Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Brevity Is the Soul of Innovation

Magazine article Stanford Social Innovation Review

Brevity Is the Soul of Innovation

Article excerpt

How clear, brief mission statements inspire progress

"MAKE CANCER HISTORY." THAT'S THE SHORT VERSION of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's mission statement. Such a concise and snappy mission statement not only sticks in the mind, it can also drive an organization to innovate, finds Robert E. McDonald of the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University. His study of nonprofit public, and private hospitals suggests that well-crafted mission statements lead organizations to generate, evaluate, and adopt innovative ideas.

"When people write mission statements, they struggle to find cute and creative words that cover everything," says McDonald. "But if you really want to motivate innovation, you have to distill your mission to its essence." He notes that CEOs should be able to "explain their organization's mission, vision, and core values during a single elevator ride in a short building." That way, everyone in the organization can rally around the same message.

Houston-based M.D. Anderson's mission statement isn't all that's popping at the nonprofit hospital. U.S. News & World Report ranked it the No. 1 U.S. cancer hospital four times in the last six years. And the National Cancer Institute awards M.D. Anderson more grant money than it does any other hospital.

For his study, published in the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (vol. 36, no. 2), McDonald asked 349 hospital administrators around the country to rate their organization's mission's clarity, ability to motivate, and buy-in from employees. …

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