Having built (what I like to think as) the early part of my career on a foundation of hard quantitative evidence, statistical process control charts and the odd p-value, it may surprise you to hear me talk about the power of curiosity in effecting change and improvement in health care.
Yes, I, a numbers geek, a self-confessed spreadsheet jockey, actually sees curiosity as a key part in making sure these bits of data aren’t consigned to the black pit of despair known simply in the NHS analytics trade as ‘The Beast’. In fact without curiosity, it's pretty difficult to use that data to get to the next step in improvement…
As the old adage goes, if I had a pound for every time someone has said to me ‘oh I was never any good at maths, I don’t do numbers’ I would have a considerably swankier kitchen. The issue with this isn’t the fact people aren’t always comfortable with data (at least not in this context) but that the lack of curiosity about what it can tell us, or even more importantly what they do not tell us, means that it's difficult to formulate new or revised questions to answer.
We collect data to help us test a hypothesis; surely we want to know what the results are and what this means for our thinking? Don’t get me wrong, I’m acutely aware that data doesn’t always tell the whole story, often provides us with a counterintuitive result and sometimes is just plain inaccurate, but having the discussions and being prepared to be curious about the ‘why’ of these outputs provides the new ideas and fresh thinking which is the lifeblood of innovation and improvement. As always, data is just the catalyst; it's our lack of curiosity that can often make it an end.
Thomas Edison drove his teacher insane with constant questions, and once almost died falling into a grain store out of sheer curiosity.
Here at Kaleidoscope we’re big on curiosity; we think that being given the freedom to be curious and the time to look outside your boundaries can give rise to remarkable results. Thomas Edison drove his teacher insane with constant questions, and once almost died falling into a grain store out of sheer curiosity. We never said it was easy, but there is no doubt that without curiosity, some of our finest and most useful inventions may not have happened (other examples include steam trains, penicillin, antiseptics, smallpox vaccine etc.).
Just imagine what we could achieve in health and care if we harnessed the power of our collective curiosity... Watch this space to see how we might achieve that.
Kate Cheema works at Kaleidoscope.