – Global
||Last 3 years
||Twitter campaign initially – #hellomynameis has made over 1 billion impressions since its inception with an average of 6 tweets an hour.
Kate has left an incredible legacy with #hellomynameis that will continue to impact positively for patients.
Case 3 The Daily Mile
||Elaine Wylie – Headteacher (recently retired) St Ninian’s Primary School, Stirling
||The aim of the Daily Mile is to improve the physical, emotional and social health and wellbeing of our children –regardless of age or personal circumstances.
||It is a profoundly simple but effective concept, which any primary school or nursery can implement. Its impact can be transformational- improving not only the childrens’ fitness, but also their concentration levels, mood, behaviour and general wellbeing.
||St Ninian’s Primary School, Stirling – global
||Last 3 years
||The Daily Mile takes place over just 15 minutes, with children averaging a mile each day.
Children run outside in the fresh air – and the weather is a benefit, not a barrier.
There’s no set up, tidy up, or equipment required.
Children run in their uniforms so no kit or changing time is needed.
It’s social, non-competitive and fun.
It’s fully inclusive; every child succeeds, whatever their circumstances, age or ability.
Elaine demonstrated huge impact on eliminating obesity in her primary one class that had stated the Daily Mile in Nursery.
In each of the cases the idea started with one individual who had a simple, sensible, not necessarily unique idea, but certainly something that was a bit different from the status quo – perhaps even challenging and making the status quo uncomfortable.
Each leader had a degree of power and autonomy in their local context, for Kate this was as an informed patient, so some might argue her ability to influence would have been limited.
Each idea was simple and easy to try in different arenas.
Each was free or relatively low cost to implement, even at scale.
The impact on patients or children was obvious or in the course of early testing clearly demonstrated.
Each leader used social platforms as a spread mechanism.
In every case, the idea clearly feels like it was the right thing to do, or scandalous that it wasn’t happening routinely, something each of us would want to happen if we were the subjects in question. Perhaps even the standard we apply every day in our professional or personal lives and assume that everyone else does too.
So clear evidence to support Rodgers view that “Diffusion is essentially a social process through which people talking to people spread an innovation,” – Perhaps the easy access to social platforms in these cases made ‘people talking to people’ helped in these cases?
Each leader knew their audience and played to that strength – but also and perhaps most importantly in each case, the emotional connection is huge, but each from a very different perspective.
Is the emotional connection the critical success factor in these cases – and something we should consider carefully if we want our work to spread?
Which emotions might you tap in to when trying to engage folk in your great idea? Emotions described in pairs of polar opposites might give you some food for thought and a place to start with your great idea:
Joy or sadness
Anticipation or surprise
Fear or anger
Disgust or trust
You will have many more thoughts than time permits here, but I leave you with a thought of mine… perhaps we all have an opportunity to use a more considered approach to the scale up and spread of good intentions by learning from those that have done that well.
If not you, who? If not now, when?
How simple have I described my great idea – Have I got my 1-minute ‘elevator pitch’ worked out to easily influence others?
Does it feel the right thing to do?
Is it relatively cheap or free? If not who will fund the idea, now and then at scale?
Am I convinced that it isn’t happening to every patient/family every time, reliably? Do I have the data that proves that?
Do I have the power to influence, or if not, who do I have to get on board?
Do I have the data and story to describe how it works and how easy it is to adopt, including the impact?
What social platform for spread will I use?
Which emotions are triggered, or will I aim to tap in to, in order to engage people to want to do things differently?
Ros Gray recently retired from her post as National Lead for the Early Years Collaborative. Prior to that post she was Head of Patient Safety for Healthcare Improvement Scotland.