The Power of Storytelling

Note from Nick Dawson, Executive Director of the Innovation Hub:

Storytelling is an important part of the design process. Sharing the challenges, inspiration, ideas and prototypes of a design does two very important things. First, sharing helps connect the dots on why a particular intervention came to life. Sometimes the problem we end up solving as designers is different from the initial framing of the challenge. And, perhaps more importantly, storytelling also helps designers feel proud of their work. It’s one of the few opportunities in design to stand up and shine.

Last week, Sibley and the Hub were hosts to a prestigious group of chief learning officers. We used the opportunity to briefly describe our process of design and how we’re training everyone from frontline staff to executives in design. But we didn’t just want them to take our word for it. Instead, we invited in a group of Sibley team members to talk about how they are using human-centered design to solve the real challenges of a community hospital.


By Andrew Yin, Innovator In Residence

Sometimes, inspirational moments just sneak up and surprise you.  Last Friday, the Hub hosted members of the Chief Learning Officer Roundtable, which happened to have its annual conference in DC this year.  Several Chief Learning Officers came together from all around the country with the specific aim of exploring the learning culture of different organizations, and the Hub was honored to host them for a couple of hours.

The visit began by presenting an overview of the Hub and Design Thinking to our guests, but the substance of the afternoon were the five short presentations from various project leaders around Sibley who have all been using design thinking in their processes.  Each group spoke for about 15 minutes sharing their insights, their challenges, and their process.  That was the outline on paper, but through these presentations emerged the true meaning—the sharing of design success stories.  Stories that moved us.  Stories that were powerful.  Stories that inspired.  Here are those stories:

How might we help older patients in their transition home?  The NICHE team, composed of Suzanne Dutton, N.P., and Matt Brown, R.N., shared their journey from identifying an area for improvement to implementation of their ideas.  With Matt in his role of Geriatric Nurse Navigator, he has spent the past months implementing four interventions that he and Suzanne came up with to help empower patients when they transition home. If you work at Sibley, I hope you ask them about the remarkable feedback they have received from patients.  You simply won’t believe it.

How might we accelerate the development of personalized technologies to improve care and quality of life for veterans with disabilities?  Joel Hemphill, D.P.T., and Joe Sigrin shared their experience at the two-day Veteran’s Administration Innovation Challenge They explained how they arrived at the design of a new drinking device which could replace the child-like sippy-cups provided for individuals with dysphagia (difficulty swallowing properly).  The newly designed “Camo Cup” looks like a standard coffee cup lid, responding to end-users who expressed embarrassment at having to use such “sippy” cups in public.  Joel and Joe showed their excitement with pursuing further production of the “Camo Cup” and providing a tool that responds directly to interviews and feedback. 

How might we improve the patient experience in outpatient oncology? Natasha Schultz, R.N., spoke about oncology’s project of creating a warm and calming environment for patients, who are amidst the stress of treatment and planning. Natasha spoke about the impact of the patient interviews and how these powerful stories motivated ideas and designs.  She shared the change to have patients schedule treatment at their bedside, which was more convenient and less stressful.  She also described the insights that led to improvements and redesign of the waiting room.  The current prototype allows patients to get pre-visit lab work drawn at home, saving a whole visit.

How might we help patients feel more like themselves while in the hospital?  Matt Webster an electrical engineering and advisor to the Hub spoke about the About Me project that aims to create a patient profile that can be displayed on a screen in a patient’s room, with the patient in control of what information they would like to share about themselves.  Do they love Jazz?  Do they have kids?  Did they just travel to Europe?  Information that patients identify with and care about.  Information that they want to share but don’t always have the chance to.  The About Me project is part of the Hub’s ongoing work to design the hospital room of the future. Matt also gave an overview of the agile implementation process.

How might we present quality data on the web?  Dan Goldberg shared the progress and the story behind the most recent Design Bolt.  He shared that the team’s interviews with patients showed how people care about the source of their information, how they don’t want to feel like they are being misled, and how they want information that is relevant to them.  He emphasized that these interview insights fueled our drive to create a prototype that provided context, was trustworthy, and emoted warmth. 

So how does an inspirational moment surprise you?  Just like that.  Five short, quick stories about our own team’s journeys through projects.  These interactions with patients and end-users, with ideas and perspectives, with the willingness to be vulnerable and creative simply moved us all.  We can only hope that our guests were moved. We were certainly proud of our teams and the ways they are using design to improve how Sibley delivers care.