Innovation and a
Culture of Change

By Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD,

Professional Editor, Review of Optometric Business


Innovation is our lifeblood, it sustains us. It makes our lives meaningful, and it equips us to continually seek excellence in our work. How we nurture our desire to innovate makes the difference between just doing a job and building a business to a pinnacle of success.

Innovation is not only an aspiration. Innovation is directly tied to success in business.

Several studies, excerpted in this article, demonstrate that companies that pro-actively embrace innovation achieve better business outcomes. They do so by being first to market with products and by readily implementing progressive systems of management.

Research further shows that organizations that promote teamwork tend to be more innovative. In fact, they develop cultures of innovation where change is embraced.


These two findings have direct applications to eyecare practices. Fostering innovation in the management of an eyecare practice, and proactively offering innovative and advanced solutions to our patients’ vision needs, may seem like no-brainers. But on close examination, we find that our behavior in embracing change is powerfully shaped by our well-established habits and how we examine and alter those habits.


Create a Culture of Innovation

We tend to think of innovation as the introduction of new products. In fact, within an organization—and especially within an eyecare practice—innovation flourishes because a culture of innovation has been created. The hallmark of that culture is that change is embraced without an initial and automatic period of resistance. That resistance to change, so common in organizations, is a characteristic of legacy culture that can inhibit innovation and growth.


For eyecare practitioners, the unwillingness to embrace a culture of innovation associated with services and products often

keeps us from offering our patients the best possible solution to their vision and eye health needs.


In fact, patients want to see and hear what’s new and exciting in vision care products when they visit our practices. The more we can serve their needs with a broad range of services and high-performing products, the more we fulfill our mandate to improve patients’ lives. Legacy culture, which includes a series of habits that we may or may not be aware of, often limits how fully we achieve that goal.


Overcome the Disconnects

Research shows that patients say they would like to hear about new products with virtually every office visit, yet that occurs only one time out of every five.


What causes this disconnect? Commonly, we hear doctors say, “I haven’t the time to talk about new products.” Granted, as practitioners, we constantly are challenged to manage our chair time well. We all know the feeling of running late, the fear of never catching up.


But when we say, “I haven’t the time....” is that reality? Or is that a habit turning on, a habit that expedites a situation? If we listen to an inner voice, we may hear, more honestly, “Things are going smoothly; I don’t want to rock the boat.”


But does that response best serve our patients or our practices? Or neither?


The solution lies in building a culture that drives all parties—doctor, staff and patient—to embrace innovation in the products and services we provide. In this innovative culture, there is one consistent message from doctor and staff. In fact, the patient first encounters that consistent message before even arriving at the practice, via exam reminders and the practice’s web site and social media communications. Over time, the patient comes to expect that their eyecare practice is the go-to place for the latest and best technology-based solutions to their vision and eye health needs. That occurs once innovation has been made a primary and integrated part of the practice’s value proposition.


Mark Wright, OD, FCOVD, is Professional Editor of Review of Optometric Business.
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