Written by: Kendra Chaikind

You have a great idea. You’ve already prototyped and tested it. You’ve even analyzed the outcomes and used those insights to refine your solution. But now you face a big obstacle: Building support.

Even if you originally secured permission from management or enlisted the help of coworkers, it is still your responsibility to rally your organization around your project over time. Too often, inadequate communication skills lead to your team questioning your efforts more than supporting them.

Tell Your Story

People hate salesmen. But they love storytellers. Stories draw us in and forge a human connection. Stories create tension and build suspense. We become so emotionally invested, we can’t help but root for the “good guy.”

You need your team to root for you. Because innovation is both a social and political process, you need to gain support on all levels.

So, take your team on your innovation journey, from what inspired you to tackle this problem, to the delight you felt prototyping a solution, to arriving at a gratifying conclusion. Shift your perspective from “I’m going to tell my audience…” to “I’m going to share with my audience…”

Sure, your instinct is probably to list out all the facts supporting your solution and share charts and graphs. But this only activates the analytical part of our brain, which tends to zone out when bombarded with data. Stories, on the other hand, ignite the visual and emotional part of our brain, sticking in our memory for much longer.

Dissecting an Engaging Narrative

We’ve dissected the story structure of Hollywood movies and adapted it for safety net innovation. If you take advantage of our natural predisposition for compelling narratives, it will greatly improve your probability of gaining support.

Your pitch will have seven parts:

  1. Describe the desired future.
  2. Show why this vision isn’t currently possible.
  3. Share what you learned from your research.
  4. Describe three or four parts of your solution.
  5. Articulate the benefits of successfully implementing your project.
  6. Present the negative consequences of not pursuing your project.
  7. Ask for specific support.

Catalyzing Change

For five months, Catalyst program teams developed design-thinking mindsets and learned methods to drive different ways of working. That work concluded with our Catalyst showcase, where teams pitched their solutions to the leaders in their organizations.

Sural Shah and Hrishikesh Belani, who work at Olive View – UCLA Medical Center, used this seven-part structure to advocate for their project to promote adherence to HIV medication in the Positive Care Clinic.

Let’s Break Down the Presentation

1. Describe the desired future.

Immediately, Sural and Hrishikesh set the stakes high. The pitch opens with a nurse telling the audience, “In our patients with HIV, which is a treatable condition, the difference between success and failure can be as little as one pill.”

This duo wants to make it easier for patients to take their daily pill. Plus, they’re going to do it in a way that puts patients at the center of care, cuts costs, and focuses on staff satisfaction.

In their desired future, they have a two-pronged approach: First, the clinic partners with its outpatient pharmacy. Second, the clinic carves out more time for patient medication education.

2. Show why this vision isn’t currently possible.

The current problem, Sural and Hrishikesh explain, is that patients and staff are unaware what the in-house pharmacy has to offer. There’s no relationship between the clinic and pharmacy. Staff feel like there’s not enough time in the current visit structure to share key medical information with Olive View patients. In addition, patients who have used the in-house pharmacy have faced long wait times, poor customer service, and even medication errors.

Patients, staff, and providers just don’t want to use Olive View’s pharmacy.

To hammer home that last point, Sural and Hrishikesh show a video with some unflattering testimonials:

Social worker: “All day long, throughout the course of the day, doctors are coming to me just for counsel, for advice. Could be a something with a diagnosis, could be an issue with the pharmacy.”

Nurse: “It’s a patient’s choice. Do they want to change pharmacies? We can switch them over to another pharmacy and they’re happy. Or staying here.”

Patient: “It’s a pretty, kind of mundane process going to the pharmacy. Wait in line, give your prescription. They will usually say one to two hours.”

3. Share what you learned from your research.

Sural and Hrishikesh used human-centered design, a creative approach to problem solving, to better understand the dilemma. They talk about how they conducted nine patient and staff interviews, then spent two days analyzing the data.

Next, they discuss hosting two “co-design sessions,” where patients, frontline staff, clinic management, pharmacy management, and nursing management all came together to brainstorm solutions. As experts of their own experiences, these different points of view informed the innovation direction.

Sural says this also established empathy for both the patients and staff. The resulting fixes emphasize their priorities and preferences.

4. Describe three or four parts of your solution.

This is the “wow” moment. As the audience listens to the story, they are coming to the same conclusion as Hrishikesh and Sural. They’re thinking, “Yes, I agree there is a problem! We need change! But how?” They’re impatient to know the solution, and the duo deliver it in three steps.

First, launch a pharmacy enrollment campaign to share pharmacy information with patients and staff. In particular, the campaign will focus mail delivery services, which preserve patient privacy and ensure patients have consistent access to their medication.

Second, create a pre-clinic visit, providing additional structured time, to discuss medication and other social service issues.

Third, develop a workflow that engages patients in pharmacy services during the clinic visit itself. It will even provide an opportunity for patients to enroll in mail delivery.

5. Articulate the benefits of successfully implementing your project.

The benefits are threefold, they explain.

Cost savings: HIV medications are very expensive and fully covered by insurance. It’s actually much cheaper fill prescriptions at the in-house pharmacy, and this could be a source of revenue for the clinic.

Empowered patients: When patients take control of refill management, they avoid missing dosages of their medication. This can be the difference between life and death.

Satisfied staff: New workflows and structured time give staff the ability to thoroughly address patient needs.

6. Present the negative consequences of not pursuing your project.

At this point, the audience believes in it’s possible to solve this big problem. They also believe in this duo’s ability to do it. To emphasize what’s at stake, Hrishikesh and Sural pivot to the consequences of inaction.

If leadership doesn’t adopt these new practices, they explain, Olive View risks:

  • Staff burnout.
  • High risk of treatment failure and even death.
  • Reinforced silos of care.
  • Loss of cost savings and potential revenue.

7. Ask for specific support.

But there’s hope on the horizon. The duo outline what they need to move forward:

  • Time to train staff on new workflows and education visits.
  • Support to pilot the project.
  • Materials and equipment to launch the pharmacy enrollment campaign.
  • Coaching and evaluation to guide the process and manage the outcome.

Clarity is important. People are attracted to the ideas they understand the fastest; the more complicated, the more confusing. So, you want to keep your “ask” as concise and straightforward as possible.

Hrishikesh and Sural conclude with a powerful statement: “Now is the time to help patients take medication with ease and help them be pill positive.”

Try It Yourself

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