An Innovation Atelier for ZuidZorg

Health care organisation ZuidZorg has 50,000 clients in the Eindhoven surroundings and almost 4000 employees. They provide care to newly borns and young families, and also older people who live at their own homes. This type of organisation will be confromted with major changes in the coming 5-10 years: many more people to provide care to whilst it will be harder to find employees and budgets will not raise or be cut. Therefore it is not surprising that ZuidZorg decided to start their own ‘R&D department’, the first ever of the organisation. The ambition stated in the strategy is to be a leader in shaping the future of care and wellbeing by helping clients and employees alike to make the best of live. STBY won the pitch to help the ZuidZorg to start up this effort and worked for more than 4 months on a plan to develop the ‘Innovatie Werkplaats’ (Innovation Atelier).

STBY took Service Design Thinking as the approach to creating the ‘werkplaats’. Four different types of insight creation were used: interviews on existing innovation projects with ZuidZorg employees, a borad literature study, more than ten expert interviews and of course regular workshops with ZuidZorg employees to analyse and discuss the information STBY gathered. One of the first analyses showed that we should focus on four topics: ambitions, organisational structure, innovation process and innovation culture. All efforts were well documented, with the literature made available via a blog for instance.

All together this was a true co-creative effort of STBY and ZuidZorg which resulted in about 40 concrete advices. Each advice is briefly described on one page with illustrations and quotations from the different studies undertaken. Together they form the foundation for the ‘Innovatie Werkplaats’ that will be run by a very small team of just a few people. Their task is to coach the entire organisation in its innovation efforts. Innovation projects will be done mostly by employees with a strong belief in the ideas they work on. They can ask for ‘innovation leave’ to work on these projects. Like this, the entire organisation can be empowered to innovate. The door of the atelier is open to all employees, which poses a second task for the core team: stimulate employees and clients to come forward with suggestions, and then support early idea development to give every idea its best possible preparation before it is judged for further development.

By hindsight, most importantly was however the ‘we can do this and innovation is hard work but also fun’ culture that arose at ZuidZorg during the several months of work. Some 50 people from different backgrounds and layers in the organisation contributed to this, culminating in an innovation challenge that was run as a way of presenting the results of the work by STBY. This was attended by some 40 people who formed 8 teams to compete for the top prize: the first meeting in the agenda of the to-be-appointed atelier core team (and a very nice book, appropriate for its innovative way of storytelling).

Now the Executive Board, who has played the crucial role of strong supporter of the approach STBY took whilst keeping enough distance to let the employees co-create with STBY, will take the next steps by hiring people and finding the right location to turn the atelier into a meeting place for many at ZuidZorg. We wish the ZuidZorg Innovatie Werkplaats all the best of luck and look forward to our first visit and future collaborations!