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Evidence Is the Building Block of Innovation

How does evidence inform innovation? Healthy Teen Network recently shared our position statement on evidence and innovation.

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January 17, 2019

We talk a lot about evidence and innovation…or maybe we just hear all the time about how we need to be evidence-based and also innovative…

  • Use what’s been proven effective—the evidence.
  • Use an evidence-based program.
  • Be innovative.
  • Incorporate technical in your innovation.
  • Build on the evidence with innovation.

But what’s that mean? How does evidence inform innovation? Healthy Teen Network recently shared our position statement on evidence and innovation to answer these kinds of questions. (Side note: we share these statements both to formalize and publicly share our own positions as well as to serve as a resource for you to adopt and adapt for your own organization’s needs.)

What We Believe

We believe that organizations and individuals that deliver client-focused programs and services should use evidence-based interventions and approaches, when they are available and appropriate to the people being supported.

We also believe that innovation is critical to addressing the holistic needs of all youth and to keeping interventions and approaches relevant and responsive. Innovations pursued must be based on evidence gathered through research, so the intervention or approach is determined to be appropriate and poised to lead to the desired outcomes before it is promoted.

What Is Innovation?

Innovation is the adoption of a new product or service that is valuable and fills a gap.Well-established programs and practices of today were once innovations, and today’s innovative approaches, if proven effective, will likely become standards of practice.2, 3 Thus the need for innovation never stops. Innovation can come in the form of new technologies to deliver information (such as digital media), new approaches to deliver programs and services (such as youth-friendly services), or a new frame to address an issue (such as Youth 3600).

Regardless of the shape it takes, innovation should follow these principles:

Be human-centered and population-based: In order to be fully responsive, the innovation must be designed around the specific needs of the population and how the intended audience will interact physically with the innovation.1

Be informed by evidence and experience: Evidence is the building block of any innovation,as it dictates what may or may not work and identifies gaps that the innovation can help fill. If built on evidence, the innovation is poised to have significant and long-standing effects. Evidence and research from many fields can be used to inspire, motivate change, and identify new solutions.

Be achieved through both incremental and disruptive approaches: Disruptive innovations are radical changes in current standards of practice.5 However, incremental innovations are progressive changes that arise from constant inquiry, testing, and iterating potential solutions to current standards of practice.6

Be tested to the extent of possibilities: In order to learn about the effectiveness of the innovation, it must be tested and evaluated.7 Not all innovations can be rigorously tested using randomized control trials, nor should they. However, data that reflect utilization, adoption, satisfaction, and benefits of the innovation will greatly increase its chances of becoming a standard of practice in the future.

Still want more? Check out our position statement on evidence and innovation.

[1] Kelley, T. (2001). The Art of Innovation: Lessons in creativity from IDEO, America’s leading design firm. New York, NY:  Doubleday.

[2] Couros, G. (2018, April 13). Every “best practice” in education was once an innovation. The Principal of Change. Retrieved from https://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/8189

[3] Drucker, P. F. (1985). The discipline of innovation. Harvard business review63(3), 67-72.

[4] Blank, S. & Newell, S. (2017, September 11). What your innovation process should look like. Harvard Business Publishing. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/09/what-your-innovation-process-should-look-like

[5] Christensen, C. M., Raynor, M. E., & McDonald, R. (2015). What is disruptive innovation. Harvard Business Review93(12), 44-53.

[6] Ali, A. (1994). Pioneering versus incremental innovation: Review and research propositions. Journal of Product Innovation Management: An International Publication of the Product Development & Management Association, 11(1), 46-61.

[7] Patton, M. Q. (2010). Developmental evaluation: Applying complexity concepts to enhance innovation and use. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

At Healthy Teen Network, we believe that every young person has a right to live their authentic sexuality. And we see you, the professionals and caring adults, helping them do this. We know you do your best when you're connected to great opportunities and resources. That's why we're here...to help make those connections and support you. Read more about us.