Leading Innovation in Nursing


Characteristics of Adaptive Leaders

Know your Environment: Adaptive DNP leaders should embrace the uncertainty of the changing healthcare environment and look for new approaches to achieve the health outcomes of their patients. This may not be the time to be sticking to the rules of the previous volume-based model of care. Those leaders who develop different perspectives, that go beyond the tradition way of thinking, and encourage their team members to do the same, can adapt to, and thrive, in the new value-based model of healthcare.

Lead with Empathy: Adaptive DNP leaders should embody an interprofessional, collaborative, attitude. Through this type of attitude, they will understand alternative perspectives and be able to respond with empathy. Adaptive DNP leaders should reward their employees with autonomy to work independently and manage their own activities. It is through this type of intrinsic motivation that employees are allowed to grow and contribute to the organization.

Learn from Self-Assessment and Reflection: During this time of organizational change, adaptive DNP leaders should encourage experimentation to improve processes that lead to positive patient experiences and outcomes. Some experiments may fail, but failures can serve as lessons for the future. Adaptive DNP leaders should encourage their teams to reflect on both their successes and failures. It is important that employees are able to trust the team to identify mistakes and problems in order to respond quickly to them.

Find the Win-Win Solution: Adaptive DNP leaders value platforms for cooperation and build on them. Healthcare depends on multiple layers of stakeholders including providers, suppliers, insurers, and teams of support personnel. Adaptive DNP leaders need to include these stakeholders in the new value-based model in order to sustain a changing economical business model. Value-based care cannot be provided without having a win-win solution for the transition from volume-based care.


To be innovative, you have to be willing to act like a scientist and challenge assumptions.

Lesson Summary

Innovative leaders are willing to think and act like a rogue—they willingly challenge assumptions.

Individuals can become more innovative by acting like a scientist. To start, keep a record of hypotheses for new ways of getting things done.

Treat these hypotheses as experiments and come up with options for things you might do differently.

Choose the best option to implement, determine what activities are involved, and learn about the assumptions you will have to challenge in order to move forward.

Thinking about assumptions and designing incremental changes gives individuals greater confidence to challenge the status quo.

Ideas for Action

For one week, keep a log or a journal of ideas you have for doing things differently. These could be process changes or product/service changes. Record every idea—no idea is a bad idea. At the end of the week, review your hypotheses and add any new ideas you have. Choose one idea to move forward with and then choose the best option for implementing that idea.

After you have chosen an idea to implement, think about the assumptions you will have to challenge—not only before you can move forward, but also as you move forward. Find someone who can help you better understand your assumptions so that you can develop first steps that give you a greater chance at a win.

Never give up. In other words, if your first experiment falls flat, keep going. Keep hypothesizing, and keep challenging assumptions. You will eventually run across a terrific idea.

Questions to Ask

What are the skills and behaviors of innovative individuals?

Do others consider me to be innovative? Why or why not?

How often do I challenge the status quo?

How do I respond when my ideas are met with resistance?