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Starting diffusion strategies earlier, before it is comfortable and before the innovation is fully developed, can accelerate spread

Summing Up: Invention Is Easy, Diffusion Is Hard

I can’t understand why people are so frightened of new ideas.

I’m frightened of the old ones. John Cage

Given the abysmal rate of adoption of innovation in healthcare, it is not at all clear if all  the local innovations will spread regionally or nationally.   We are left with wicked questions: Can the same local “vetting” and “spread” strategies apply to wider diffusion efforts?  Are similar patterns of change already present (and not fully explored) in other health systems and communities?  How can these innovations “insinuate themselves” or amplify positive change-in-progress across North America?

Each grantee site has local success stories to tell.  Shawn Fleet worries, “Momentum has built to a fevered pitch.  A surge in demand gives us hope that our innovation will become mainstream.”  At the same time, grantees are worrying about “fidelity.”  How can we assure the integrity of our innovation as it spreads in widening circles?

However the drama regarding spread to regional and national levels is still unfolding. On the surface, successful innovating revolves around the solo inventor-leader that pushes forward toward their bold idea… and, eventually others see the advantages through the evidence “scientifically” collected.  

In contrast, this community of innovators found innovating to be a very social process.  Invention is easy, diffusion is extraordinarily hard.  Success revolves around engaging wave-after-wave of people in trying and vetting the new approach, acting their way into new thinking.  Each wave reduced the risk of adopting for the next wave and helped to spread the practice through their joint experience.

We have found that the grantees are courageous, caring deeply enough to risk changing the order of things while not knowing in advance what direction will emerge.  Few people ask to go on a journey in which the destination is not clearly known.  Much less when the path hugs a precarious edge between what is known and what is barely-imagined-and-yet-to-be.  It is best explored collectively and mindfully.  This is a challenge in which no one person – no one innovator - is smart enough, but everyone together is.

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