Something remarkable took place in Manchester, UK. On 24 November 2016, business, arts, charity, public sector and university leaders joined forces at the famous Old Trafford Cricket Ground to kickstart a conversation about how to make Manchester a pioneer of world class health innovation. Here’s what happened at the Manchester Live Lab.
The team invited the city to come together to an innovation summit with the objective of co-creating a vibrant health system by bringing everyone’s strengths into play.
During the Live Lab, participants experienced the power of inside out engagement. What does this mean? ‘Inside out’ engagement means engaging people in innovation and transformation first as individuals, then as a group, then as an enterprise, then as ecosystem. The idea is that if you shift the conversation to individuals discussing strengths over weaknesses, possibilities, not problems, you can shift the conversation from fixing things – to generating completely new ideas.
So, how did this play out?
It began with storytelling. Participants shared individual stories around their experiences of health in Manchester. The stories were genuine and powerful; and most importantly they gave everyone a very clear picture of what works, to begin with.
Focusing on what works, rather than what’s broken, on what gives life to the health system in Manchester created a fresh energy to tackle what needs to be fixed.
With 200 people in a room together, the summit had an atmosphere reminiscent of a start-up; all ways of thinking and approaches were considered valid – as well as more radical ideas.
Following the sharing component, summit participants went on to envisage a future where the ‘Positive Core of Health’ could become the normative experience for Manchester. We asked; what can be done to make this a reality? What if the Positive Core: the very best of our strengths to date, was reconfigured to innovate new ways of doing health in Manchester?
The birth of great ideas
My favourite idea of the summit was that of an inter-generational app to connect people through social media. It would encourage elderly participants and others to adopt an extended family via social networks. In fact, one of the core themes to emerge from the Live Lab or Summit Room was the idea of the future of health as being about personalised care at the centre of a connected community.
At the Manchester Summit, participants intuitively realised that the future of health, the future of work – requires human systems to engage all the strengths of its members.
But the Summit Room isn’t enough; the next step was to move to a second room in order to sustain and grow the experience and outcomes of the event based Summit experience in Manchester – and actually turn it into a social movement.
What happened in the Social Room?
The Social Room was where healthcare was placed back into the hands of individuals. The goal? For all participants to form lasting relationships that would extend after the summit was over.
And I’m not just talking about the doctors and nurses in the NHS, but all the citizens of Manchester. In this future scenario, doctors and nurses are players, but so are the ‘ordinary’ members of society who now get a chance to have a say in the healthcare initiatives of their city.
What my team learned
At the summit, my team participated in the event not as experts, but as collaborators in the project.
Switching the role from consultant to collaborator, from expert with all the answers to hosts of the Summit Room was a new experience for us – and a valuable one. This was a transformational journey for them as much as it was for everyone else in the room.
For me, the Manchester Summit was a powerful experience. I knew it would change my thinking because I have been designing, facilitating and running summits for some time now and I have seen the power of bringing a group of minds into one room to collectively solve a problem.
But at the Manchester summit, I wasn’t involved in the busywork of designing and running the event. Instead I had the extraordinary experience of working with the team – to begin their personal journey and to grow and sustain the experience of the Summit Room as a social movement.
For me, being part of this summit was an amazing experience – and an example of bringing a social element to innovation – a story I will share with you in my next article.