Daily Editors' Notes

Balanced blend is key to innovation success

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John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News
John O'Connor, editorial director, McKnight's Long-Term Care News

These days, almost every industry event features a session about preparing for the road ahead. Inevitably, the same siren song can soon be heard: innovate or else.

Partner with hospitals, manage your data better, diversify your service portfolio, consider higher-end services, consider lower-end services … You get the picture.

But as many operators are learning the hard way, innovation can be a tricky game to play. All too often, facilities get trapped in uncoordinated efforts that seem to be doing more harm than good.

For some helpful assistance here, please see the May issue of Harvard Business Review.

In an article called “Managing Your Innovation Portfolio,” authors Bansi Nagji and Geoff Tuff bring some much-needed common sense to the conversation.

They correctly point out that efforts to innovate often feel haphazard and episodic, leaving many managers to suspect that the innovation return on investment is inadequate. Executives also tend to endorse dramatic interventions and vacillating strategies, the authors note. Sound familiar?

Luckily, the news isn't all bad. After examining companies in three sectors, they found a striking pattern: Top-performing firms usually devote about 70% of their innovation resources to core offerings, 20% to adjacent efforts — and 10% to transformational initiatives.

Finding the proper blend is hardly an exact science. But it is clear that facilities must execute at all three levels. More specifically, it's important that operators develop the unique abilities that are required to generate transformational innovation.

Their specific recommendations: find the right people for breakthrough efforts; create an appropriate (and often very different) funding structure; depart from a pipeline management approach; and use noneconomic and internal metrics to assess early efforts.

There is no easy way to manage innovation. But its role is essential. Especially if internal discussions about the future are to be more than idle conversations.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.


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