Innovating Health Workshop at #HIC17


Last week, I helped facilitate the Bringing It Together workshop at the HIC Conference by HISA alongside Vishaal Kishore.  HISA’s Innovating Health series has been an important effort to help catalyse innovation thinking in the healthcare system. I have been proud to play a role in that important challenge in a number of events of the series. Over the year, HISA has brought together leading participants in the healthcare system in conversation on a range of innovation topics. The Innovating Health website summarises those discussions.  The goal of the workshop last week in Brisbane was to help translate the series into tangible actions for participants in the room.

The workshop used a world cafe format to enable the wide range and large number of participants to engage in a variety of topics around healthcare innovation in Australia. Key questions discussed in the rotating groups included:

  • What work is going on now
  • Priorities for Healthcare Innovation
  • Translating Ideas to Action
  • Barriers to Innovation
  • Leading the Change

As with each of the Innovating Health workshops, HISA will be digesting the content of the session, but I wanted to share some reflections on the process we experienced.

Urgency, Purpose and Passion


A panel of young clinicians at HIC discussing Ikigai

Discuss Innovation and Healthcare in any room with participants in the healthcare system and the energy level rises. Healthcare is an industry where purpose lies very close to the surface. Many of the other sessions at HIC had highlighted the imperatives driving a demand for innovation and digital transformation in Australian healthcare. Everyone in the system knows that innovation is critical to addressing:

  • demographic changes with an ageing population & increasingly urban population
  • rising costs in an environment of budgetary constraints
  • the real opportunities to deliver simpler, easier and better consumer experiences in healthcare;
  • improve the working experience for Australia’s increasingly large healthcare workforce; and
  • opportunities to deliver consistently better care, improve quality of life and save lives.


Dr Kaveh Safavi of Accenture Health puts the blunt need for change to the HIC audience

Our workshop buzzed with that passion and purpose. In around 30 minutes of the workshop, the five groups captured many ideas and debated topics with passion.

Harnessing this energy into the collaborations required for successful systemic healthcare change and innovation is a key opportunity and challenge ahead.

We are the System

Facing a complex system like healthcare, it is easy to blame the Other.  If only politicians, bureaucrats, clinicians, technologists, entrepreneurs, patients or someone, would do something all will be better. We need to keep front and centre that we are the healthcare system as consumers, as voters, as practitioners, as shareholders and as other stakeholders. We have greater capacity to shape action when we embrace our agency in the system.

In our workshop, this played out with an interesting dynamic. When we broke into the five topics, there was naturally a race to join the topics with clear action for others. The groups addressing Priorities, What’s Going on Now and Barriers were by far the busiest. The quietest group was Leadership.  Importantly by the third rotation, people had increasingly turned their attention to the need to lead change.

Effective change and collaboration takes leadership at all levels across the system. Healthcare can be a hierarchical system for many practitioners and participants. We need leadership that helps engage change from all involved and enables participants to lead the way forward in collaboration.

Talk is Talk. Action is Value

We structured the conversation as five groups but the reality is that all five groups ended up discussing similar issues across the healthcare system. Few issues arose that were surprises or the subject of fiercely contradictory views.  The time for talk is over. There is a strong consensus for action across the healthcare industry. The challenge is bringing that action to conclusion.


Vishaal Kishore’s closing keynote explored the human role in innovation and importantly the value of storytelling to engage human action.

The focus of HISA’s Innovating Health series ongoing and the work that Vishaal Kishore and I do in the system will remain on fostering this important action. In a large complex system with wide impacts we can easily lose our focus. As I noted in closing in my closing comments at the workshop, there can be enormous power in what John Hagel and John Seeley Brown call “small moves, smartly made“.  We don’t need to change everything at once. Such projects are daunting and unlikely to succeed. We need to keep working on the evolution of innovation across the breadth of the system through collaboration, leadership and a systemic view. Inspiring, fostering, leading and executing those changes will be the ongoing focus of my work.

Thanks to Greg Moran of HISA for the opportunity to participate in the Innovating Health Series, to Vishaal Kishore as a wonderful partner in this event and to Accenture and HISA for sponsoring the series.

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