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Fish + Chips : Stanford + Innovation

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We often talk about diversity in
thinking and meeting people who are not like you. Which, in a micro way, gets
to the idea of engineers meeting designers or scientists meeting artists. There
are many discoveries to be had when such relationships develop, but one common
phrase we've heard in our mingling is this: 'solving a problem.' Like, for
example, talking to a bio medical engineer in an innovation lab and a designer
in a product development studio. This phrase is one of the strongest tethers
connecting two diverse communities.
In its written form, the phrase "solving a problem" is a
rational argument with emotional underpinnings. Taking it at face value, one
might miss the 'E=MC Squared' simplicity embedded in the statement.
Take 'Solving:' You have a need to find
problems worth solving. In other words, is the market large enough, like
Pacemaker's certainly turned out to be? Is the social need demanding enough,
like the need for clean water in developing countries? Does solving this
problem contribute to humanity, like landing a space ship on Mars? This single
word implies both the need for a solution and the forward momentum''the -ing''toward
a solution.
Now take 'A Problem:' The singular
issue that is in need of thoughtful time to solve for a particular population. This
word embeds the idea that it is a problem in the first place. Are the three
examples above all problems to solve? This is why when we see 'design thinking'
or 'innovation' applied to coffee cup holders or other less than worthy
problems worth solving, it dilutes the ideas of innovation and design.
Now, how do Stanford University and a
gentleman by the name of John Linehan play into this story?
John is a consulting professor at
Stanford University and professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern
University. He has helped design academic programs to enhance the
entrepreneurial vigor, design thinking and bio medical engineering practice. Essentially,
John has applied 'design thinking' to education in order to inform, educate and
inspire our future innovators. This only makes sense if you believe in the team
approach, which is best exemplified by Edison.
'Edison wasn't a narrowly specialized scientist but a broad
generalist with a shrewd business sense. In his Menlo Park, New Jersey,
laboratory he surrounded himself with gifted tinkerers, improvisers, and
experimenters. Indeed, he broke the mold of the 'lone genius inventor' by
creating a team-based approach to innovation.' ' Tim Brown, IDEO
John Linehan's approach forms the three
essential legs to build teams that are better able to 'solve a problem.' As one
of the top three decisions for a medical technology facing eventual FDA
approval, 'If you can't see a clear pathway through the
FDA, no reason to spend the money on it.'
'For instance, medical devices
solving significant problems like lowering high blood pressure through the use
of a catheter to the kidney. This is a technology Medtronic bought from a
Silicon Valley venture for 1.2 billion. Solving this problem requires very deep
pockets as evidenced by the fact that the technology is still not yet approved
by the FDA.'
John's approach to design an
education platform for the next generation of innovators is essential to a
formula embedded inside the phrase 'solving a problem.' John's approach is a
marvelous example of design and innovation going together so perfectly'like a
newspaper full of fish and chips. Thank you John for the insights into solving
gargantuan problems.
Managing Principal

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