From a series on researchers and innovators at Boston Children’s Hospital
Margaret McCabe, PhD, director for nursing research in the medicine patient services at Boston Children’s Hospital, is an unlikely hacker. A former techno-phobe and chronically fatigued mother of four, McCabe didn’t think she had time for another project.
Some opportunities, however, are too good to resist. That was the case when McCabe, who thrives on interacting with people who think outside of the box, started brainstorming with colleagues about Hacking Pediatrics.
She signed as a co-founder of the group, an organization of self-described geeks from Boston Children’s and MIT’s H@cking Medicine committed to hacking the status quo in pediatric health care. “It’s the attraction to innovation,” she confesses.
McCabe describes the lure of hacking and the role of nurses in innovation.
Carlos Dominguez is a technology evangelist, social media maven and a Senior VP at the IT company Cisco Systems, Inc. In this animated keynote presentation, he poses the question: how can health care organizations innovate in a world transformed by the web, social media and mobile phones, where “distance is dead,” knowledge is totally democratized and kids are born digital? Innovation isn’t luck, he contends, it’s a discipline that should work its way into an organization’s DNA.
You’ve got a great idea for a new medical device. After you’ve created the device and proved its usefulness in a clinical setting—a challenge in itself—the next step is getting your device to a commercial partner who can mass-produce and market it. Working through all of the regulatory hurdles, projecting the market for your product and figuring out your product’s long term potential can seem overwhelming.
“R&D is not always research and development. Sometimes it’s rip off and duplicate,” Bill Taylor, cofounder and founding editor of Fast Company magazine, said during his keynote address at the Boston Children’s Hospital Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards 2014.
In his address, titled “Tough Problems, New Remedies: A Practically Radical Prescription for Health Care,” Taylor encouraged innovators to look broadly across other fields and determine the health care version of the most successful players in those fields.
What all of these things have in common is data. Lots of it. Some of it represents kinds of data that didn’t exist 5 or 10 years ago, but all of it is slowly beginning to fuel the pharma sector’s efforts to create the next blockbuster drug or targeted therapeutic.
It’s very clear that the pace of innovation needs to accelerate.
The Innovation Tank provides a rich and engaging way to accelerate innovation by putting the best ideas and technologies in front of people who can incubate and fund them, and ultimately, take them to success.
The genius of the Innovation Tank is that it coalesces a critical mass of people and ideas in a single place. By bringing ideas to the front through competition, participants can raise the bar on their own creativity to bring forth compelling ideas that matter to medicine, that matter to peoples’ lives.
TEDMED2014 focused on a powerful theme: unlocking imagination in service of health and medicine. Speaker after speaker shared tales of imagination, inspiration and innovation. Here are a few of our favorites:
$100 plastic car stands in for $25,000 power wheelchair
In the first (and likely only) National Institutes of Health-funded shopping spree at Toys R’ Us, Cole Galloway, director of the Pediatric Mobility Lab at the University of Delaware, and crew stocked up on pint-sized riding toys.
Galloway’s quest was to facilitate independence and mobility among disabled children from the age of six months and older and offer a low-tech solution during the five-year wait in the United States for a $25,000 power pediatric wheelchair.
The hackers jerry-rigged the toys with pool noodles, PVC pipe and switches, reconfiguring them as mobile rehabilitation devices to promote functional skills among kids with special needs.
The word innovation gets thrown around a lot these days by people trying to set their products and ideas apart in the marketplace. But when everything is innovative, is anything really innovative? And if there really are innovative ideas, are they simply flashes of brilliance that can’t be planned for or predicted?
The answer to this last question is “no,” as I see every day at Boston Children’s Hospital, where I lead the Innovation Acceleration Program. The real trick is creating an innovation culture that supports great ideas—but that also supports the not-so-great ideas that teach us almost as much.
So what are the attributes of an innovation culture?
What can innovators do to work with investors and industry to move an idea toward commercialization? Speakers at the upcoming Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards, hosted by Boston Children’s Hospital, have some simple advice: Don’t think your innovation has to be sexy.
Health care is plagued by problems that aren’t necessarily sexy or compelling, says Mandira Singh, MBA, of AthenaHealth, who will speak at the Summit’s Mobile & Digital Health panel. More than many other industries, it still depends on outdated technology. For example, it’s the only industry that continues to rely on fax machines. “These are small problems that need to be fixed,” Singh said recently at a Boston Children’s Hospital forum.
Instead of focusing on everyday challenges, innovators often think far out into the future—to where they think health care will be in 10 years. That can be a trap:
Bruce Zetter, PhD, is the Charles Nowiszewski Professor of Cancer Biology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and a member of Boston Children’s Vascular Biology program. He has made significant contributions to cancer research and worked as Chief Scientific Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital. A frequent advisor to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, Zetter will be master of ceremonies at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards (Oct 30-31, 2014).
By now, we have all seen a surfeit of articles on how to foster a culture of innovation in the workplace. Unfortunately, with our words, actions and tone of voice, most of us do just the opposite; we stifle innovation at every turn.
For the record, I run a cancer research lab at Boston Children’s Hospital, and innovation is our stock-in-trade, the one quality on which our performance as scientists is measured. There are no silver medals for coming in second in science. Yet even professional innovators can stifle the creative urge in their colleagues, their direct reports and even in their supervisors.
It’s easy to thwart a culture of innovation. Here are a few ways it can be done: