man watches a medical aid video

Change your ways of working to encourage real innovation

One thing that really stuck with me from attending Bond’s Enabling Innovation workshop recently was a comment from James Whitehead, Oxfam’s global innovation advisor: often those who are most innovative are the people who don’t focus on “innovation”, but simply try different ways to streamline their individual and organisational processes to get better results.

NGOs are constantly thinking about how they can be “innovative”, feeling that it is crucial for their organisation to stay relevant in an ever-changing environment. But we still often seem to end up asking ourselves: does anyone really know what innovation is?

Medical Aid Films came out of Bond’s 2016 Innovation Audit as the highest scoring organisation that took part. We don’t see being innovative as something separate to our work that we must strive towards. Instead, we feel our overall approach to everything that we do as an organisation is what makes us innovative.

How is Medical Aid Films innovative?

Medical Aid Films brings together world-class health and medical expertise with creative filmmakers from around the globe to develop free innovative films that share life-saving knowledge and skills with health workers and communities across 145 countries.

We feel that NGOs need to take their focus away from the word “innovation” itself and rather concentrate on adopting a so-called “innovative” core organisational strategy and objectives. Examples of these strategies include being open to change, encouraging new ideas, continuously challenging and revising approaches and engaging with new technologies. If you encourage these types of behaviours within your team, your organisation will inherently become innovative and therefore facilitate innovation – right?

From buzzword to practice

We do this in several ways:

  • Innovation is at the heart of what we do. The very nature of creating engaging educational content allows us to encourage innovative thinking and create a working environment where innovation thrives.
  • We are always exploring, questioning and on the lookout for new methods, platforms and content creation techniques to help increase efficiency and encourage positive, life-saving behaviour change.
  • Our passionate, creative and dedicated team constantly learns from each other and is never afraid to introduce and bounce new ideas around.
  • We are always open-minded towards trying different things to help the organisation grow and achieve our goals.
  • We warmly welcome constructive criticism, always trying to learn from mistakes. We do not let the fear of failure hold us back.

What we learned from “Enabling Innovation”

  1. Always challenge how you/your organisation spend time and resources and question if you/it could do this more efficiently in a different manner.
  2. Competition among organisations can be healthy! Embrace it and encourage collaboration wherever possible as it often brings out the best in teams.
  3. Discuss innovation with your board and encourage innovative thinkers to join it.
  4. Start to reward behaviours, not just success.
  5. Nurture confidence within your team and make sure everyone is heard and has an equal voice.