We spoke to Claire Liddy, Director of Innovation at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to discuss the importance of innovation, the skills needed to be a technical leader and advice for future leaders.
Claire’s story is part of a series of articles highlighting the careers of female tech leaders within the NHS. We’ve brought together these stories in an effort to prove that the route to leadership is never a straight line.
As the Managing Director of Innovation at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Claire is driving digital transformation strategies with the eye to helping professionals find their entrepreneurial spirit.
Claire, who has always wanted to work in Healthcare, started her career in the clinical space with a degree in orthopaedics. It was here that Claire found her love for the more strategic side of healthcare. After joining the NHS’s finance graduate scheme, Claire would go on to enjoy a long and successful career in the NHS as an accountant.
Now with 6 years at Alder Hey, 4 of which were spent as Operational Director of Finance, Claire is approaching her third year as Managing Director of Innovation – a big leap from the world of finance.
“The Chief Executive at the time thought the Innovation Centre needed a bit more of a business mind so I stepped up.”
The Innovation Centre, which is made up of 14 staff with dedicated time for innovation. That includes clinical, medical, commercial and research staff who – with the exception of clinical staff – many worked in a startup setting prior to their work with the Innovation Centre. They’re looking at bringing the very best experience from the industry into Healthcare.
“So my job very much as the Managing director of innovation is to drive the innovation strategy and forward. What we want to do is bring the most innovative technologies into health care to find new healthcare use cases that have impact, and benefit patients and families. And if we can bring them into Alder Hey, and have benefit, hopefully, we can spread and scale that impact to other health care systems, both nationally and even globally.”
Tasked with bringing the business strategy to the continued innovation of the trust, Claire’s position is rather niche but, following the core principles of digital transformations, we asked Claire what skills she believes are important to driving change in large organisations.
Following Alder Hey’s ‘Open Innovation’ principle, the teams at the Innovation Centre never start with a technical solution, but rather with a real world problem.
“So you’ve got to be open-minded and curious by nature.”
Claire, who manages individuals who are smart and inquisitive by nature, believes in giving her team as much autonomy as possible – something that isn’t traditional in an NHS setting.
“What I bring is freedom and safety for people to go out and discover new technologies and to try new things.”
This flat structure, which enables curiosity and exploration of options without fear of a strict framework, is key to the continued success of the Innovation Centre and is something that Claire is working on maintaining and improving every day – while protecting the brand and it’s commercial position.
“We want people to be entrepreneurial and creative, but at the same time, we have got a job to do in protecting the brand, and also protecting our commercial position. So we have a real balance in the team, and me being able to kind of almost help the team know who needs to be on what projects and we’ve got the right ingredient.”
For Claire, who moved from Finance to managing creatives, the first 12 months were a bit of a culture shock.
“Finance is quite prudent and very traditional in nature – so it is at odds with creativity in some regard. For the first 12 months it felt like I was an actress in a movie purely because the approach was entirely different.”
Despite Claire and the commercial team around her proving to be a successful ying to the creative’s yang time and time again, imposter syndrome was a reality in the early days.
“Over time you normalise. It’s challenging but you get there.”
Public Healthcare, an industry with high regulation, strict processes and high levels of accountability, is notoriously resistant to rapid change. With COVID providing a stimulus to digital transformation through necessity, Claire and the Innovation Centre are looking at developing a culture of innovation across the NHS.
“The reason healthcare can’t get out of the starting blocks is because of capability, resources and funding, because they don’t have the person who’s going to drive the agenda forward. There isn’t a textbook on how you innovate in healthcare. And I think I’d really like to help others and in the region, or potentially, across the UK.”
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