Rebellion vs Innovation – Are you gonna go my way?

 “Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?”
Johnny: “What’ve you got?”

The Wild One (1953)

It seems that we are living in a time of great upheaval and uncertainty and I don’t know if it is of any comfort that this has been the human condition for at least the last 250 years. In one sense it’s all we know. We have come this far because we have embraced change. Without change, institutions lose energy and become stale. It is how we manage and embrace change that matters

There are some forces at work who call for change, but that change seems to be a return to an imagined golden past. The truth is, there is no going back. These people see themselves as rebels, but the change they are advocating comes not with a coherent plan, but a set of ideas and feelings that serves the interests of those who already hold all the cards. More of the same is not innovation.

The biggest frustration of my time in health and social care has been the snail’s pace adaptation of the values of person centred care as something you can really see, hear and feel. It is often said that if person centred care was easy it would have happened by now!

There are plenty of people I have met working in or leading dementia care services who share this frustration and see themselves as rebels. The smartest know that being a rebel means that one day when you are in charge you have to take responsibility in order to take people with you. Ripping up all that was there before just alienates a lot of the people you need to make innovations and change. You have to take care of people’s natural resistance to change.

Unlike Johnny, to be an effective rebel you need to ask yourself why am I doing this and who am I doing it for? In making a culture change in a care service this sometimes get lost. Often people see the innovation as upheaval in terms of changing the career’s role, the mealtime experience and environment. What is lost is the central message of making lives better.

The solutions put forward by populists seem simple, but are narrow and don’t take into account the complexity of the world we live in. Innovation in dementia care is a process of transformation.

If you are going to be a rebel you need not just a compelling vision of what you want, but a coherent plan to implement that vision.  One day the rebel also becomes the innovator and needs to be inclusive in implementing that vision.

I found this extract in the article in the Guardian by Andre Spicer interesting: ‘The identity offered by the Extinction Rebellion movement will resonate with would-be rebels, but the majority of people who could potentially be won over to their cause don’t see themselves as “rebels”. Instead they identify as parents, workers, neighbours, members of ethnic or religious groups and many other things. To effectively reach out, the climate change movement needs to connect with these identities.’*

As a rebel it seems to mean that if you are going to take people with you, you have to show how innovation and change will benefit them and those they care for.

*The Extinction Rebels have got their tactics badly wrong. Here’s why. Andre Spicer. 19 April 2019. The Guardian (UK)

Consultant Learning & Development Manager
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