Accelerating Change Programmes

Seeking the approaches that enable faster change in the complex world of health and social care

Owned Mediocrity, a Dilemna

Reflecting on an excellent piece of work that I’ve been involved with recently, it highlights an important question.

This piece of work has been one of the largest pieces of collaborative solution building I’ve been involved in, proper engagement, not tokenism. Patients, front line staff, managers, commissioners, Board members, clinical staff the whole range. I have a great team to thank for this, they have done a great job. This level of engagement and collaboration created huge energy and felt really positive, and the outcome has been strong ownership into the problems, a vision and solution. All was good until I’d recently spotted an article highlighting collaboration leads to mediocrity, surely not I thought, this goes against all my mental models.

An incoming colleague challenged the piece of work suggesting it wasn’t innovative enough, essentially mediocre. And do you know, there is some truth in the challenge.

Whilst the recent collaboration process generated lots of ideas related to the problems, on reflection the groups of stakeholders would pick the less innovative solutions and build on these, gaining lots of support and ownership along the way. It is clear that this will lead to much faster and effective implementation, indeed some stakeholders are pushing hard to put the solution in place soon.

Looking at a range of literature, including Quiet, some innovative solutions come from individuals and thus ownership initially starts with a very small number of people. The emphasis is then on persuading or demonstrating that the innovative solution has benefits for stakeholders, something that is implied in the collaboration process.

So this prompts a huge question, which is better mediocre solutions that have strong ownership, or fantastic solutions that few have strong ownership of.

Truth is, I don’t know. My gut feeling is that in complex change involving people ownership is king, but I will be much more conscious of this issue in the future.

3 comments on “Owned Mediocrity, a Dilemna

  1. turnaroundteam

    The relationship between innovation and subjective well being nexus comes to mind immediately after reading this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Martin Charters

    I think the title here is a little harsh to those who have contributed to a collective change and improvement process, and ignores one of the essential components within individuals and organisations – Risk Appetite. Individuals, or small groups of innovators, generally have the ‘luxury’ of failing out of sight. I am reminded of James Dyson ‘I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures…..the key to success is failure’.

    It takes a very mature or desperate organisation to tolerate such levels of failure on a collective basis, leading to a de-risking of solutions, but also, copying from others who have done innovative stuff. Hence the drive for many is to become ‘first – followers’ of innovation and through effective engagement and collaboration, empower small groups to carry on the change in small areas – improving on the consensus ‘mediocre’ solution.

    We all love to celebrate the successful inventor and entrepreneur, but if your world is surrounded by chaos and process collapse, change that delivers a little order and calmness where the basics ‘just work’, can feel as revolutionary, enabling and innovative as a bagless vacuum once felt!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Steve Sewell

      Thanks Martin, understand your comments fully. You make an excellent point about chaos and process collapse, the impact of collaboration can be relative, thus your valid challenge around the title. Reflecting on your comments, I’ve changed my conclusion and pinned my flag to collaboration, I can’t imagine any other route in complex people orientated change.


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This entry was posted on 02/06/2017 by in change, collaboration, stakeholder management.
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