Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Accidental Success Stories

This past weekend, my family was sitting at the dinner table. My daughter took out her gum and put it on a spoon so she could chew on it after dinner. Our kids enjoy gum and we limit to one pack per month so they maximize the lifetime of each piece to say the least. Anyway, I scooped the meal from the serving plate onto my dinner plate. After a few minutes, I went on and on about the great taste of the tofu and vegetables. Jenny, my wife, said it was similar to what she has done in the past. I then noticed a different texture and color and started to catch on to this new flavor. At the same time, my daughter said, "where's my gum". Yes, you guessed it, I accidentally mixed her chewed cinnamon gum with my tofu and vegetables. Tofu really does pick up the flavor of other foods!

As I get around the hospital, I love to see all the care takes place. We are constantly talking about new, different of just more effective ways of doing things. Several years ago, I was working at another hospital and our Nursing Director for the Short Stay Unit left with very little notice period. At the time, she spent a majority of her day staffing this area. I was very concerned as I had was not familiar with all the details on how she did staffing so I met with the staff to see how we could help each other to get through this transition while still meeting our goals. They asked if I could meet with them every other week to keep them posted on organizational updates, key focus areas, and overall goals. Then they took it from there. They staffed each shift within the resources they had, they ensured we were in compliance, they grew the service by fostering and developing key relationships and they made sure the care was superb. When the new Director started, the staff asked to keep doing these things so the new Director had an opportunity to focus on different priorities and our organization was able to perform even better than we had in the past.

Remember the Post-it® notes history (see Most people use them. Most people love them. But Post-it® Notes were not a planned product. No one got the idea and then stayed up nights to invent it. A man named Spencer Silver was working in the 3M research laboratories in 1970 trying to find a strong adhesive. Silver developed a new adhesive, but it was even weaker than what 3M already manufactured. It stuck to objects, but could easily be lifted off. It was super weak instead of super strong. No one knew what to do with the stuff, but Silver didn't discard it. Then one Sunday four years later, another 3M scientist named Arthur Fry was singing in the church's choir. He used markers to keep his place in the hymnal, but they kept falling out of the book. Remembering Silver's adhesive, Fry used some to coat his markers. With the weak adhesive, the markers stayed in place, yet lifted off without damaging the pages. 3M began distributing Post-it ® Notes nationwide in 1980 -- ten years after Silver developed the super weak adhesive.

Sometimes we find out better and different ways of doing things "by accident". I look forward to hearing about your accidental success stories.

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