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getting IT people involved in highly technological systems, I’m really talking about the behavior of employees to make sure that they can tell when something is amiss. And when a problem is detected, people simply cannot turn off the alarm bells at any time.
Instead, they must solve problems as they arise both to make the immediate symptom disappear, but also to develop new knowledge that will prevent the problem from reoccurring. Then, they must broadcast that new knowledge from these local discoveries out within the company to make it systemically useful.
Finally, senior managers must not only teach people to be great discoverers, but create an environment where discovery happens all the time. When you ask people to describe the best leader they ever had, no one ever talks about the best decision-maker, but about their best teacher.
Practicing these principles with discipline can lead to great success. Despite the overall inefficiency and ineffectiveness most healthcare organizations demonstrate in delivering care, a few pioneers have profoundly improved their quality, cost, and capacity of their care. If all hospitals practiced the same core capabilities then we wouldn’t be facing a national healthcare crisis because we would be providing twice the care at half the cost.
You can also look to the U.S. Navy, which had one of the most successful new product introductions ever when it created nuclear propulsion. While it required people to run dangerous, complex machines in dangerous, complex situations, the U.S. Navy has had a perfect safety record since launching the USS Nautilus in 1954.
Such success and perfection can’t be planned, but leaders can and must pursue it by learning new skills and core competencies of innovation. This is especially relevant now during this period of economic recovery when learning and adaptation are more important than ever.
We’ve already seen plenty of organizations fall to the wayside because they can’t generate new solutions to new problems. However, high-velocity leaders practicing the disciplines of innovation are a lot more likely to accelerate on the road ahead.
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