I’ve always been enamored with how a great design solution emerges differently than a good one. The best-of-the-best solutions are often game changers, and the evidence-based design movement has fueled a few in the last decade. Unfortunately, we’re in need of a great design solution right now to assist our clinical colleagues who have sworn to “above all, do no harm” through their Hippocratic Oath.

In his book “Good to Great,” Jim Collins says that it’s about getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off to build an effective team—one that will do more than just get the job done. I couldn’t agree more; however, sometimes, even when the right people are on the bus, it doesn’t guarantee that an awesome solution will be found. I’ve learned from my friend and former Center for Health Design (CHD) colleague Len Berry that setting a project’s vision correctly is where that differential lies. Berry says that this concept is imbedded in values-driven leadership. A values-driven leader empowers those “right people” to thoroughly comprehend the issue. A values-driven leader empowers his or her team to focus on well-defined outcomes that unearth a series of right questions that are asked through a variety of filters.

Infection control, as another former CHD colleague, Roger Ulrich, has noted, has seen successes at health systems that broke the paradigm of discovery and transport. Ulrich cites a few Scandinavian countries, in which each patient admission is assumed to be infected, quarantined, and then moved into the correct section of the facility. In one radical example, patients are transported out-of-doors from one part of a building to another to curb contamination. I’m not qualified to suggest a new model of operation, but I challenge you to wonder what a values-driven leader might ask in order to get a busload of multidisciplinary designers to solve the dilemma of the spread of deadly infections that are currently taking hold in our facilities.

I also challenge the best of you to pull your bus over and think as if your best values-driven client put that question to you. How in design might you solve this dilemma? You can contribute by answering these questions:

  • Are you being lead by a values-driven leader? (If not, hand your client a copy of “Discovering the Soul of Service: The Nine Drivers of Sustainable Business Success” by Leonard L. Berry.)
  • Do you have the right team on the bus? Go outside your firm and seek the best thought leaders to upgrade your solutions from good to great.
  • Are you asking the right questions? Look for similar solutions in other fields and analyze the situation by asking the not-asked-before questions.
  • Does your kit of ideas only get you to a better old solution? In other words, are you only fixing current inefficiencies within a broken scenario rather than considering new scenarios altogether? Then push the entire industry to get you what you need to provide a great solution.

Share your thoughts and let’s explore the best of the best. Your life or that of someone you love may depend on this next great design solution.


Rosalyn Cama, FASID, EDAC, is president and principal interior designer of Cama Inc. (New Haven, Conn.). She is the board of directors chair for The Center for Health Design (www.healthdesign.org).