#Blogtober: The ice bucket challenge

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20 / 10 / 2014 12.01am

By Paul Draycott

#Blogtober Day: Monday 20 October

This summer has seen a phenomenon that, on the face of it, was impossible to predict; a phenomenon that added to demonstrate the power of social media. It importantly demonstrates the benefits of people thinking creatively which has meant millions of pounds for charity.

A golfer from Florida, Charles Kennedy,(featured in The Telegraph, 20 August 2014) is credited to have started to relate the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ to charity when he was asked to do it as a dare and said he would do it to support Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); as his cousin is someone who is affected by the condition. He then nominated his cousin’s wife to take the challenge and urged others to do the same. It was taken on by a New Yorker, Pat Quinn, who also has ALS. He launched a campaign to help his friend and fellow ALS sufferer Pete Frates who was responsible for the social media frenzy by posting videos of friends which has then gone world-wide.

The key to this whole phenomenon, like many simple successes, has been creativity and innovation. People standing back and spotting opportunities to do things differently for something they are passionate about.

Being innovative and doing things differently that we are passionate about – sound familiar? It is what staff in the NHS attempt to do all of the time. I say attempt because we know that we don’t always find enough time for reflection, innovation and change in the way we do things. The evidence from the work of Professor Michael West (and others) has demonstrated many useful principles but one that is not as widely quoted is that of reflexivity – individuals and teams taking time to reflect. We just don’t seem to value it enough as a community, we don’t appear to see the value of it in comparison to ‘doing things’. Our prime role is to clearly deliver quality, safe services but enabling innovation is essential and reflection is key. Why do Google, Yahoo and Apple support staff to be creative, because it is vital for their business. We provide care but understanding how, learning, innovating is just as vital to find space for.

For professionally registered practitioners, reflection is part of our portfolio requirements and for some it is vital for revalidation. Does it work? For some yes, models of reflection are great but it tends to be for some individuals it will work for others it won’t.

We visited Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust recently. What an inspiration they are – not just the executive team that have led some of the changes but just as impressive are the staff that talked about their experiences with pride and conviction and just as importantly were able to use information effectively to evidence it. They have provided time for reflection linking innovation and time to quality. They have provided the tools and a consistent message that is relevant, understood and owned by staff but also relates to the patients and community they serve - great people trying to do great things for their community. They are the first to admit they have things to improve but my goodness how they have progressed.

So what can and do we do? We can, like the evolution of the Ice Bucket Challenge, take what others internally and externally do and build on it and make it work for us. There are great examples of it across the NHS but we aren’t good at allowing ourselves the space and time. We need to consistently see that as important.

In the Observer article entitled 'Addicted to Email?' (30 August), Yvonne Roberts states "American Gloria Marks, professor of interactive and collaborative technologies, has found the average worker checks his or her emails an extraordinary 74 times a day." Wow. She also says now that Daimler, Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom have a ‘holiday mode’ for emails saying an alternative contact and that your email will be deleted from the person’s inbox - delight for some, worst nightmare for others but something to consider for those chained to an inbox.

Meetings – are we clear what they are about? What is the purpose? Whose assurance are we looking to meet? Information sharing and problem solving, identification, learning but is that what we do or are they focussed on something less relevant?

It needs to be valued and time allowed by managers and leaders across the NHS to allow front line staff the space and time they need. One lesson from Salford – the right level of staffing is vital!

We actually do reflect, often - post incidents, on the drive home from work, talking to colleagues, breaks, reading this and other blogs - it's turning that into action where we could do so much better and doing it with colleagues so there can be a collective change. We should each think about Charles Kennedy, Pat Quinn and Pete Frates and see if we can enable even greater services than those an amazing NHS already provides.

I’ve been nominated by my son for the Ice Bucket Challenge so I’m off to join a global phenomenon, add to a great cause and nominate our chair of staff-side.

Paul Draycott is the Acting Director of Leadership and Workforce, North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust and can be contacted via Twitter @DraycottPaul

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