Catalyze Innovation that Advances Health

Resources: Research

The resources dimension considers the broadest sense of the word. The climate for innovation is enhanced if people know that they have the ‘resource’ of authority and autonomy to act on innovative ideas. While innovative ideas do not necessarily need a lot of money or time to develop, staff can become demoralized if these traditional resources are not available and can feel that there is no point in putting forward a new idea. The presence of concrete resources signal that the organization is taking innovation seriously.

Smith and colleagues (2008) cited the availability of resources for innovation as one of several “key factors” in their structured review of 102 papers. A managerial practice that emerged as positively affecting creativity in Amabile’s (1998) study of high-tech research and development labs was the provision of “resources in the form of time and money”.

In a Cabinet Office Strategy Unit report, Mulgan and Albury (2003) also reviewed the innovation literature and suggested that “…creating time, e.g. through away days or golden hours…” was “critical” for stimulating innovation in the public sector. Researchers at the Health Services Management Centre at the University of Birmingham, commissioned by the East Midlands SHA to review the literature and suggest ways to promote innovation, also recommended “creating slack” so that staff had the time to think creatively (Williams, de Silva, Ham 2008). Interestingly, given the pressures and resource constraints we often see in the health service, Amabile (1998) also noted from her review of end-of-day reflection reports from high-tech designers that “people can think very creatively under severe time pressure if they are able to concentrate or focus on a single issue or challenge for a significant part of the day.”

Another key managerial practice from Amabile’s (1998) study was “freedom to decide how to meet a challenge”. Beugelsdijk’s (2008) analysis of HR practices and innovation in 988 Dutch firms likewise found that organizations permitting higher levels of task autonomy and more flexible working hours generated more product innovations. Conversely, a meta-analysis by Damanpour (1991) showed that the centralization of decision-making autonomy within an organization was negatively associated with the rate of adoption of multiple innovations. Kanter (2002) summed it up tongue-in-cheek in one of her “classic rules for stifling innovation”; namely, “insist that people who need your approval to act go through several layers of other managers first”.

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NOTE: All of the information on the Elements of a Culture of Innovation, Assessment, and Tips for Leaders were adapted from Maher, Lynne, Paul Plsek, Jenny Price, and Mark Mugglestone, (2010), “Creating the Culture for Innovation: A Practical Guide for Leaders” published by the National Health Service (NHS) Institute for Innovation and Improvement in the United Kingdom