Leading a Culture of Research and Innovation

Why is there a need for this programme?

NHS R&D NW will work creatively with up to 25 middle managers from a range of clinical backgrounds to support them in leading a culture of research and innovation by building their leadership capacity to develop the skills and confidence to create an effective culture within their units, wards/departments. The focus of the training explores research and innovation culture specifically because we know that NHS organisations that are more research active have better patient outcomes [1].  This project design is informed by the domains of the Healthcare Leadership Model [2] and by the evaluation of the NHS R&D NW Academy of Creative Minds which was developed for the dissemination of health research but showed participation led to significant increase in individual levels of confidence, creativity and self belief [3], skills essential to good leadership.

NHS R&D NW has identified a strong commitment from service managers to the integration of research and innovation into their teams but also found limitations in knowledge regarding the research and innovation policy agendas and lack of personal confidence in providing leadership in this area [4].  Middle management influence is crucial to a whole systems talent management strategy. Managing, nurturing and keeping staff engaged and motivated is key to an organisation’s ability to provide high-quality care.

The Five Year Forward view is committed to research and wants to accelerate useful health innovation and speed up the adoption of cost effective innovation. All three STPS in the North West also recognise that to make the changes they want in the health of their populations they need to embrace innovation, evidence and proven best practice to shape services. To do this we need a culture of research and innovation in our health organisations and middle managers that have the skills and confidence to invest locally and grow a culture that embraces it.

The “Leading Cultures of Research & Innovation” project offers a novel and innovative programme of leadership development informed by NHS R&D NW stakeholder engagement and the overarching plans of the STPS and The 5 year Forward view.

[1] https://www.nihr.ac.uk/news/research-active-trusts-have-better-patient-outcomes-study-shows/2715

[2] http://www.leadershipacademy.nhs.uk/resources/healthcare-leadership-model/

[3] https://research.northwest.nhs.uk/work/academy-of-creative-minds/

[4] https://www.research.northwest.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Joint-RI-Event-Oct-2013-Evaluation-Report.pdf

[5] https://research.northwest.nhs.uk/work/the-releasing-potential-programme/innovation-leadership-development-programme/

[6]  Michael A. West, 2012, Effective Teamwork: Practical Lessons from Organizational Research (Psychology of Work and Organizations), Third Edition, BPS Blackwell.

Programme Aims and Objectives

This leadership course is based primarily on two previous programmes of work delivered and evaluated by NHS Research & Development North West.

It is a combination of a “leading clinical teams” programme funded by Health Education England [5] from 2013-2016 and the Academy of Creative Minds an immersive programme for health researchers and professionals to work with creative artists to learn how to communicate their work more effectively and help increase its impact. Participants from these programmes demonstrated increased knowledge, confidence and understanding of the research landscape and culture and how to lead more effectively.

The project will be led by leadership professionals, R&D professionals, creative writers, performance coaches, magicians and somatic experts who together will work with middle managers in a blended learning approach to help them:-

  • Develop knowledge & understanding of national, regional and organisational R&I agendas
  • Explore and increase individual understanding of how organisational cultures are formed and shaped by leaders
  • Explore and develop skills and expertise to improve confidence and creativity to facilitate and lead cultures of R&I
  • Have the opportunity to develop and benefit from a community of practice within their health economy
  • Know how to lead an effective team based on the work of Professor Michael West [6]
  • Explore how digital technology can enable communication and support healthy communities and culture within their working environment
  • Be open to new ideas and ready to embrace health innovations.

“Leaders must reclaim the very thing our culture has so casually given away: Time to think together and learn from our experiences” Margaret Wheatley

Course outline

Prior to the course, all 25 participants will be invited to join an exclusive online community and start to connect with the course leaders and other course participants to share their expectations of the course and anticipated learning outcomes.

The programme will commence with a two day residential. Participants will be taken together on a coach, to a “secret” destination, which will create a sense of excitement but also bonding of the group as they experience the unknown together (this is a technique used by tech innovation facilitation leaders and the venue will be a conference centre/hotel in the relevant region).  The residential is important to create a safe space for participants to learn without distraction and also to start to build both the physical and online community, which will be invaluable to their learning journey on the programme.

The first day of the course will start on the coach with a number of exercises designed to enable the group to get to know each other, then continue on arrival to help them relax after their journey, have fun and prepare for being challenged (Think Coach Trip!!). This will be followed with some initial work on culture and making a case for research, development and innovation. Following this, there will be a practical session on the digital community.


The second part of the day will explore personal confidence with regard to communication both written and oral, working with a creative writer and performance coach. After dinner on the evening of the first day there will be a speaker with expertise in the area of developing a culture of R&I from the health and social care sector.


Day 2 will start with further learning about factors/dimensions that create/enable cultures, know what is meant by cultures of R&I and the conditions that enable them, appreciating their role as leaders in enabling a culture of R&I. The afternoon will be a creative challenge for them to think about and identify their development needs/learning outcomes. The day will conclude with the participants being encouraged to use some of their creative learning to communicate these needs to the rest of the group.

Following the residential, the participants will continue to learn and connect through the online community, as they set out to achieve their personal goals. Learning materials will be shared in this online community as the programme progresses, for debate and discussion and a co-mentoring approach will be encouraged.

There will then be two further one-day workshops

Day three The day will start with learning about having a vision, networking and collaborating and the afternoon will be co-created with the participants to deliver a session tailored to the specific requirements identified by the group.

Day 4 The day will start with learning about leading teams and developing a strategy and finish with each participant sharing their individual learning journey with the group using all the creative tools and techniques and more, detailing their personal plan and commitment to lead R&I within their teams.

We have now completed the North West Cohort, the North East and North Cumbria Cohort and are currently finishing the Yorkshire and Humber Cohort.

A Realist Evaluation from the Leading a Culture of Research and Innovation has now been completed by our associate, Kate Bulpin. To read the report, please click here

**Please note that this is fully funded by Health Education England. We are unable to cover any travel expenses to and from venues**