Creativity and Innovation (Part 2)

By Albert Van Kleeck
Albert Van Kleeck Consulting

Last month we began a conversation about creativity and innovation in human services. Several examples of how different companies define creativity and innovation were presented and the question “How do you define creativity and innovation?” was asked.

Finally, the expectation was that this month we would focus on specific services we are all familiar with and begin to think about how we might be creative, or more creative, and innovative in how these services are developed, redefined, invented, and operational. And so, we begin where we left off.

Think for a moment about the state of the current services and supports systems in place.

  • Have you ever thought about how the current support delivery systems might be done differently?
  • How doing something in just a slightly different way could make a really big difference in the outcome?
  • Or, have you ever thought about how quality of life for those you support might be elevated if a service gap were to be filled with an additional service, one that does not currently exist within the system?

For me, these questions lead me to think about HCS Waiver services in Texas, where I am currently working with an organization on the expansion of residential services.

I left the Texas service system 12 years ago when I went to work for The Council on Quality and Leadership (CQL) and, as a result of the fire wall in place with CQL to avoid conflict of interest, I have not paid much attention to what was or was not happening in Texas. Not because it wasn’t important, but because my work on a daily basis took me to many other states and countries and became my primary focus.

When I left services in Texas, the waiver was just coming into play and, as I recall, it was a wonderfully creative and innovative approach to supporting people to more fully own their lives.

Not so much now.

Something happened in the 12 years I was away, and when I look at residential service development utilizing the HCS Waiver in its current state it’s like playing a game of Frogger. It is the most complicated and convoluted system I have ever seen.

Not only complicated, but it’s as if someone or some group of someones have decided that it’s more to the benefit of people supported to spend the majority of your time buried in regulations and paperwork. And to top it off, a waiver intended to open up people’s lives, a waiver intended to make life bigger has really become a smaller version of ICF.

Needless to say, I spend a good deal of my time thinking about creative approaches to residential service development and how to innovate creative approaches. It hurts my head most days.

I’m sure that many or most, if not all of you, also work within systems that are so complicated and convoluted that you wonder some days why you even bother. But you do. And I do. And we all do it day after day because we care, and we know and understand how important it is to support people to have the best life possible.

But think about all those ideas you have had over the years. Or those ideas you may have had when you first started in this field (fresh eyes are so important). Or think about how small or slight shifts and changes within current systems might make a difference in how things are done and the results that these small changes may reap.

Let your imagination run wild and write down the ideas. That’s creativity.

Then, after you have allowed your imagination to vision a service or a system that could better support people, think about what steps you would take to make the vision a reality. That’s innovation.

3 Responses

  1. Albert, I agree that social services are convoluted and hard to navigate. On my most cynical days I think it will never change. The agencies that should be serving people become too caught up in defending their funding to ask if there’s a better way. But I’ve met enough dedicated, caring people that I won’t give up hope… or creativity.

    • Thanks so much for your thoughtful response JoLynne! You are exactly what the field needs, dedication, relentless hope and creative thinking.

  2. Thanks for voicing what all of us think. It’s heartwarming to know that there are others out there dedicated to helping people not systems!

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