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Five Small Workspace Changes Health Execs Can Make to Foster Innovation

MHE PublicationVol 28 No 9
Volume 28
Issue 9

An innovation director at Independence Blue Cross explores how small workspace changes can cultivate creativity at healthcare organizations.




Our workspaces have a substantial pull over us. They can enhance and cultivate our creativity, and in a time when businesses are continually being called on to innovate, that’s important.

If you work at a cool start-up or Google, you may already work in a spaceship-inspired pod or take calls from a hammock, while having your lunchtime smoothie delivered by a dog on a skateboard. But for most of us in healthcare, this isn’t our daily work life.

Short of a full redesign, what can you do to pump up the creative volume in your space? Should you run out and buy a ping-pong table?  Not quite.  Building an innovative culture is not as simple as setting up a foosball table and turning to your suit-clad workers declaring, “We’re so zany now!” But there are some simple things you can do to encourage creativity in a genuine way.





Lighting makes a huge difference in a space. For creativity, natural light is ideal-do your best to avoid interior conference rooms with no windows. If you are stuck in a fluorescent palace, consider additional lighting.  I’ve added lamps to illuminate dark corners and complement the fluorescents, so I don’t feel like I’m lying on a medical gurney while I’m trying to work.





Scatter brightly colored post-it notes and sharpies around your space. These are the tools of the innovation trade. Sketching was the first way of storytelling, and it still holds true when you want to communicate an idea. Consider covering an entire wall with dry erase paint. Flip charts and scented Mr. Sketch markers are another great method for getting things down. Having the right tools encourages us to break away from formal PowerPoints and ideate on the spot.





Have snacks on hand because nobody can think on an empty stomach. You don’t need a fully-stocked kitchen; a bowl of snack bars can do the trick.  Also consider scattering magazines or writing down links to compelling Ted talks. These can help provide inspiration and a needed break from the daily grind.





Low background music sets the tone and instantly makes the environment feel more laid back. When I teach, I play music as students enter my class and when they’re doing group work. It immediately signals a vibe and tone. With Pandora and Spotify, it’s easier than ever to pick up a low-cost Bluetooth speaker and provide a soundtrack for creativity to flow.



If you want to really go above and beyond, consider springing for some basic home décor items.  Command strips will let you hang pictures on the wall without damaging them. Throw rugs and pillows are my favorite way to make a space warmer and more inviting. Everyone comments on the gorgeous macramé pillow in my office that I found on clearance for $5!  

Pulling all of this together is a small effort but makes for a big impact to daily work life.  It’s a great way to delight team members using the space you’ve got.

No ping pong balls required.

Michelle Histand is an innovation director at Independence Blue Cross, where she has fostered and advanced the organization’s design thinking approach to problem solving.


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