Tim Harford’s columns are always worth a read, as are his books, and talks (OK, I’m a bit of Tim Harford fan!).  This week’s column particularly resonated with me, given our focus on scale and spread across the NHS. Entitled “Like great coffee, good ideas take time to percolate”, it shows how slow innovation can happen, even when the conditions would seem to be perfect for it to occur.

His example is the growth of high-end coffee shops: Monmouth Coffee opened in 1978, but it wasn’t until the mid-2000s that there was an explosion of the coffee ‘scene’ in London.

Reading Tim’s column was like reading yet another report about why scale and spread in the NHS is notoriously difficult: “The status quo is comfortable, especially for the people who get to call the shots.” That could be a line straight out of Matthew Syed’s Black Box Thinking.

This column doesn’t necessarily give any answers, but it highlights that the problems of spreading innovation aren’t exclusive to the NHS, and gives some food for thought of why approaches that may at first seem like good ideas may actually not have any effect at all.

Photo courtesy of Michael Dales. Used under creative commons licence.