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Leading for innovation
  1. Max Denning1,2,
  2. Hutan Ashrafian1
  1. 1 Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College, London, UK
  2. 2 Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Max Denning, Department of Surgery and Caner, Imperial College London, London W2 1NY, UK; max.denning{at}

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Over the last century, innovation has transformed the nature of healthcare. Antibiotics, vaccines and new surgical instruments have resulted in historically incurable diseases being treated routinely.1 However, the challenges facing healthcare are changing and now we must learn how to continue delivering high-quality care in the context of an ageing population, increasing non-communicable disease burden and spiralling costs. In order to meet this challenge, innovation is needed.2

Innovation is more than just products, it can be ‘anything that creates new resources, processes or values, or improves a company’s existing resources, processes or values.’3 Historically, much emphasis has been placed on new products, but relatively little funding has been directed towards researching innovative ways to deliver care for common, less-complex conditions in a simpler, more convenient and less costly manner.1 4 Examples of this might include: empowering patients to self-care, moving care to the community or point of care testing devices.2

In this article, we describe three questions that will help leaders formulate an innovation strategy. We then describe three key concepts in the theory of innovation: demand, technological form and novelty. Finally, a brief description is provided of implementation theory. The frameworks outlined in this article are intended as an introduction to the subject and are limited to some of the common, popularly known frameworks.

Innovation strategy

What are we trying to achieve?

Innovation is not an end in of itself but rather a tool that leaders can use to achieve specific goal.5 The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI)’s ‘model for Improvement’, begins with three questions: ‘What are we trying to accomplish?’, ‘How will we know that a change is an improvement?’, and ‘What change can we make that will result in an improvement?’.6 This strategy can also be applied by healthcare leaders wanting to leverage innovation as an improvement tool: …

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  • Contributors Both authors conceived the idea. MD wrote the initial draft. MD and HA revised subsequent drafts. MD submitted the article. MD and HA revised the article. Both authors are responsible for the content as guarantors.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors. Infrastructure support to HA for this research was provided by the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.