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It's Time To Take The Road Less Traveled: The 4 Pillars of Innovation Adoption


This article builds on the eight essentials of innovation, discussing the four components that need to be in place for successful implementation.

Less traveled

We commonly hear the expression that "Knowledge is Power" and, for the most part, it is difficult to disagree. However, I would also contend that this statement only rings true when knowledge is actually applied and results are seen.

As a follow-up to my 8 essentials of Innovation article that touched on the important elements for making innovative change, we now will look at the framework that would provide sustainability.

At the very least, the knowledge garnered from the extensive interview process conducted by McKinsey, armed us with the insight and knowledge that can only come from the experience of more than 300 innovative companies.

Now that we have a basis for the essentials, how do we apply these and adopt them for the long term? In a recent paper written by Fisher et al, a framework is proposed to serve as a catalyst for implementation and adoption.

The following framework is part of a growing body of work looking at implementation science.


The Environment is compromised of the milieu that coalesces to allow the formation of an atmosphere that promotes out-of-the-box thinking and encourages change agents to do value-add work.

  • Policies play an important role as they set parameters and guidelines for what can be done and the proper channels to achieve this, thus we must ensure that clear policy and standardized protocols that are supportive of innovation are in place.
  • The Market Structure needs to be receptive to this ingenuity and be willing to give novel processes an opportunity to succeed. But just as importantly (if not more importantly), the Market Structure needs to give permission to fail.
  • Incentives help encourage an innovative environment by rewarding those willing to take the opportunity cost of trying something that has not been well trodden in the past.
  • Lastly, the Network Structure, both internally and externally, needs to be set up to help promote and connect the dots that will lead to adoption. If communication is limited to a small area, we are less likely to adopt a new process even if it is actually better.

Once you have an encouraging atmosphere or innovative culture supported by policy and your network, Organization is needed:

  • Structure as a necessary component is self-evident as without some sort of structure it is difficult to be consistent and make forward progress.
  • Resources need to be allocated appropriately. This may be financial in nature or done by delegating personnel to a promising project that needs further consideration.
  • Capabilities need to be assessed. Do you have the right people doing the right job? It is important to have a high level of self-awareness for ourselves and those around us. If outside resources are needed, it is advised to target “A” players that will add the depth that's needed on the team. Harvard Business Review discusses “How to Hire More Top Performers” here.
  • Professional Network Structure has been shown by research to require that we assess our network strength, network openness, and network hierarchy for it to be successful.

In a separate study Huang et al found that:

“Relationship quality mediates the impacts of all three network structure properties on members' knowledge acquisition and well-being, which in turn lead to positive members' professional performance.”


  • The Quality of evidence is important here. How are we measuring what we are doing and is what we are getting out of the effort valid and reliable? Adhering to high-quality standards is a must as we work towards a better system of practices.
  • As for Financial Attributes, does the innovation make sense from a business standpoint? Will it add value to the organization as well as the most important member of your team, your customer or within healthcare, the patient? I would also add that these financial attributes should be tied to the overall financial incentives. We should reward those that innovate and work to make a positive difference.
  • The selected Modes of delivery should be well thought out. Is there a better way to deliver what's been created than the original channels currently in place?

Lastly, we arrive at Implementation:

  • Incentives, the incentives need to be congruent from start to finish and aligned with the policies and goals of the organization.
  • Management process, leaders need to be coached as well in how to create an atmosphere where not only controlled failure is tolerated but encouraged. The key operative word here being "controlled", if an organized structure for adopting innovation is in place these failures occur generally at a scale that you learn from the mistakes as an expected part of the process.
  • Use of Peer Norms, as you work to find an implementation and adoption strategy that works, using peer norms as well as best practices will help expedite the process and minimize work because although we are dealing with an incredibly complex system, we don't always have to reinvent the wheel. Keep It Simple and everyone will hopefully understand.

Thus, I would reiterate that "Knowledge is Power," but it's only good when we can apply it.

Adopting Innovation

What are your thoughts and have you found a sound implementation strategy?


HBR: How to Hire More Top Performers

Journal of The American Medical Association

The 8 Essentials of Innovation Applied to Health Care

Professional Network Structures

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
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