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Internal Consultants

The Center for Innovation, CFI, is an internal design consultancy at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. It’s a group of embedded designers, project managers, coordinators, and developers. There were many different design disciplines there, from service to digital, interior, environmental, and more. For me, the best part of being an embedded designer is the direct access to patients. We were literally down the hall from a pediatric clinic and had ready access to the rest of Mayo. User involvement is critical to the success of any project. 

My Roles

My position as an embedded designer often requires an explanation of design and its value. I worked with people who have been doing their job for 20 years and frequently had to explain my position and what my goals were. I needed to communicate the role of design and explain the potentially intrusive methods as a way to see and understand, not to judge. 

As a researcher, people allow you into their worlds and you get to see what it’s really like. We observed specialty appointments, primary care offices, and operating rooms. We interviewed when we needed expert opinions and specific insights into a process. Focus groups were used to foster conversations and increase communication between users. In each of my projects, I planned  and conducted the research with my team. 

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I used my skills as a visual designer to create synthesis documents that translated research into actionable insights. We provided recommendations based on our findings to provide project teams with the different paths to consider. For other projects further along and beyond the general research phase, I created journey maps, drew storyboards of potential solutions, and created wire frames for prototyping applications.

With upwards of 30,000 employees, facilitation between players is critical for projects to move through committees and become aligned with strategic initiatives. All of my projects involved working with project managers, physicians, clinical assistants, nursing staff, administrators, and IT. Careful coordination is also required to balance many projects at the same time.


Building the Culture and Competency of Innovation

There were ten projects in the 2013 cycle, though not all required design help. The applicants applied for funding at various points in their projects, so we had to juggle projects in many different fields and at various progress levels. From previous CoDE projects, we knew there were some common pitfalls. They were often slow to start, difficult to get implemented, and challenging to measuring success. My colleague and I wanted to build in new structure and support mechanisms to avoid these. 

I worked on a team called CCI, or Culture and Competency of Innovation. The goal of CCI is to foster and promote a working environment that used design as a way to improve the experience and delivery of health care. Through CCI, I was one of two designers working with CoDE projects, an internal grant program. CoDE stands for Connect, Design, Enable. Any employee can apply to pursue innovative projects. In addition to funds, recipients gain access to design consulting.


Adding more structure

We designed a workshop that was flexible enough for all projects, regardless of where they were in the process. We required each of the winners to complete the kickoff workshop with us in the fall, well before funding began in January 2013. We tackled problems like “How will we know this is a success?” “Who could stop this project and how do we get their support?” and "What resources do we have/need to move this forward?" We also looked at the motivation behind the project, so we don't lose sight of the end goals. 

We also created a spectrum for stakeholders and their involvement in the project. We ranked them from "needs convincing" to "needs encouragement" and made sure we had something to keep each of them in support of the project. 

 

Ten workshops meant there would be a lot of extra time afterwards making a summary document. We built ourselves a custom recording tool. One designer would facilitate the workshop, the other typed as we talked. At the end of the workshop, we simply exported to pdf and sent it to the participants. They knew where to start, and each had a task list with names and due dates assigned. It was waiting in their inbox before they reached the elevator. 

Ten workshops meant there would be a lot of extra time afterwards making a summary document. We built ourselves a custom recording tool. One designer would facilitate the workshop, the other typed as we talked. At the end of the workshop, we simply exported to pdf and sent it to the participants. They knew where to start, and each had a task list with names and due dates assigned. It was waiting in their inbox before they reached the elevator. 

A glimpse into the projects

Thought I can't go into the details here, (please ask me in person!) these are some of the questions we asked ourselves. Working at CFI gave me experience with around a dozen different projects over the course of the year. Some questions we asked were simple; others were profound. In every case, it was inspiring to be surrounded by people who care about their work so much. 

 

 

more ways to engage

Another method of engaging with the Mayo Clinic staff was needed for those who wanted to learn about out methods, but didn't need the full engagement of a project. 

We built the CFI Innovation Toolkit. This involved researching design methods, sketching layouts, and usability testing. This is an internal, online resource that explained many of the methods we use. I was responsible for researching and explaining design methods like brainstorming, storyboards, observations, and more. It also linked to additional books, videos, and articles. In addition to the online access, we held workshops to expose the community to techniques like role playing and rapid prototyping. 

 
Read more about the Center for Innovation here