Friday, 25 January 2013

The words innovation and improvement can be misleading

If you want an idea or activity to be judged as good, then label it as an innovation or an improvement. Correct?  Well, I'm not sure it should be, but it seems that's what happens. I've been wondering why it is that the words "innovation" and "improvement" are assumed to represent "the good".

At a high level, there is an ethics issue; to whom does the "good" belong? New ideas often stem from crises, and crises are often either sourced from or produced by competition. When one side creates an innovation, the other side loses.

At a more detailed level, what worries me is that by labelling an idea or activity using words that come with the assumption of good, is that we:

  • fail to evaluate whether the idea does what it intends (fidelity; more about fidelity here)
  • fail to check whether there are unintended consequences in applying it
  • fail to understand the drive of the person or organisation behind it
  • urge the spread of a "good" practice, without assessing its value
  • just accept; and the more we just accept, the more we open the floodgates to ideas and activities which may no longer be what we need
There's a lot of talk in the NHS about the need for "innovation". It will be good when this is grounded into discussion about the problems that need to be solved and then the ideas and activities being introduced to solve them. Solutions need to stand on their own right, not be labelled to give them credibility.

No comments: