Catalyze Innovation that Advances Health

Concepts That Count

Innovation is about doing things differently. The path to doing differently starts with thinking differently and with seeing and understanding the world differently from the way you do now.

To identify, distill, and share lesser known concepts and categories for organizing everyday phenomena that can support innovation, the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2) is creating “Concepts That Count” resources. This page, and related talks in the MedStar Innovation and Design (MIND) Lab, are a beta launch of this effort.

Our goal is to help MedStar associates and beyond gain new insight and make better sense of the world, which in turn can lead to making different decisions and taking different actions. Click the icons that follow to learn more about these initial Concepts That Count, categorized by a variety of domains and topics, or to share a related story, idea, etc. with us.

Influence Principles

  • Reciprocation: People tend to feel indebted by gifts, favors, or concessions. For example, taking a free sample at the grocery store makes people feel like they should at least listen to the salesperson’s pitch.
  • Authority: People tend to feel a sense of duty or obligation to comply with requests from people in positions of authority (or perceived positions of authority). In a supermarket, for instance, a person will likely change lines when asked to do so by a cashier.
  • Social Proof: In times of uncertainty, people tend to do what others similar to them do. For example, drivers feel compelled to merge when everyone else is doing so, even if they don’t readily see a reason why.
  • Scarcity: Desire tends to increase when availability is limited. This is why companies will state “one ticket left at this price” when displaying prices for airline tickets.
  • Liking: People tend to be influenced by people to whom they are similar and by people whom they like or to whom they are attracted. Michael Jordan endorsing Wheaties cereal, for example, results in people buying Wheaties.
  • Commitment and Consistency: People feel compelled to remain consistent with opinions or behaviors to which they have made prior commitments. If, for instance, people are asked to sign a pledge committing their support before a fundraising event, they are more likely to give money at a later time.

Source: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Learn more about MI2’s Influence Center. Jump to Concepts That Count list.


Human Factors Concepts

  • Affordance: Perceived and actual properties of an object which provide clues for how to operate it. We flip a switch, pull a cord, and turn a knob because the affordances of those objects are relatively apparent.
  • Feedback (Closing the Loop): The mechanism by which a system provides information back to the user about the current state of the system. Callers experience feedback when they call an automated system and receive a recorded message indicating the length of the wait time.
  • Post-Completion Error: Forgetting the last step in a process or task because the main goal of the task has been completed. Neglecting to remove the original from the copy machine after making a copy is a post-completion error.

Learn more about the MedStar Health National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare. Jump to Concepts That Count list.


Complex Systems: Scientific Concepts for Organizational Leadership

  • Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions, Nonlinearity: Forecasting is inherently an inexact (yet boundable) art because small changes can have big effects. Understanding this concept helps us advance a “good enough” plan that we can monitor and adjust along the way, replacing the paralysis of over-analysis.
  • Self-Organization, Emergence: Complex and orderly outcomes can emerge from a few simple rules, even without central control. Trusting this self-organization and emergence helps replace over-planning, over-control, and top-down prescription with simple rules, feedback loops, and reasonable freedoms.
  • Coupling, Permeable Boundaries, Embeddedness: Relationships among parts may be more important than the parts themselves because novelty often arises at intersections. Applying this concept can mean shifting organizational and partnership structures, processes, and patterns to support generative relationships where new ideas emerge, instead of maintaining rigid silos.
  • Adaptability, Novelty: Life moves forward through constant tension and balance because the system is adaptable. Fostering adaptability and novelty encourages “letting go” in order to allow for “creative destruction,” and its potential for adaptive new growth, to emerge.

Source: Plsek, 2001

Learn more about how MI2 works within complex systems to catalyze healthcare innovation. Jump to Concepts That Count list.


DirectedCreativity™: Eight Related Rules

  1. Make it a habit to purposefully pause and notice things.
  2. Focus your creative energies on just a few topic areas that you genuinely care about and work on these purposefully for several weeks or months.
  3. Avoid being too narrow in the way you define your problem or topic area; purposefully try broader definitions and see what insights you gain.
  4. Try to come up with original and useful ideas by making novel associations among what you already know.
  5. When you need creative ideas, remember: attention, escape, and movement.*
  6. Pause and carefully examine ideas that make you laugh the first time you hear them.
  7. Recognize that your streams of thought and patterns of judgment are not inherently right or wrong; they are just what you think now, based primarily on patterns from your past.
  8. Make a deliberate effort to harvest, develop, and implement at least a few of the ideas you generate.
  • *When you need creative ideas, remember: attention, escape, and movement.
    This heuristic directs our basic mental mechanics. These three mental activities underlie all tools for DirectedCreativity™. When you need to be creative, pay attention to things in new ways, escape your current mental patterns associated with the topic, and keep moving in your thinking to avoid premature judgment and the “way we've always done it” thinking.

Source: Creativity, Innovation, and Quality by Paul Plsek

Jump to Concepts That Count list.


Strategies to Better Handle Interruptions

    1. If you have an “interruption lag,” the time before the interruption task, take the time to think about where you are on your primary task to facilitate resumption.
    2. During the interruption lag or the interruption task itself, try to establish an environmental cue (e.g., open an email window to remember to send an email) to associate with your primary task goal. When you resume, this cue will help you recall the primary task.
    3. The “resumption lag” is the time it takes you to reorient to your primary task and is the point where most errors are likely to occur. Take a minute to reconstruct the primary task steps before resuming.

Source: Ratwani and Trafton, 2010

Learn more about the MedStar Health National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare. Jump to Concepts That Count list.


3 Steps to Giving High-Impact Compliments

  1. State the compliment sincerely.
  2. Justify it.
  3. Ask a question about it.
  • Example: “That was a really enlightening talk you just gave. I say that because the audience couldn’t stop taking notes as you spoke. How were you able to make sense out of such a complex topic?”

Learn more about MI2’s Influence Center. Jump to Concepts That Count list.


Evolution of Individuals’ Reactions to New Ideas

  • Indignant rejection
  • Reasoned objection
  • Qualified opposition
  • Tentative acceptance
  • Qualified endorsement
  • Judicious modification
  • Cautious adoption
  • Impassioned espousal
  • Proud parenthood
  • Dogmatic propagation

Source: HK Silver, 1965

Learn more about how MI2 catalyzes innovation that advances health. Jump to Concepts That Count list.


Send us a Concept That Counts

Have an interesting story, photo, etc., of your experience with one of these Concepts That Count? Think there’s a concept not yet listed here we should consider adding as this effort continues? Email [email protected] with “Concepts That Count” in the subject line to help advance this educational effort.

Jump to Concepts That Count list.