Every October for the past three years, my husband, my son (age 6), and I take a trip about 2 miles down the road from our house to our local corn maze and pumpkin patch.

The first year, when my son was 3, we only made it as far as the tricycle circle and about 20 steps into the pumpkin patch before it was time for hot cider and a special treat waiting for us at the treat shack. I watched from the treat shack as the older kids entered the mysterious corn maze and couldn’t imagine the day that we would be “ready for that."

Well, that day came sooner than later. In my mind, I convinced myself that my son would be at least 8, maybe even 10 years old before he would even attempt to engage in finding his way through the clues that would lead him back to the end of the maze, where the treat shack was strategically located. To my surprise, at 5, he was begging to go through the maze like the other kids.

I thought for sure I was going to buy the ticket, and we would walk up to the starting point and he would decide that maybe the “Tricycle Circle” would be a better choice to spend our next hour.

Once again, I was shortsigthed. My son rushed forward and entered the maze. I found myself quickly picking up my pace to keep up with him. As he continued his trek, he didn’t play by the rules. He didn’t follow the path. He went straight through the walls of corn and found clues (not in the order presented on our map), but by his random method of playful discovery.

With my adult perspective, I kept trying to keep him on the path until I realized that I was missing out on all of the fun. So instead of leading him, he led me. We got all of the clues (eventually) and we found our way back to the treat shack. As excited as I was that we had made it, my son was not even aware of his accomplishment and was eager to move to the next event of pumpkin exploration.

I tell this story because often we find ourselves trying to solve challenges by staying on the path that is known or approaching problem solving in certain ways, because “that’s the way we’ve always done it."

Healthcare leadership is faced with the challenge to find clues that will guide them to successfully respond to the continuous changes their organizations face due to new practice models, technology advancements, staff retention and recruitment, economic constraints, and the safety/quality crisis. All of which are cause for the transformational shift of both culture and operations within an organization.

What does this have to do with a corn maze? Well, I think it has more to do with not staying on the path that is known. As leadership incorporates cultural and behavioral change into their organizations to respond to the demands of reform, the success of the story lies in linking cultural transformation and facility design.

Once you construct a wall, that wall becomes a monument. The wall will either support or distract from the cultural transformation that is critical to the success of an organization.

We as stewards to the healthcare industry have to come together not as a consultant and owner, but as innovators that are committed to solving the puzzle. Running through the walls of corn; collecting the clues (no matter in what order, because that doesn’t matter).