When the Incumbent Innovates

When the incumbent innovates

While I completed the first year of my master’s program in health policy and management, I really valued the opportunities to continue exploring my interests in innovation and entrepreneurship with the Adams Apprenticeship.

I was thrilled to cobble together these seemingly disparate interests and dive into a summer internship where I could explore how the best of both worlds come together. My master’s program gave me the industry knowledge that I needed to truly understand a health-care system, and the Adams Apprenticeship gave me the mindset that I needed to innovate in it.

I spent my 2017 summer interning at Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, North Carolina. I worked with its Innovation Engine, which accelerates the transformation of organization as part of its strategic services division.

Interning at the Innovation Engine immersed me in the “disrupt yourself before others disrupt you” mentality of innovative incumbents, and gave me firsthand exposure to the growth executive perspective of entrepreneurship. I learned three big lessons that also reflect my learnings from my Adams Apprenticeship experiences.

Fall in love with a problem, not a solution.

This concept is such an important underpinning of the Innovation Engine’s approach that it’s proudly displayed across a wall of their office in bold letters. The projects I worked on incorporated an in-depth discovery phase, using different types of interviewing techniques, business model and value proposition canvases, multi-stakeholder design sessions, and a relentless focus on the pain points and needs of the end user. The willingness to listen to consumers and pivot as the problem requires directly mirrored the advice that so many founders, funders and growth executives gave us throughout Ted Zoller’s Entrepreneur’s Lab course and our spring San Francisco trek.

Serendipity can be intentional.

The Innovation Engine proactively seeks serendipity by organizing experiences that make those “lucky” ideas, projects and engagements more likely. While the Adams Apprenticeship calls the travels to startups, companies and firms “treks,” the Innovation Engine refers to them as “field trips.” I toured Marriott’s national Innovation Lab at the Charlotte City Center and attended a lunch where their general manager offered analogous learning from their experiences testing innovations for hotel rooms and checking in, which prompted lively ideation and discussion around hospital rooms and health care check-in processes.

Innovation is a process, not an event.

I learned this from the Entrepreneur’s Lab course where the guest speakers shared their experiences and myth-busting discussions showed us how “overnight” successes don’t happen as quickly as the general public thinks. I now truly understood this after seeing how the Innovation Engine tirelessly deploys frameworks, design processes and emergent approaches to support Carolinas HealthCare System’s steps towards transforming healthcare in a heavily entrenched field.

By Alina Clarke (MSPH ’18)