Case Study

UnitedHealth Group Behavioral Innovation™ Approach Training

Innovation Training company logosDisrupting innovation to reimagine healthcare.

Objective: UnitedHealth Group was seeking a partner to provide innovation leadership throughout the year. 

Result: UnitedHealth Group's Innovation Advocates participated in Ideas To Go's comprehensive training program that armed participants across departments with Creative Problem-Solving tools and Behavioral Innovation approach knowledge, so that UHG can move the healthcare industry forward with innovative solutions.

Background: UnitedHealth Group is a leader in the healthcare industry, helping people live healthier lives and populations have healthier communities – all by finding ways to make our healthcare system work better. Besides their clinical expertise, they are leaders in advanced technology, data, and health information. They do this through two distinct platforms, UnitedHealthcare (providing healthcare coverage and benefit services) and Optum (providing information and technology-enabled health services).   

The Enterprise R&D team at UHG, charged with “disruptive innovation,” looking for next generation initiatives, and reimagining healthcare, created an initiative called Innovation Advocates, which offers innovative challenge opportunities to the 240,000 employees from UnitedHealth Group, UnitedHealthcare, and Optum. Anyone, from any job function, can participate—and at the time of the project, approximately 1350 UHG employees worldwide had joined this voluntary program, with ~350 participating in monthly innovation calls (led by an internal UHG team, alternating with an outside expert). The 2018 focus: What Comes Before Innovation—opportunity identification, generating ideas, and determining how to move the best one forward.

Jim Merwin, Senior Director for Enterprise R&D, asked Ideas To Go to partner with UHG to provide innovation leadership throughout the year. Ideas To Go Facilitators created the following series of training events to meet their objectives.

The Guide to Thinking Innovatively training included:

  • 6 Interactive Webinars—led by three Ideas To Go facilitators, which took place every two months throughout the year.
  • Preparation materials for session participants—emailed in advance of each webinar, featuring provocative discussion questions to enhance the interactivity of the conversation during the webinar.
  • Customized workbooks for each session—featuring an outline of the material topic, space for note taking and practicing techniques, and recommendations for supplementary materials (including books, video demonstrations by ITG facilitators, and blog posts). Each workbook concluded with suggested activities participants could try in the next 72 hours to practice and reinforce the techniques from the session.
  • Activities + creative stim worksheets—to encourage effective creative problem solving.
  • Final Deliverable—a step-by-step guide about the Creative Problem Solving Process and the Behavioral Innovation™ approach—with videos, stim worksheets and exercises.

900 people—from directors to product managers to analysts—across project management, clinical operations, compliance and administration, participated in the sessions (which was exciting for both the UHG and ITG teams). Each webinar kicked off with a UHG host—who would share an innovation story—and then segued to the ITG facilitators, providing a blend of UHG community with ITG instruction.

The interactive webinars featured Q&A and an active chat panel, bringing high energy to each session. Plus, the webinars allowed participants to share a common vocabulary with colleagues around the innovation concepts they learned, as well the Behavioral Innovation™ approach.

Responses from participants included:

  • This is so energizing!
  • This is a wonderful session—I’m really looking forward to the next.
  • Favorite meeting of the month, THANKS.
  • Loved this session.
  • Well worth while attending.
  • Very thankful for this learning opportunity.
  • This is my first Innovation Advocates meeting—this is so cool and I am glad to be here.
  • I will start using Forness® thinking techniques in my day-to-day.
  • I will encourage others to join Innovation Advocates.

Overall, participants from UnitedHeath Group learned relevant tools for Creative Problem-Solving that could be applied across the organization to further UHG's mission of “disruptive innovation.” It was a privilege for Ideas To Go to help empower the Innovation Advocates to reimagine healthcare.

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