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The Architectural Potential of Platforms in Emerging Careers

Emerging careers share a common characteristic: the need for plasticity. New careers are continually being introduced that would not have existed a few years ago. Similarly, other careers are morphing in response to changing environments, and the scope of practice for these vocations has outgrown their infrastructure. Like a space that no longer supports increasing demand, advancing fields require modification and expansion to stay current. Both in a physical and metaphorical sense, sustainability is not feasible without the capability of change. The spatial relationships of platforms must be designed to support the structures for technology and education that build the pathways for the development of emerging careers.

The idea of platforms is especially important in the transitional phases of careers within progressive industries. How we think about new applications of work today will pave the way for navigating the landscape of innovation we will face in the not-so-distant future. There has been a growing movement in the sterile processing space as an emerging career. Many of us have felt the gap widen between what we are required to know and the feasibility of applying that knowledge in the real world. Outdated models still govern the frameworks tied to workflows while the latest evidence in best practice continues to shed light on the expanding gulf between the present and where we should be.

The restless wonder of how to address these challenges has provided me with the stamina to persevere in analyzing what solutions could look like. Observations from experience working in the field of sterile processing has led me to ask many questions I want resolved. I enjoy research and find myself continuously consuming books and articles on various topics such as innovation, improvement, and change management, to name a few. One title that has influenced my perspective is Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson. The author describes approaches to the development of ideas and provides insights into how innovation happens. Johnson profoundly states, “The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.” He further explains that epiphanies are rare:

“Most hunches that turn into important innovations unfold over much longer timeframes. They start with a vague, hard-to-describe sense that there’s an interesting solution to a problem that hasn’t yet been proposed, and they linger in the shadows of the mind, sometimes for decades, assembling new connections and gaining strength. And then one day they are transformed into something more substantial: sometimes jolted out by some newly discovered trove of information, or by another hunch lingering in the mind, or by an internal association that finally completes the thought.”1

Particularly, Johnson’s discussion on transferring concepts from one context to another and building off of the adjacent possible to create platforms that previously did not exist from the spare parts of other developments, as well as providing a space for new structures to collectively grow, has inspired me tremendously. The biggest takeaway for me is that thoughts need other connections to become an idea.

As an intellectual tribute to forerunners and platform engineers developing the growing field of sterile processing, I wanted to recognize those who have been brave enough to go against the grain and advocate for our profession even when others did not understand. These agents of change laid the groundwork and raised scaffolding that opened up potential growth for everyone because they dared to stand for something bigger than themselves. When I think about all the people who have laid the foundation to create platforms that I currently build onto, I am filled with gratitude. These unique individuals are forerunners, progressive thinkers, and look at life through an abstract lens.

Forerunners identify potential and see patterns that are not yet clear to others. They are architects who create opportunities by building ideas that lay the groundwork necessary for the growth of possibility. Having the insight to use the materials around them, they understand how the contribution of others can be transferred into new and different contexts. Many of these forerunners seemed ahead of their time because they saw the vision for how to solve a problem and, through personal sacrifice and commitment to a mission, blazed a trail filled with obstacles and objections. Many of them struggled to gain support for years while persevering through an unwavering commitment to continue to share their message, even when it was not popular.

Forerunners can not build their vision alone; there must also be adopters who see the concept and are willing to join forces, roll up their sleeves, and dig in. The platform constructed must be connected to supportive structures for the vision to take shape. The nature of design requires plasticity, both of mind and construct. Working together means that we must be open to the potential that exists with the platform even if it means that the boundaries are pushed further than expected. What we achieve can be so much greater than first imagined when we are willing to let go of an element of propriety and open ourselves to creative adaptation. Understandably so, many people are afraid to share their ideas because they have worked so hard on them and want to protect their intellectual property. While it is important to keep a competitive advantage and differentiate oneself, guarding our ideas too tightly can limit reaching the very objective that motivated us to begin building in the first place. We must remember that the gap we identified is larger than any of us, and it will take more than our own grit to get there.

Many in my life have served not only as mentors and colleagues but also inspired me to continue the work they started. I was drawn to them because I shared a hunch that these initiatives should be taken. I thought they were my bright ideas, but I discovered through connecting with them that others were coming to similar conclusions. There have been many times I have had to create something from scratch because I know what it’s like to be a forerunner. I appreciate recognizing those instances where I have been able to build off of what someone else toiled over. Preserving their work while also pushing it forward along its developmental progression is a gift of reciprocity.

The beauty of collaboration is the art of collectively building a structure in which the envisioned form follows its applicable function and integrates it cross-functionally. The anticipation of seeing this transformation happen right before one’s eyes is captivating and sparks others to join in a united cause. I would not have been able to accomplish some of the work that has been so meaningful to me if it had not been for the labor of love that others contributed before me. By aligning myself with these individuals I have been able to honor their work and continue forward a shared vision for the future. I only hope that my work inspires others to step forward and continue the pursuit of contributing to the new infrastructures we will build together for the emerging field of sterile processing.


  1. Johnson, Steven. 2010. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. New York. Riverhead Books.

Lisa M. McKown (Wakeman), MBA, CRCST, CIS, CHL, MBTI, is a manager of research and development for Beyond Clean. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Integrative Leadership and an MBA from Anderson University. Lisa is a doctoral student in the Richard Fairbanks School of Public Health: Global Health Leadership program through IUPUI in Indianapolis, IN. She also holds a certification as a Meyers-Briggs Practitioner, specializing in interpersonal communication. Lisa contributes as an SME volunteer for standards development and other industry-related projects that promote the sterile processing profession, including writing workshops focused on creating and revising questions for the IAHCSMM certification exams. As a healthcare professional driven to influence positive change for patient safety initiatives, Lisa is a catalyst for the advancement of infection prevention within sterile processing. Her passion is education and she is energized when she can use her experience to develop people.

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