Ideas from abroad

In the past year, David Strand has added
quite a few stamps to his passport, making visits to India, China and different places in the Middle East, just to name a
few. But it’s not simply travel for travel’s
sake. His trips are part of his job.

As chief emerging businesses officer
and chief operating officer for The
Cleveland Clinic
, he recognizes that innovation is part of his job, and to fuel that,
CEO Toby Cosgrove insists that executives and physicians go on an innovation
trip each year.

“There are only a couple of rules,” Strand
says. “One is that you go someplace different, and second that you learn something
new, and third, try to figure out a way to
apply it to what we do. That’s it.”

In Dubai, Strand has learned that people in the Middle East have a better
understanding of the role that physical
environment plays in healing and have
done of a much better job of creating
better physical environments for hospitals. In India, he’s learned the importance that spirituality plays in treating
medical conditions and healing.

“We have to address other things that
matter most to the patient that may have
nothing to do with the physical manifestation of the disease — their emotional
needs, spiritual needs, needs their family
may have in helping that person heal,”
he says.

These trips are twofold in benefits. Not
only do the hospital executives and doctors gain new insights and ideas to apply in
their roles, but it demonstrates to the
organization that management isn’t just
talking it up.

“When an organization sees that the leadership really endorses that time and commitment and is willing to spend the dollars
on it, then you begin to create a culture of
innovation,” Strand says.

Another part of creating a culture of
innovation is making sure you bring people into the organization that embrace

“There are people who like to operate
and like the status quo, and there are
people that are actually incredibly curious all the time and like to think of ways
to do things better and like to explore
new opportunities or new possibilities,”
Strand says. “When you find those people, you bring them in.”

One of the keys to learning whether
someone is innovative or not is to look
at how they live their life. Do they have a
desire for continuous learning and do
their work experiences demonstrate an
intellectual curiosity?

“Those are the things that you look for
as opposed to titles or positions,” Strand

When you have people who are naturally
curious to find better ways to do things,
you can’t stifle their creative spirit.

“Make sure that people have the freedom, the time and some dollars to actually innovate, and that they aren’t so
locked down in their budgets and in
their time commitments that they can’t
have dollars and time to explore,” he

Lastly, you have to go out and actually listen to people in order to find new ideas.

“A lot of innovation is happening every
day, and leaders don’t know it because
they don’t listen,” Strand says.

For example, if he wants to change
patient care, the best people to talk to
are his nurses and the patients.

“If you open your eyes and ears and are
willing to listen to your employees,
there’s an incredible wealth of knowledge that’s resonant there for how to
make things better and how to find new
solutions,” he says. “It’s amazing how
executives don’t listen to customers or
employees on a regular basis.”

By encouraging your employees to
look for inspiration elsewhere and by
talking to people in and close to your
organization, you start to rely on others
to create innovation in your business.

“Innovation can’t just happen out of
the head of the CEO,” Strand says. “It
has to be something that is happening at
all levels of the organization, so finding
ways to encourage innovation is a big
part of making sure a business is constantly innovating. If you centralize it or
try to consolidate it up into the top of the
organization and they’re the ‘keepers of
innovation,’ it never happens. It has to
be distributed throughout the organization. There has to be a sense that everybody plays a role in innovation in the

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