Never Stop Learning

10 Lessons Learned in 2014


Never Stop Learning


Counting down the final hours, we at the Center for Innovation reflected on 2014 and took stock of not only the projects we worked on, but also the lessons we learned.

You know the old saying, "You can't see the forest through the trees"? In a metaphoric sense, we've all been planting trees together. Here's a look at the forest that was 2014 and the lessons that we took away from it.


  1.  Innovation is messy. The path is not a straight path nor even visible at times, but we cannot let up on the pursuit of innovation. We recognize how integral innovation is to health care and we are at a time where we believe the world needs innovation more than ever.
  2. Business model innovation may be as, or more important, than product or service innovation. You see this trend with publications like The Way We're Working Isn't Working, or The End of Business As Usual.
  3. Lessons Learned Pinterest ImageCommunication is everything. This might seem overly obvious, but in every project, or workplace, we need constant reminders of the "fundamentals." We can't assume our co-workers know where we are heading with a project. Clear, precise communication is vital for any successful project.
  4. Teams trump solo. The main benefit of a team approach is the cross pollination of ideas and thoughts - how one person's work is associated with another's and how we might benefit from from sharing ideas and practices. We discover tools others use and can learn how to adapt them into our own work.
  5. Servant Leadership. It's an old concept and is essential for our work in health care to look for others' interests before our own. In more current vernacular, the trend is to "give before you get." By showing we place others before ourselves helps to not only win friends and influence, but also assists in the outcomes of our work.
  6. Great teams create great outcomes no matter what the idea is. We saw this year that it isn't always about what the project is we are working on, or the scale, or even how "disruptive" it will be. It's about the passion and cohesion of the team. Teams that are passionate are the ones with the most success and will do whatever it takes to make it work, even if it's something different than the initial idea.
  7. The greatest solutions don't necessarily come from the "experts," but you do need to be an expert at listening. Individuals, people, patients, and communities can have amazing solutions if we let their voices be heard. Those who are working on the "front-lines" will know more about the root of a problem than anyone else, just like a patient (or community of patients) can teach us more about their struggles and successes than observation will bring.
  8. Less talk, more doing. One temptation for anyone working in design and innovation is to talk an idea out of relevancy. We can all come up with an idea, hold meetings and brainstorm sessions, and talk about the idea until it's no longer a viable option. We learned the importance of moving fast with ideas and getting the proverbial rubber to hit the road, which led us to our next lesson learned.
  9. Failure is success. While insanity is doing the same thing expecting different results, we can learn from our failures and conquer our next steps.  Michael Jordan once said, "I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." People won't remember the 9,000 shots he missed. They will remember those moments of victory, learned through failing. Don't be afraid to fail.
  10. How to learn faster. "Learn Faster" is not so much a lesson learned, rather it’s an ideal state, a moving target.  The idea of learning faster is two fold - speed can be a tool and speed can be a result. Having clear scope with projects, and defining what the problem is, allows us to learn faster and find the result faster. We learn this lesson again and again with every project. It's an industry best practice and one that we ascribe to (it’s part of our philosophy of "Think Big. Start Small. Move Fast.").


Share with us your big lessons learned this year. Leave a comment below, or tweet to us at @MayoInnovation with the hashtag #LL2014.

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