Announcing VA’s Innovators Network: Why innovation matters in serving Veterans


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VA’s Innovators Network is a community of VA employees who are actively engaged in work that is moving the agency forward. This community facilitates collaboration, and enables colleagues — no matter the distance — to share ideas, challenges, opportunities, and to test and validate best practices. It offers an interactive environment for VA employees to test new ideas, and join forces with stakeholders across the Veteran community to improve the way VA serves Veterans.

Human-centered design (HCD) is an approach developed to help organizations produce designed products, services, and processes focused on the needs of those who will use them and benefit from them. Simply put, people are better served when their needs are aligned with the application and purpose of the products and services they use. The Innovators Network leans heavily on this development approach, and innovators will use it to build a strong understanding of VA’s clients, generate ideas for new products and services, test concepts with real people, and ultimately delver easy-to-use, consistent products and positive customer experiences. HCD is at the front end of innovation and it is a discipline in which the needs, behaviors, and experiences of an organization’s customers (or users) drive product, service, or technology design processes.

VA’s Innovators Network, is driven by these core principles:

  • Our employees are the beating heart of the VA—they know the challenges all too well, and are the best equipped to identify potential solutions.
  • Innovation is not just ideas. It’s the conversion of a new idea into impact, whether it be for employees or for our customers.
  • The solutions are in the field, not in the central office.
  • Innovation is a skill set, and we want VA employees to have the skills they need to develop professionally in their own careers and serve Veterans in the process.
  • Innovation is most effective when it is borne of diverse perspectives. We create open forums for VA employees, Veterans, and other stakeholders to co-design solutions.
  • Innovation is most valuable when it is shared. We are not solving problems for any one VA site — we are solving problems for an entire community. Our success is their success and we need to do a better job of celebrating innovation and sharing best practices across VA sites.
  • Test small, fail small, scale big. Testing new ideas / products / processes on a small scale prevents the VA from committing resources on a large scale to things that don’t work as well as they were designed to work.
  • We are Veteran-centered. Solving problems effectively requires a relentless commitment to prioritizing the needs of Veterans over the needs of the agency.

Please visit VA’s Innovators Network at this link to learn more about the Innovators Network and VA’s Center for Innovation.

VAIN_logo_2colorThe Department of Veterans Affairs has created notable innovations while providing healthcare to generations of Veterans. Many of these innovations have been adopted throughout the healthcare industry to better treat patients. VA medical professionals pioneered breakthrough innovations such as:

  • Barcode software for administering medications safely
  • The implantable cardiac pacemaker
  • The first successful liver transplants
  • The nicotine patch to help smokers quit
  • Artificial limbs that move naturally when stimulated by electrical brain impulses
  • Demonstrating that patients with total paralysis could control robotic arms using only their thoughts — a revolutionary system called “Braingate”

We need to encourage more innovations like these. VA needs to continue to increase its ability to rapidly respond to Veterans’ needs and deliver the best possible experience for Veterans. We can accomplish this by developing a culture of innovation. The innovation we aim for is a framework — a mode of operating, a tool set — through which we can constantly find, test, and create better ways to deliver services to our customers.

 

Author

Bob McDonald