Widely regarded as one of the most effective healthcare systems in the world, Cleveland Clinic’s uncommonly entrepreneurial and innovative culture has helped a small group practice blossom into a $6 billion healthcare system, renowned as the nation’s top heart hospital.

Over the years, a set of tenets has evolved to guide their innovation efforts. Dr. Thomas Graham, Chief Innovation Officer at Cleveland Clinic, and author of Innovation the Cleveland Clinic Way, has distilled them into these 10 commandments.

Here are key three takeaways for you to apply in your own business practice:


  1. Innovation will occur when the most creative and qualified people are positioned for exposure to the most fertile material to inspire creative thought.  This seems like a logical, almost basic concept, but it should not be taken for granted. Innovation requires the basic ingredients for the chemical reactions that  produce creative outcomes. The basic substrates are need, opportunity, and ability. The catalyst may be the infrastructure that enables the development of  ideas into meaningful inventions, but the pipeline is stocked by the environment that optimizes the interaction between material and makers.
  2. Innovation is a discipline that can be practiced, learned, taught, and measured. It has rules and requires metrics and measurement. In a dynamic environment that consistently brings new challenges and perspectives, assisting a wide spectrum of innovators and their ideas relies upon adhering to a playbook of innovation practice.
  3. Because of the inherent challenges associated with innovation, celebrate the pursuit and process, not just the outcome. Nothing kills innovation faster  than the weight of expectation and reducing its measure of success to patents granted or dollars earned. If failure is not anticipated and even celebrated,  the innovation culture will be stifled. This doesn’t mean that innovation should be sloppy, wasteful, or lacking a level of expectation. But even failure has  a welcome by- product, experience. While solving some of the biggest healthcare problems, stumbling is to be expected and makes eventual success that much sweeter.