This was a great conversation — I met Michelle by chance at an event hosted by the lovely people at Boundless (ask them about their Discovery sessions, they’re brilliant), and got talking about innovation straight away.
I love the story of how Michelle came to her current role with Virgin Care, and her interest in happiness as something worth measuring and striving to deliver. I touched on this a while ago in a blog post, and it’s heartening to see it gaining traction (apparently there’s an algorithm for happiness, according to Mo Gawdat of Google. Is there nothing an algorithm can’t do? 😀 )
So Michelle, what’s your remit as Head of Futures?
In a nutshell, creating value by helping the organisation do things differently. While my team does deliver and lead on innovation projects, much more time is spent supporting our colleagues to do it.
How do you start?
One of the first things we do is to map our marketplace (healthcare) and our organisation’s priorities to identify innovation hotspots. You can’t innovate everywhere all at once and we only have a small innovation team, so we need to find the areas where there are the biggest gaps or challenges in the system.
We start with desk research, looking at the vast amount of public health data to examine the system as a whole and identify gaps: where are the biggest challenge areas in terms of how much they cost the NHS, how many people are affected, how preventable they are and how many healthy years of life are lost as a result. Many of these are clinical hotspots, but some are non-clinical, for example reducing the use of agency staff, or improving access to services so people can find and attend appointments more easily and quickly.
Then we look at our organisation to see how it matches: are we similar to the overall marketplace, are there differences? We then streamline our list to come up with priority hotspots and go through another insight gathering stage. We speak to experts in each area to help us understand the issue in depth, identify people in the business that we can work with on the problem (including the service design team to help design new models of care), and scout for existing innovations that could be implemented quickly.
Then we get our champions involved, pilot top solutions identified or developed and roll it out. Although we tend not to talk about pilots any more, because once we have an evidence base and have done an options appraisal, we should be pretty confident that what we’re doing is more about refining the implementation.