Diffusing a Culture of Innovation

While four of the platforms directly promoted innovations to medical practice, the fifth platform, Culture and Competency of Innovation, was dedicated to the diffusion of the idea of innovation. As Mayo CEO Dr. John Noseworthy noted,

My hope is that the center will be a resource across the institution. I would like people to say, "I've worked with the CFI and I have come to understand the science of innovation. I can bring that science to my workplace." Whether you are a nurse or a desk attendant, work in the business office or in surgery – it doesn't really matter. My guess is that there are many people at Mayo who are naturally creative and innovative, and for whom the center will create a spark that will really take fire.


Launchpad was a website where employees could offer ideas in response to a request for solutions for specific problems. For example, Mayo's main administrative division used Launchpad to solicit ideas for redesigning the clinic's transcription services. In response to these suggestions, the division adopted speech-recognition technology, centralized some of its operations, and allowed transcriptionists to work from home. The anticipated result was a 20 percent improvement in efficiency, with savings of $8 million per year.

CFI staff estimated that in 2009 about 15,000 employees had participated in Launchpad, generating ideas that resulted in multi-million-dollar cost savings for the clinic.

CoDE Project

Another attempt to make innovation a part of the institution was the 2009 CoDE project, in which the CFI put out a request for proposals for ways to improve health care. Applications were solicited from all parts of the Mayo health system, including the Arizona and Florida clinics, and from every level of employee, from the CEO to entry-level service workers.

Applicants first filled out a one-page proposal online and then gave a five-minute presentation of their ideas. Applications were evaluated by CFI staff on criteria such as the novelty of the idea, the strength of the plans for implementing the idea, and the opportunity for wider distribution of the idea. Over 100 applications were received. Then a group of semifinalists was asked to submit detailed five-page proposals, and 10 finalists were selected for awards of $50,000 to implement their ideas. One winning project suggested a tracking system for pathology specimens similar to the system used by FedEx; another proposed a prototype for a bed to alleviate pressure ulcers.

Dr. Terri Vrtiska remembered, "...one of the most delightful things about having the opportunity to read all of these applications was how engaged people were in contributing ideas and seeing them move forward.... It generated a lot of buzz: people said if you have a good idea, there's a place for you to take that within the Center for Innovation."

Innovation Curriculum

The CFI also sponsored an "innovation curriculum" of lectures and lunch time courses. Lectures by prominent health care experts from inside or outside Mayo attracted large groups of Mayo staffers. Lunchtime courses were organized across four themes: language, forces, tools, and experiment. The director of the innovation curriculum, Dr. David Rosenman noted that the reason for the courses was to develop a shared language, goals, and tools to encourage innovation throughout the institution.

Transform Symposium

The CFI's most prominent educational effort was the Transform Symposium, an annual event that brought together leaders in various industries to discuss innovation in health care delivery. In 2009 the symposium attracted over 400 attendees to Rochester, and in 2010 the symposium featured 42 speakers on topics ranging from hospital architecture to health care information technology to clown performances in hospitals. To accommodate the large number of attendees, the event was held off the Mayo campus in the nearby Taylor Arena.

The participation of high-level external leaders in the Transform Symposium gave Mayo Clinic a high profile in the health care field for its innovation activities. As invited participants were able to mingle with CFI staff, they sometimes became external collaborators or even members of the CFI’s external board of advisors.






Watch a CFI-produced video promoting the services of the CFI for all Mayo employees.

Photo of Dr. Terry Vrtiska

Watch Drs. Vrtiska and LaRusso discuss the Code Project (YouTube version for slow connection).

Watch Drs. Rosenman and LaRusso discuss the Transform Symposium (YouTube version for slow connection).