What does innovation actually mean?
Innovation is one of those terms that that confuses many people (myself included!), as the way we use and perceive it differs so widely.
Before writing this column, I thought about what innovation meant to me and the first thing that popped into my head was that it refers to a new digital or technology-based idea or product that’s brought to market or invented.
But then I thought more about it and realised that innovation doesn’t have to be digital or technology-based – it can be any new idea or method. Remember, even the smallest idea can have a big impact.
I then considered what innovation means in social care, and the simplest way I can define this is, "A creative idea that that comes to fruition to solve an identified problem and enhance or improve a system or process already in place."
What plans are there for innovation within UK social care?
In December 2021, the UK government identified innovation as the key to delivering outstanding quality in their People at the Heart of Care - Adult Social Care Reform White Paper, so that people:
- Have choice, control, and support to live independent lives
- Can access outstanding quality and tailored care and support
- Find adult social care fair and accessible.
This report lays out the vision for the next 10 years within adult social care, recognising that things have to change in order for us to be able to effectively support those in our care.
But this isn’t the first mention of innovation we’ve heard in recent years. There have been some great innovations in social care that arose due to the pandemic, from COVID-19 vaccines all the way through to support groups and networks, like The Caring View and The Health and Social Care Club, that connect people within the sector to aid knowledge sharing.
Implementing innovation within your care service
As a provider or manager of a service, you need to ensure that a particular innovation is right for your organisation, team and most importantly, the people you’re supporting.
So, at this point, it’s good to consider the benefits that derive from innovation, including:
- Improved productivity
- Reduced costs in the long run
- Increased competitiveness
- Increased brand recognition and reputation
- New partnerships and relationships.
But there are also some negatives, which include:
- It being time-consuming
- It being initially costly
- The potential to lead to poor reputation if the product or idea doesn’t work out.
Before you consider implementing innovation in your service, you have to weigh up all of these factors.
Getting ideas from your team
Many of your team will have great ideas on how to improve the system and journey your clients' experiences. With this in mind, I’d recommend creating a culture where innovation and ideas can be heard and allowed to flourish. Something like a weekly chat over a cuppa could work perfectly. Most innovative ideas stem from something already in place, so it’s important to seek feedback, listen and act upon it.
Once ideas have been generated, the best way to move forward it to put innovation goals into place which are small, manageable steps that lead to the overall vision. It’s important that all these steps are measured and outcomes are as achievable as possible, to turn the idea into an innovation.
Are you ready to innovate?
Remember, innovation doesn’t need to be a scary word. It’s over-used and often over-complicated.
Innovation is a creative idea that that comes to fruition to solve an identified problem and enhance or improve a system or process already in place.
Many of us are doing this on a regular basis without even realising it and it’s likely you’re already a great innovator. Start small and work your way up to larger innovations – you’ll be changing your service for the better before you know it!