Fail Fast, Learn Together, and Find Solutions

Fail Fast, Learn Together, and Find Solutions

Key Takeaways from the Innov8rs Conference

By Stephanie Johnson, Hank Neuhoff, and Morgan Atkins

We understand how difficult it is to keep pace with developing technologies, changing care trends, and evolving patient needs. Yet we also recognize how paramount change is to progress. We strive to be trailblazers in the healthcare space, developing innovative tools and services that address our clients' growth goals. In an effort to support our own continuous improvement and inform how we can more effectively support our clients, a group of us traveled to Miami to attend the 2019 Innov8rs conference.


As Stratasan approaches another year flexing our innovative thinking chops, this time of education and networking was inspirational and motivational. This conference afforded us the opportunity to spend two days solely focused on what it takes to drive non-stop innovation. We connected, collaborated, and co-created with peers in innovation and improvement positions from many backgrounds and industries. Our days were filled with talks, case studies, workshops, social events, and lots and lots of conversations. In this post, we’ll share an overview of our learnings and key takeaways.


Innovation is hard but we don’t have to carry the burden alone.

Innovation teams come in all sizes; but as revealed by conference attendees and speakers, the paths we travel are similar. Our team enjoyed listening to and learning from other teams. As fellow attendees discussed their company journeys, there were lots of head nods and jotting down of a-ha moments as we connected with their relatable experiences.

Speaker Brian Christian of Innovo discussed the importance of harnessing the power of every employee in a company. He stated that the workforce needs to be heard no matter their title or tenure. To innovate and come up with “billion dollar ideas,” we must use knowledge that comes from all of the organization: new employees, alumni, and subject matter experts. We shouldn’t limit the intake of knowledge to only the innovation team or executives.

We really enjoyed “Creating Momentum that Matters,” a talk given by Amber Foucault.  When it comes to innovative input, she says to put ideas out there, and to not always wait for input before getting started. To keep momentum going, consider weekly progress or sprint reviews and involve the executives of your organization. Executive energy will motivate the team. In turn, everyone will be responsible to execute, not just upper management.


Gain knowledge from failed experiences.

When cultivating a culture of innovation, you must encourage an environment where people are constantly learning. Failing is part of the process and more often than not, failing and failing fast leads to faster innovation.

Thor Ernstsson of Alpha HQ gave a matter-of-fact talk about “failing” and was realistic about the image of failing in a corporate environment. He said, “what innovators are doing is ‘learning.’ If you excitedly claim to be constantly failing, you won’t have a job for very long.”

He then asked: “How fast can you learn?” His point was that the only way to know if you are going in the right direction is to test your idea and learn from the outcomes. If you find you are going in the wrong direction, you can shift and save time, resources, money and momentum. Experimentation steers you in the right direction.  

He had these three tips:

  1. Build a way to test ideas quickly and glean insights from ambiguous ideas; it’s not always necessary for an idea to be fully formed for it to be tested

  2. Throw out your “long term plan” in favor of testing quickly and constantly learning

  3. Always test for assumptions and assume that there are assumptions in all projects and tests and call them out


Ideas! Ideas! Ideas! And Solutions?  

Finding out how other companies lead their innovation initiatives and solve their innovation challenges was fascinating. One of the most interesting sessions that focused on this topic was with Amy Parrott of Procter & Gamble (P&G).

P&G knew that employees had become fatigued with sharing ideas that seemingly went nowhere. They wanted something exciting and motivating that would combat this issue. So their Innovation team offered a $10k idea contest to all employees. The turnout was huge. As Amy conveyed, filtering through ideas the ideas was an overwhelming and manual process. To trim down the idea pool,  P&G set up some reasonable guidelines. No “flying car” ideas allowed and ideas must use attainable technology and be within the reasonable ability of the company to enact. A “Shark Tank” style competition was set up to decide the final winner.


Be shocked and amazed!   

One of the benefits of the Innov8rs community is that throughout the year, we have an opportunity to be part of the Innov8rs Tribe. We have the opportunity to be part of peer groups with innovators from Procter & Gamble, GM, and the US Armed Service!  

Our most shocking moment was finding out that the Army, Air Force and Navy had innovation teams and they experienced the same challenges as everyone else. Edwin Churchill of the US Army, whose talk was titled “A Culture of Innovation in one of America’s Largest Bureaucracies—The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” focused on messaging and fostering a culture of innovation. He highlighted the importance of clarifying why we are doing what we are doing as the starting point for messaging.  He stated the following five points:

  1. Constantly message so that everyone “gets the message”of innovation all the time and at every opportunity.

  2. Take time to talk to the idea creators to understand the line of thinking that drove their idea.

  3. Use your interpersonal skills to move innovation. People like talking to people who like talking to people.

  4. Be known and respected in the organization and use your level of influence; including small favors to cynics in the innovation plan is sometimes all you need to win them over to your side.

  5. Develop a huge rolodex of industry partners, academic thought leaders, and inter-agency subject matter experts.

Clearly identifying the “Why?” helps form and defend ideas. Being respected in your organization helps you become the leader in innovation and incorporating others needs into your plan brings people over to your side.


Learning how we can work together…..better!  

This was by far one of our favorite sessions. Why? Because our group of three identified exactly with Sarah Thurber of Foursight as she discussed who we are, why it works and when it fails. Thurber talked about how workplace teammates belong to one of four categories and that understanding what kind of problem solvers you have on your team will increase efficiency and productivity. Focusing on how each team member thinks will stop you from wrestling with the person and allow you to focus on solving the problems together. Here are the four categories that you might identify with too!

  1. Ideators think big.

  2. Developers get things right.

  3. Implementers get the job done.

  4. Clarifiers do their homework.

Part of the challenge of working on the innovation team is that in order to move ideas along, you will need all of the above to help you. Even with our group of three, we all know that we think through and tackle projects in very different ways. Knowing how our other team members approach their creative thinking and problem solving helps us to take our own style and productivity and better pair it with the rest of the team. Thurber added that unbridled creativity can lead to chaos. Rules and conformity shouldn’t be shunned. A certain amount of conformity is necessary for things to work and rules are OK as long as they aren’t overly stifling.

Image from iOS (6)Our team at the 2019 Innov8rs conference. Pictured from L-R: Morgan Atkins, Stephanie Johnson, and Hank Neuhoff.

The Takeaway

All year our Innovation team works to engage, encourage, and develop new ideas. The Innov8r conference is a source of inspiration and one way we stimulate creative thinking. Last year’s conference even motivated our Director of Innovation, Morgan Atkins to form an internal team called StrataLabs.

With a goal of collaboration, prototype testing, and embracing failure, StrataLabs meets weekly to discuss problems that need a solution, consider new ideas, and present findings. The hope is that StrataLabs will be a testing ground where ideas can be cultivated into new products, features, and technologies. It is an environment where ideas can be tested with little risk and the question of “how might we…?” can be posed in a low-pressure space, opening the floor to all possibilities.

As a product of StrataLabs innovation efforts, a mapping tool was developed that allows users to input an address and view surrounding traffic counts. The Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) Map can preemptively address potential opportunities and possible issues by demonstrating traffic patterns. Users can gather insight into the movement of the population and determine if traffic volume is well suited to support a new site placement.

It has been energizing to watch users engage with the AADT Map and we look forward to seeing what this year’s conference will inspire. We know that as we continue to cultivate a mindset of innovation without our organization, more great ideas are sure to rise to the top.

For more information about how we can support your innovative thinking, schedule a discovery call with one of our experts today.

Article by Stephanie Johnson, SVP SRG and Customer Success, Hank Neuhoff, Director of Continuous Improvement, and Morgan Atkins, Director of Innovation for Stratasan

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