Is corporation stifling innovation?

This week has been one of my busiest in recent times, with a variety of engagements fulfilled, meeting many different people, from patients to Chief Executives. I have also done several presentations to different audiences. Firstly I’m grateful that currently my health is holding, enabling me to do these, but secondly it is a great opportunity to continue to find out personally what is going on in the world of cancer support. Reading and talking is one thing, but there is nothing like first hand experience. I would like to think that my previous business life, and my current patient experience gives me a unique perspective on things.

But I have to admit to writing this piece with a dark cloud of frustration hanging over me. There was a constant theme during this week, and that came every day from very contrasting people, and something I experience more and more personally! A distinct lack of engagement from many health organisations, to people offering new innovative ways of helping in the cancer sector. I have listened to many presentations in recent years about how the ‘patient voice’ is so important, and of course it is! But I know from my own experience how this is just not happening.

Is corporation slowing innovation

More and more people are contacting me with wonderful work which they are doing in their community, yet cannot find a voice. They all tell me the same story, of approaching charities or N.H.S, but being blocked at every turn, by red tape and unhelpful people. These are people who in most cases, have personal experience, and are funding things themselves, in an attempt to get the service going. I have even heard this story from charities trying to work within the N.H.S. In many cases all people are asking is to let them know they are there, which in todays world of social media is not difficult at all!

But I am finding more and more, a sector where the people who control it, are loathe to use their financial muscle and power in the market to help others outside of their network. With my business hat on this reminds me of the competitive world I worked in. The big got bigger, and everyone else got left behind. I have always been successful on my own as I look to do things differently to others, and not to compete. In cancer support I have used the same process. There is very little new around, but my USP is that I want to help people! Not really a science, but you would be surprised how many out there are not doing that.

Social media is now a large tool for most organisations, but is it being used properly, and for the benefit of people affected by cancer? Sure, we have advertising about forums and helplines etc and helpful things, but in most cases all on brand, with little appetite for anything outside of that organisation. Also you really have to look hard and sift your way through the barrage of fundraising opportunities. I spend my day sharing work on Twitter from around the world, so that we can all benefit from innovation.

Of course not all are like this, but my own experience shows me that smaller organisations are much more open to new ideas and collaboration. I work with many different sized organisations, and I struggle to get my own work shared in some of the larger ones, but others around the world share regularly, as they understand the impact that it is having in the community.  There was a great irony when I was announced as Health Blogger of the year recently. Many charities contacted me to tell me how good my work is, but still can’t bring themselves to share it, don’t even ask about the N.H.S! If I am finding it hard going with some organisations I work with, then I know how difficult it must be for most.

Ic corperation slowing innovation

I did an experiment on Twitter recently, and tweeted one major charity daily with my blog. I received not even an acknowledgement, but when I re tweeted one of their tweets they did! This very ‘closed’ approach is so obvious on most organisations social media feeds, constantly full of self praise and telling us how good they are, and asking us to raise more funds. This week I was asked what I felt the secret was to effective social media, and I said “engage properly with your audience.” All effective communication must be two way, it is as important listen to what people say, as it is to tell them your message.

My concern is that where I see the most patient engagement and innovative ideas is the area that is struggling for money and voice, generally those two things are linked! There is a lot of passion coming from people who really care, but are continually frustrated by organisations that should be there to help and encourage. This will only change if you want it to. Life is difficult enough dealing with your health of course, I also find the same thing, but I feel strongly about this issue and will do my best to improve things.

For my work, sharing is the thing that is most helpful, and I am always grateful for. By following this blog, and connecting with me on Twitter and Facebook, you are really helping to get our message out there. If enough people connect we can really make a difference.

Above I have posted my experiences, and those of others who have contacted me recently, my opinions are based on facts, but are only my opinions. I would welcome your comments on your experiences of sharing ideas with support organisations, to enable me to expand this discussion.


  1. Hi Chris, firstly i want to say how very much I enjoy your blog. You choose topics close to my heart and today is no exception. Corporation and innovation and it seems communication, and an ability to work together for a common goal is something very few organisations are able to achieve these days. It’s incredible how we live in such insular and insecure times where it seems effective working practice is stifled, I’m guessing through fear. As people who have experienced and lived through one of the greatest fears, cancer, I believe our perspective does not reflect much of the external worlds drives and passions. Our experience, I believe makes us both astutely aware of poor practice but also a strong desire for ‘effective’ communication and ‘quality’ care and interactions. Time is too short to be wasted protecting trivial things that mean so little while the important issues are left on the side line to waste away, supported by so few and missed by those who govern and control budgets, which ultimately determine services. There is such a vast wastage by over lapping services when we could so easily work together by recognizing and utilizing pre-existing expertise. So little investment in innovative joint practices, or pilot project which are not given a realistic time frame to achieve positive outcomes. Services need to adapt, be open and encourage input from those who work for them. Organisations need to focus on positive and encouraging communication. As you’re twitter experiment so clearly demonstrates ,services need to review how they respond to fellow partners and ask themselves ‘who are we working for, are we achieving this and how can we do this better!
    Thank you for all you do Chris. Please take care of yourself for the work you are carrying out is never ending!
    Very best wishes.

  2. Hi Patricia, thanks for your comments and so pleased you enjoy the blog. The topics I choose to write about are ones that I find constantly in the work that I do. There are many sites of course, that talk about cancer issues, but I try to get into the subjects that really matter for people, and write in a way that people affected by cancer can understand.

    I guess having a business background, helps me look at things differently to most, but ultimately, there is so much wasted resource and overlapping work as you so brilliantly describe above. My overall frustration is that people affected by cancer are rarely listened to by the people who are there to help.

    My own experience has shown me, very little feed back from pilot schemes, and a feeling of being ‘used,’ when an ‘exciting new project’ is being tested. Generally the larger the organisation, the worse that is.

    Your comments sum up perfectly, exactly the issues I am talking about, and I am doing my best to try and change this culture. Thank you for your support, and taking the time to comment. You are right when you say this work is never ending! 🙂 Chris

  3. Chris,
    Thank you for your wisdom.
    I’m sure you know that cancer trt is BIG biz.
    I’ve done much in researching what was out their to help benefit the immune sys because of close family & friends in this situation.
    Science con’t to move on. We are now able to understand what cells need (ie:proper structure = proper function. Dis function is when what the cells do’nt have what it needs= disease).so, it’s more of looking at the systems of the body rather then chasing symptoms.
    Because of this new science in nutritional glycobiology with innovative breakthrough technologies on how to feed the body missing links.
    We need an army to get the word out. And as we do people struggling for $ & voice are paid & at the same time we have taken on the biggest prob. Children dying of malnutrition every 6 sec & they will nourish them for free! It’s like Tom’s shoes except that they will pay you!

  4. Keep up the great work Chris, you will be heard! I love the quote from Mother Teresa as well, it really says it all doesn’t it and how important it is to learn from one another.

  5. Thanks so much for your encouragement Judy, which is much appreciated. We certainly can learn a lot from each other.

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