Why it is actually OK for us to fail

Being part of OSF Innovation is an exciting thing. We have people working to improve processes. There are individuals helping Mission Partners bring their business ideas to life. We have those researching emerging technologies and devices to fill clinical needs. And that’s just scratching the surface.

But with innovation comes risk. There’s a chance that the process we put into place won’t work. There’s a chance that a Mission Partner’s idea won’t get commercialized. And there’s a chance that the newest device we’re testing won’t do what we thought it would. It’s all part of the idea that failure is key to innovation. In fact, it should be celebrated.

As a team that’s recently dealt with an unsuccessful project, it’s fair to say embracing this concept is much easier than putting it into practice. Not because our leaders aren’t accepting. It’s because it’s difficult for US to accept. Let’s face it; no one wants to fail. But being part of a culture that values this type of experience means we can learn from it, move on and try again.

Our experience

At the height of COVID-19, there were many projects taking place to care for patients in a safe way. One of these was to find and implement a solution that would allow facilities to screen people for symptoms of the virus without putting others at risk. As part of our rigorous process, we discussed needs with our leaders, vetted possible devices and landed on what we felt was a great solution.

From there, we engaged the departments within OSF HealthCare that could be impacted, such as IT, contracting, legal and compliance to get them aligned to the project. We chose sites to test the solution. We built out workflows with subject matter experts. We created usage guides. And then delivered and set up the devices. We were set!

Come day two, we received a call from users who were not happy with the product. It’s something we weren’t expecting. But we pressed on, documenting issues, working with the company to resolve concerns and keeping leadership updated along the way. Ultimately, we realized the ongoing problems were not ours and decided the devices were not helpful to our Mission Partners or the people we serve.

While the biggest issues were not our fault, it was difficult to accept this project needed to end after all of the work we completed. But it was comforting to know our decision was supported by not just our immediate managers, but the leaders who sought out this solution in the first place. We were not shunned for this experience. We were praised for recognizing it was time to let go of this device.

Lessons learned

What we’ve learned is that you can apply rigor, build processes and plan for every scenario — but there are still opportunities for failure. And that’s OK. What’s important is recognizing that failure early, being able to pivot and learning from the process.

As we continue to move in the direction of accepting failure, we know this will happen again. But now we know what to do next and so does the rest of our team. We understand that transformation can’t happen if we’re only willing to make safe bets. We have to be willing to take risks and know that with these risks, there’s going to be failure.

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