There are all sorts of barriers to overcome if you are going to be truly, radically, innovative.
Many people find the idea of change unsettling, others might be skeptical that real change ever happens. Others may be perfectly happy with how things are and ask why we would want to ‘fix’ something that isn’t broken in the first place. Then there are regulatory restrictions and customs and practices that purposefully place limits on what can be said and done in the name of physiotherapy, medicine, dentistry, etc.
Innovation, by definition, means challenging conventions and proposing an approach that extends beyond the boundary fence that we rebuild and reaffirm around ourselves each day. Innovation implies the exploration of virgin territory; the thoughtful examination of the unimaginable; and the willful determination to subvert conventional wisdom.
We are all increasingly aware that the future of physiotherapy lies with our ability to retain the best of the ‘old ways’, whilst also embracing the new. One of the challenges then is how to create the space within the profession for innovation to happen.
Organisations like the CPN exist to foster new ideas and to help physiotherapists use established ideas from other places to think and practice in new ways. Naturally, this sometimes means that we propose ideas that the profession’s established institutions find uncomfortable. But arguing for new ways to think and practice on a blog is one thing, making changes to patient care, student learning or research practice is quite another.
I know for a fact that many physiotherapy clinicians, educators and researchers have felt encouragement by the CPN blog because they’ve told us. But when it comes down to it, are people who desperately want to be innovative in the profession really able to make the critical and radical changes that they feel are necessary in the face of powerful and earnest oppositions?
This is, for me at least, one of the greatest challenges facing organisations like the CPN in the future. Clearly, we can’t be present at every staff meeting and every moment when someone decides to strike out and do things differently, but we can work to make sure that those who do want to innovate are supported and acknowledged. We can continue our work in questioning the profession and troubling the taken-for-granted assumptions that often lock us into comfortable conventions. And we can continue to promote the positive mission of the CPN as a positive force for an otherwise physiotherapy.
There are many troubling things happening in the world today, and many of them are impacting on the health and wellbeing of people, families and communities. Physical therapies are, in many ways, in greater demand than ever, and physiotherapists should be at the front of the queue with ideas and innovative ways to help people to enjoy life and feel healthy and happy. We aren’t there yet though, and won’t get there unless we can break away from some traditional ways of practicing and thinking. And for that we will need real innovators.
Vive la difference!