Friday, 18 July 2008

We need system stars not individual stars

I thought I'd come up with a new idea only to discover that more than 80 years ago an article was written in The American Magazine about how perhaps the worst employee to have was the "brilliant" one because this was the person who would have lots of ideas, start them off and most likely never complete the work. You can read more about this orgininal article, called "Why I never hire brilliant men" here

I'm interested in this topic because when it comes to the spread of good practice and scaling up good ideas across organisations and communities we so often focus on individuals. We point out the "champions", the so-called innovators, yet in my practical experience I am finding they really seem to be a turn-off at influencing others. I have written about this before.

What I am thinking about is that we focus on individuals because we are individuals. However, if we want system change we need to think about systems. And systems are not like individuals. They operate differently, to different rules, with different dynamics. We need to think decision-making processes, co-ordination, co-operation, collaboration and competition. Systems Thinking principles (from Senge's work) would be most appropriate here (more to come on this topic in future blogs).

So what we need are system stars for other systems to copy. We need to demonstrate that systems can operate the good ideas that we have. In healthcare we need to move away form the individualised models that we have and move away form the individualised model of scaling up to one which is more system focused - from its development through to its scaling up.

Creative Commons 2008 Sarah Fraser Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derviative

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