Takeaways from the Innov8rs Conference, March 2018

Takeaways from the Innov8rs Conference, March 2018

Design Thinking, Authentic Demand, and More

By Hank Neuhoff, Stephanie Johnson, and Morgan Atkins

Opioid addiction apps, acuity-adaptable rooms to insertable cardiac monitors, and virtual reality for pediatric patients are among the technology-related issues that healthcare leaders should pay close attention to this year, according to the ECRI Institute's 2018 Top 10 Hospital C-suite Watch List. With the rapidly changing healthcare landscape, it's getting harder to anticipate what’s next. We understand the challenges that come with keeping 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 the implementation of a company-wide innovation program, a group of us traveled to Atlanta to attend the Innov8rs conference. As their website shares, this conference is “designed for [attendees] to connect and collaborate with people in similar roles chasing similar objectives facing similar challenges.”


We’re taking what we learned at this conference to encourage innovation within our Stratasan culture. We hope to learn from our experiences and provide continuous and innovative value to our clients as well.

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, field trips, workshops, social events, and lots and lots of conversations.


Best practices were presented by innovation leaders from FedEx, Humana, Ernst and Young, and Planbox, just to name a few. We spent time with 352 Inc. and MoxieUSA for hands-on workshops in design thinking and creative problem solving. Each of these companies is thriving thanks to the creative minds leading them into the future!

The Design Thinking workshop presented an exercise where two groups could offer innovative options for the failing Toys ‘R’ Us retail chain. We “went back in time,” putting ourselves in the position of their innovation team, brainstorming ideas and thinking about how we would execute our ideas in order to save the company. Real-world constraints and expectations were applied and we were required to have a working prototype within thirty days that had to be scalable for several Toys ‘R’ Us locations. Our host leaders played the role of disappointed parents and burnt-out managers. The groups then interviewed both parents and managers in order to get information and feedback on their Toys ‘R’ Us consumer experience. In the end, the two innovation groups came up with very different, but plausible and actionable, strategies to save the Toys ‘R’ Us chain.

This exercise encouraged the practice of approaching a problem from as many points of view as possible to absolve the groups of biases toward any one solution. Each step in the process considered the following step. The compounding problems facing Toys ‘R’ Us were striking, but equally impressive were the seemingly untapped assets at their disposal. The questions arose, “Did Toys ‘R’ Us not go through a process like this? Our two groups came up with several plausible ideas in a very short time. Perhaps they did not have the culture in place to support the process?”

Click to Tweet: "Approach a problem from as many points of view as possible to absolve from group bias toward any one solution." http://bit.ly/2w62CG1 @stratasan #innovation


A favorite lesson from the conference was learning how to identify “authentic demand.” Authentic demand is revealed by illuminating all aspects of the problem and not just prioritizing a need based on YOUR want or need. Likewise, looking at a problem only from my own point of view and showing preference for the subsequent solution is called “association bias.” While the solution provided may solve the problem from my point of view, the core issue may not be solved for others. Removing association bias takes practice, but eventually allows innovation teams to identify less obvious blockers to progress. Highlighting all the blockers, not only the ones you think are obvious, will lead to a more creative and lasting improvement!

To implement design thinking and other lessons from the Innov8rs conference, we’ve commenced a regular cadence of innovative exercises involving all departments at Stratasan. We chose to begin with a disruptor exercise intended to draw out solutions from participants and group those solutions into distinct categories. This allowed our internal team to utilize their creative juices to point out possible improvements for our internal processes from very different points of view.

Bringing the “design thinking” concept to Stratasan worked because:

  1. We work in a highly collaborative team environment
  2. We have an exceptionally creative and analytical team talent at the same table
  3. We are intentional about including team members from various functional teams so we can have several points of view to consider for every project and process  

From a partnership perspective, it’s important for us to consider the points of view of our clients and their audiences, that of our data vendors, and that of the industry overall in order to stay ahead of client’s needs and not behind them. We actively strive to consider all of these viewpoints, in addition to our own, as we to continue to progress and produce high-quality products and services.

Stay tuned to learn how we “harnessed our hates” in our next innovation blog post!

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Blog Post by Stephanie Johnson, SVP of SRG, Hank Neuhoff, Director of Continuous Improvement, and Morgan Atkins, Director of Innovation for Stratasan

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