Creating Value through Incremental Innovation: Managing Culture, Structure, and Process

During a time when the uncertainties of disruptive innovation are on many radiologists’ minds, it is particularly important not to ignore the incremental opportunities to strengthen our practices and improve their position within larger health care delivery systems to help weather whatever disruptions the future might bring.

While the looming threat of large-scale disruptive innovation consumes disproportionate attention, incremental innovation remains an important tool for preserving and growing radiology practices within a dynamic marketplace. Incremental innovation, defined as the process of making improvements or additions to an organization while maintaining the organization’s core product or service model, is accessible to practices of all sizes and must not be overlooked if practices are to maintain their competitive advantage. This article explores cultural, structural, and process enablers for incremental innovation. Successful innovation cultures foster the ability to import and exploit external knowledge (adaptive capacity), encourage creative thought from all levels of the organization, display sensitivity toward the competency-destroying potential of certain changes, cultivate a positive perceptual bias toward organizational threats, and build tolerance for risk and uncertainty when prototyping new ideas. Structural elements promoting incremental innovation include dedicated resources for innovation planning, flexible and organic team structures, strong centralized governance models, robust communication systems, and organizational incentives encouraging exploration of new concepts. Processes important to innovation include periodic environmental scanning, strategic and scenario planning, use of an objectively gated system for testing and filtering new ideas, and use of an approach to implementation that emphasizes empowerment of project managers, removal of barriers, and proactive communication around change.

© RSNA, 2018


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Article History

Received: May 31 2017
Revision requested: July 6 2017
Revision received: Jan 15 2018
Accepted: Jan 18 2018
Published online: July 3 2018
Published in print: Aug 2018