July 13, 2017

IdeaShare initiative inspires wide variety of creative solutions

Necessity is the mother of invention, so the saying goes.

by Cynthia Floyd Manley

Necessity is the mother of invention, so the saying goes.

Similarly, busy lines at lunch gave birth to some of the most popular suggestions in IdeaShare, an online experiment to test a new way to share as many ideas among as many people at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) as possible.

“I saw the email about IdeaShare that morning, and that day it took me 30 minutes to get through the line at lunch,” said fourth-year School of Medicine student Saad Rehman, one of several people who shared ideas for food trucks on campus or other food alternatives.

More than 10 percent of the workforce took part in IdeaShare, which used an easy online tool to invite everyone at VUMC to share ideas to address common challenges.

More than 2,300 people created user accounts in IdeaShare. During the first phase of the project, more than 200 shared about 250 ideas. These ideas, in turn, generated more than 9,500 comments and “likes.”

During the second phase, called “Pairwise,” more than 1,000 different users made choices among randomly paired ideas. These users ranked among a total of 40,176 pairs of ideas.

Great ideas emerged, including some that will be highlighted during the StrategyShare17 event on July 20 at the Student Life Center. A cross-functional work group assessing ways to enhance internal communications is also taking ideas from IdeaShare into account.

An idea to have wheelchairs with valet parkers available and ready for patients as they arrive has led to conversations among the departments involved to develop a solution.

Iesha Smith, a patient experience manager in Radiology and Radiological Sciences, submitted the idea after encountering a patient who had left his car unattended to search for a wheelchair for his family member.

“Through IdeaShare, I was able to connect with a diverse group of people throughout the organization to discuss a solution,” Smith said.

Other ideas and themes that emerged:

• An online information hub for all things VUMC and better search functionality for contact and department information

• Increasing recycling options at VUMC

• Reducing confusion for visitors by eliminating use of acronyms, having more intuitive names for parking garages and using color-coded paths for wayfinding

• Enhanced infrastructure for internal communications and collaboration

• Allowing more choice in employee benefits selection.

Olin Thomas, a diagnostic laboratory manager, got his entire team involved.

“We threw a lot of ideas out there,” he said. “Everyone loved seeing their ideas get engagement and grow.”

Natasha Halasa, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics, submitted several ideas, including an outdoor food court and having a centralized support office for particularly complex grants.

“It was a great tool for individuals in the Vanderbilt community to express their ideas and see if others like them, too.”

Reed Omary, M.D., M.S. chair of the Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, noted that IdeaShare was “first and foremost a learning exercise.”

“We were very pleased with the response. We’re thankful to everyone who took part to help us learn and to demonstrate the potential of involving as many people as possible around ideas.”

IdeaShare is an initiative of the VUMC Strategic Directions team, which Omary co-leads with Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., Executive Vice President for Research and director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, with support of William Stead, M.D., Chief Strategy Officer for VUMC.