The Alair Bronchial Catheter won its bronze in the Surgical Equipment, Instruments, and Supplies category. The Alair System and Bronchial Thermoplasty procedure is the first FDA-approved long term treatment to help control severe asthma, which affects over six million patients worldwide. The device delivers energy to the airway wall to reduce airway smooth muscle and is currently the only device-approach for treating asthma on the market.
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Read about it here.
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After a short introduction by the moderator, Bill discusses the opportunities and design approaches for
medical device manufacturers to create convergent products. For Bill, the way the term convergence is
used in this context is not the same as it might be used to describe a smart-phone that converges a
music player and PDA into itself. For him it’s about the convergence of consumer product design
thinking with medical device design thinking, creating products that delight users and exceed
Especially in highly competitive areas of medicine the biggest opportunity for device manufacturers is
to create more consumer product-like experiences for their users rather than just trying to leverage
consumer product technology. Certainly inexpensive color LCD screens and powerful processors help
in this convergence but it is not the only way. Medical devices without any electronics in them can
benefit from this thinking. Bill gives specific examples of products and describes where he gets his
inspiration for convergence and the design processes that are likely to be successful in achieving
such customer-satisfying devices..
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From our vantage point of spending a great deal of time in the field and always working on the next great medical product that’s 2 to 5 years away from release, we have an interesting relationship to medical product design trends. On the one hand we help establish the trends with the products we do. On other hand we observe changing cultural trends and incorporate those into our design thinking.
One of the larger trends we are seeing is that some of the thinking behind what makes a great consumer product is finding its way into forming medical products, especially those that are very patient-centric in their use. Nowhere is this more obvious than in application specific products where we have an opportunity to design for a much more specific group of users, the product can be designed for a much better patient experience without the need to be all-things to all users like many of the general medical products out there. To give an example of this trend and be able to show it now the Bridge ID team designed our interpretation of what an ultrasound device could be like in the near future. Our press release below.
San Francisco – April 6, 2009 – Bridge Design, Inc. - Portability is the fastest growing segment in the ultrasound market. Imagine fast-forwarding a few years when technology becomes less expensive and more powerful and compact. What would a birthing-specific ultrasound, designed specifically for the mother–to-be, look like?San Francisco-based Bridge Design has come up with an innovative, mother-centric device that focuses on making the ultrasound experience pleasant and hassle-free. The Stork provides a number of features not yet on the market, including a second display so the mother won’t have to strain her neck to look at the screen. It also allows the mother to email electronic images directly to family and friends from the device instead of receiving paper printouts. Unlike the average ultrasound machine, the Stork is unintimidating, even playful, with a flip screen and basket-like portability which contains “cup holders” for probe and gel. The Stork’s color, materials, and finishes forgo the clinical white and gray palette for a much more soothing birthing experience.Bridge’s Director of Industrial Design, Matt Presta, who also happens to be a parent, explains:“Any mother who has had an ultrasound is familiar with the cart of equipment, probes, gels, screens, printouts, and everything else that comes with it. And although the experience is necessary for clinical reasons, many parents just want to see their baby. For years, Bridge has observed trends clearly pointing towards designing for the patient’s experience. Since we’re still a few years away from seeing the tipping point of the patient-centric trend in health care, we wanted to provide a glimpse into the future based on what we’re seeing happening in the industry.”It’s worth noting that although this device has not yet been manufactured it reflects a trend that Bridge sees growing, with more application-specific medical products likely to appear at healthcare facilities in the not-too-distant future. “As a given technology matures, its cost and size typically shrinks. This opens up exciting possibilities to those forward-thinking medical equipment manufacturers who understand that if you change your design thinking to be more user and patient-centric, then new market opportunities can be created. Addressing baseline functionality and reliability at low cost is not enough to stay ahead of the game in mature markets,” says Presta.
A description of services can be found at http://www.bridgedesign.com. SOURCE Bridge Design, Inc. Contact Matt Presta of Bridge Design, Inc. +1-415-487-7100, ext 300, email@example.com
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How to improve your creativity and become more innovative in your organization.
Hello, my name is Bill Evans and I make my living as a designer of medical devices. But today I am going to talk to you about creativity. Before I begin in earnest I’d like to ask, how many of you would like to improve your own creativity? I think that there isn’t a walk of life that wouldn’t be improved by a more creative approach.
Witness these two radically different aspects of life – both of which might be characterized as areas one would not expect to find much creativity – but that demonstrate you can apply creativity anywhere to great effect. One example is for the good of mankind and the other didn’t turn out so good. On the left we have person who demonstrated in spades that the allegedly dullest profession on earth is indeed capable of great creativity – it is of course Jeff Skilling of Enron and his corrupt but creative accounting practices. And on the right is a man, Nelson Mandela, who took an aspect of war and conflict resolution, usually known for its blunt application of power and found a much more creative approach with his Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which has now become a model around the world for helping solve seemingly intractable conflicts between warring interest groups.
Now I know from my own interactions with medical device approvals that your professional society’s members are charged with running a tight research process to satisfy the rigors of the FDA and the scientific method. And you might say “what place does creativity have in the process? – it’s not a very important part of my job.” I would still argue that there are plenty of opportunities to apply creativity, whether it is in structuring innovative trials that shorten the approval cycle, or in observing the trial in progress and making creative connections with what you observe to allow the product development team to either fix design problems that are hindering the products success in the field, or to creatively see ways that you can tell them what to consider as improvements for the next generation products.
I know from my own experience that it is the eyes and ears of the field researchers who actually put in the hours observing device users at work who often can have the most insight into what could be better in the future. I wish more engineers spent more time in the field – products would be so much more usable.
Many of you just indicated that you’d like to be more creative. The truth is that most of you used to be much more creative than you are now. Creativity tests (yes they do exist) show that at age 5 most children score highly in creativity, yet by the time they get to 8th grade their creativity scores have dropped considerably. They’ve had it knocked out of them so they can get through all this rational linear education process. That creative ability is still inside every one of us, and I don’t mean that we’ll all quit our day jobs and end up playing our instruments in Carnegie Hall, hanging our art in MOMA or signing our best seller in Barnes and Noble.
What I am going to describe today is a number of simple activities you can do that will help you unlock the creativity inside of you. You never know: maybe there will be a few second careers as a result of it (that new mystery novel about the machinations of the FDA is going to be a best seller for sure.) But what I know for certain is that as you unlock this side of yourself, you’ll become that little bit more effective in your work and enjoy things in your personal life you thought you left behind many years ago. As Sponge Bob Square Pants said, “It’s about ‘Imagination’.”
The skills that unlock creativity are often about seeing things anew, listening to what people say with a different kind of attention, quieting your own internal voice that keeps trying to direct you in old ways and observing the non-verbal aspects of communication. I hope you can see that all of these things have relevance to what we all do every day, and today I intend to describe a number of things you can practically do to help develop these qualities in yourself.
For this talk to be effective I am going to ask each of you to make a commitment. Ask yourself what kind of educational experience you want. Is it a high, medium or low risk experience? And I say “risk” as being creative or innovating anything always carries potential risk of failure as well as the reward of success. Paradoxically part of succeeding at creativity involves occasionally failing on your way to success (and I’ve failed at a ton of things I’ve tried). This might make you uncomfortable, especially as you are probably used to succeeding in what you do now. This is yet another barrier to unlocking this ability inside of you, get used to the discomfort as creativity is a messy business, becoming good at it means sticking your neck out and risking the embarrassment of failure – but it’s worth it. Is it high, medium or low risk experience? And don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to embarrass yourselves in front of your colleagues here today!
Now I’m going to suggest a number of things you can do to unlock your creativity muscle. Those of you that wanted a high risk experience just agreed to do at least two of the things on this list, the medium risk people agreed to do one and the low risk people need to re-examine their risk tolerance if they are ever going to unlock the potential I know they’ve got inside of themselves.
My first suggestion is:
Learn to Draw
Some of you may well already draw “realistically”. Kids love to draw and as they go through developmental stages their drawing changes. There is a point at about 10-12 years old where kids either make the transition to draw things realistically or they tend to get stuck drawing in a representative fashion.
If you got stuck at the representative level (and most of us did) then probably what has happened is that the “rational” side of your brain is overpowering the part of your brain that could see the way something actually looks and instead keeps drawing the house or the face in a fairly unsophisticated way.
Many of you will have heard this type of explanation before as the right-brain left-brain argument. The research goes that the left brain processes and controls the rational, analytical and objective parts of us, while the right brain processes the intuitive, random and subjective parts.
Back in the late 70s an art educator named Betty Edwards decided to do something with this research and wrote her best seller on learning to draw: “Drawing On the Right Side of Your Brain.” I’m glad she did because I used it to teach myself to draw before going to art school and now that I find myself in a room full of people who are probably very left-brained I can present a rational left-brained argument as to why you can all learn to draw (or perhaps at nearly 5 o’clock on a Friday, I mean I am in a room full of people whose brains have left – you decide.)
Betty Edwards’ argument is very simple and she is able to demonstrate her hypothesis to you with a couple of simple exercises that I thoroughly recommend you try.
What she says is that if you have not yet made the transition to drawing realistically you need to learn how to quiet the left-brain part of yourself and switch on the right side. And she has an outrageously simple trick to demonstrate to you that you can draw.
Here is one of the illustrations she uses. It’s a sketch of Stravinsky by Picasso. She says “Copy it” but only allows you to look at the cartoon upside down. It’s hard to make heads or tails our of this sketch upside down so in my experience (and I’ve tried this with many people) when people are asked to copy it upside down they focus on copying the lines by actually looking at them very carefully and reasonably faithfully reproducing them – they may get the proportions a little wrong and stretch the image here and there but on the whole after about 10 minutes of trying to copy it they are very surprised when they turn their line drawing up the right way and see they’ve done a pretty good job – “Good grief – I can draw after all!”
From this example Edwards goes on to refine your way of looking at things with a string of equally simple exercises. She’ll have you drawing faces with just the shadows, or trying to draw your hand with your eyes shut just by feeling what it looks like.
I grew up like many of you in this room from a pretty left-brained educational process and this book really worked for me. I found that the more I looked at what was actually there the more I saw and the more able I was to represent it. I could spend hours in a life drawing class focusing on a small detail. Time would pass by without my being aware of it – it was a different state of mind.
Sure I learned to draw but I also took away a very important new way of looking at the world that helps me every day.
Learn to draw - and you learn to see things more as they are.
Do A Creative Writing Class
I am sure many of you have to write quite a lot for your work. And perhaps some FDA submissions might qualify as works of fiction…. But for those of you that skipped that creative writing class 101 (and we have no such thing in my native England) I would suggest that trying your hand at some creative writing is another great way of unlocking some more of your innate creativity.
For this I recommend doing a group class as not only will a good teacher tailor the feedback to each student’s ability but also it allows you to deal with another important part of the creative process – that is dealing with the risk of putting your creative product out there and not having it well received by your fellow classmates. All of us have a fear of failure, of being embarrassed that whatever you did was not good enough, of finding out something you thought was a funny idea maybe isn’t funny to anyone else. Personally I have this little demon sitting on my shoulder whenever I am doing anything you might call creative and he gives me a running criticism of what I’m doing wrong – I have to keep smacking him down to shut him up. This fear can sometimes stop us from trying to stretch out and exercise that creativity muscle. And of course as you try and stretch out in new creative ways as an adult you are often asking yourself to start at such a basic level you feel like a one-year-old taking its first stumbling steps. It’s potentially embarrassing – get over it; you’re probably better at creative writing than you think and the paradox of exposing yourself to potential failure is that you’ll probably meet success sooner than you think (sure you’ll fall over sometimes too).
For those of you that haven’t tried creative writing I know what you’re thinking. “Woe is me” – what an earth am I going to write about creatively. Well just like the Betty Edwards trick of upside down drawing, a good creative writing class will start with simple tricks to un-freeze that 8 year old story teller inside of you. (Did you ever notice what good story tellers and dwellers in fantasy land kids are – yet when we get to adulthood most of us seem to have lost the ability to want to make stuff up.)
Here’s some tricks I’ve observed:
A sneaky teacher will do something like this – throw up a big list of words and ask you to pick 10 words you like. You think this is a random list and without too much consideration for what might happen to the words you pick 10 probably unrelated words you like. You might think “the teacher will ask us why we choose these” or some other such stuff. Of course the teacher is being sneaky to get you over the woe-is-me hurdle – she then ask you to write a prose poem that uses all the 10 words; you’ve got 10 minutes now write!
You didn’t choose the 10 words to go together, yet alone to frame a poem around. The result is that you are caught off guard, and forced to be creative with your seemingly unconnected words. It’s a short exercise that often produces some amusing or clever little vignettes from the class – sure some of them don’t work but everyone gets a chance in a short space of time to write something original AND creative. I’ve heard of variations on this like the teacher dumping out a big box of seemingly unrelated bric-a-brac and asking everyone in the group to take two things from the pile that look interesting – “Now write 200 words connecting these two objects in a story” – you get the idea. Get over the hurdle of what to write about and instead just write –you’ll be surprised at your creative ability.
My personal favorite is the assignment to choose a “found” kind of writing form like a menu, an instruction book, a guarantee, a classified advertisement and write something creatively interpreting and re-purposing that form. One of the students who was a city guide in San Francisco used postcards and wrote short snap shots of exaggerated tourist-speak that she had to put up with each day in her job…. This writer is now a good way through writing a children’s book inspired in part by her success in this class.
The important thing to note about creative writing is that it’s impossible to do it without having to think about the subject in new ways, with a fresh pair of eyes so to speak, by thinking around the subject not necessarily thinking about it head on. And then once you’ve thought about it you’ve then got to communicate this new creative thought to your readers clearly and engagingly.
So it’s a two-fer:
Do A Creative Writing Class – and you’ll improve the way you observe and understand things as well as the way you try and communicate these things to other people.
You may never get published in that literary journal, but you’ll have worked that creativity muscle a little more and that next 50 page report will be that little bit better of a read and based on a broader way of understanding the issues.
Do an Improv Workshop
I got the idea for this section from my experience at an improv workshop with Steve Portigal.
I know what you are thinking; you work in a field where the last thing in the world you want to be doing is making stuff up as you go along. But that’s only one way of looking at what doing a little bit of improv can bring to your everyday life. In reality it has a lot to offer us about listening and observing as well as exercising that creativity muscle some more.
Contrary to the name of the popular chain of comedy clubs, improv is not stand-up comedy. Stand-up is typically highly scripted and rehearsed. And despite its anything-goes reputation, improv is a form of performance that is in fact highly restrained but with several open parameters. It is unscripted and the specific restraints and themes of the performance are typically assigned right before the performance is started. It does not necessarily try to be funny, but “funny” tends to happen. In teaching how to do it they say, “Your first idea is often your best idea” and when you’re starting to dry up try “yes, and….”
Like creativity, improv is spontaneous at its core, but like all these exercises designed to improve your creativity it can of course be taught, exercised and improved. To see what improv can do for you is something that you have to experience by doing. It is of course best demonstrated with simple examples (more of these tricks to fool you into being creative). This is where we come to the section of my talk you’ve all been dreading when I ask for audience participation. It is after all nearly 5 o’clock on a Friday so it’s time to let our hair down a little bit.
Now this exercise is not about acting or prancing about on stage, instead it’s a simple short word game and I promise there is no sting in the tail. I need 6 volunteers to come on stage and form a simple line.
Your job is to tell a story and the audience is going to give you your subject. The rules are simple – each of you can only add one word to the story at a time and then the next person in line adds the next word and then back to the start of the line. Remember – “Your first idea is often your best” and the old trick of “yes, and….” You can decide to finish the sentence or start a new one. The point is that this group of 6 people are collectively telling the story, it belongs to all of you not just one of you. You might say, “I-Just-cycled-around-Stanley-Park.”
Here is the topic (and this is SoCRA’d):
Name a type of thing in a hospital operating room –
A person’s name –
A city in Canada -
OK the story must include these words somewhere (OR thing, person, city), it can be one sentence or many, but you’ve each got to add one word only at a time. If you feel the group is getting stuck just end that sentence or thought and start a new one.
OK go (OR thing, person, city).
Now you’ve seen this demonstration what did people observe – those that participated as well as those watching?
My observations: you’ve got to let go to make it work, the more you focus on your own impending word opportunity the more frozen you can become. You’ve got the stand back a little and listen to the whole rather than on the part immediately before you. The group owns the story not you.
Now I only had time for one very short exercise and there are many more that could be done to make all sorts of points about words and observations.
The main lesson for me when I did some of these exercises is that it really demonstrates how complex listening (and observing) are. How
we can really get in our own way of hearing or seeing what is really going on. So much of what I do when I go out into the field to interact with healthcare professionals is about trying the figure out what they actual do, what they expect my potential new design to do and how to deal with the very difficult subject of trying to understand what “could be” instead of “what has been.” You in the room are often working on new stuff and you know full well the difficulties of, on the one hand, users having to change their habits and on the other of the development team seeing that those great ideas they had back in the lab are not as great as they first thought.
A key to unlocking a better understanding of these issues is to become a better listener and observer of what your users are trying to communicate to you.
An important skill is that you have to learn to be comfortable with silence, creating gaps to let the person you are questioning fill them in without them getting subliminal prompts from you to chase the conversation along in your direction.
Do an Improv Workshop – and you’ll become a better listener (and observer but we didn’t get to that exercise today…)
I am sure many of you in this room play or have played a musical instrument, so this part will be more familiar to you. Probably fewer have played improvised music and it’s the improvising part and its role in creativity that I am most interested in talking about today.
Those that don’t play an instrument are thinking, how on earth can I improvise on an instrument if I haven’t a clue how to play it in the first place. “This is going to take me years to achieve”.
Wrong – just like all the other creativity exercises suggested here today there are some simple tricks that in minutes will have you unlocking the improviser within.
Music does not have to have complex tonal and rhythmic arrangements to be music. It can be very simple. The trick is to pick instruments that have minimal technical skills required to play them. The easiest place to start of course is with rhythm and use simple percussion instruments, but actually there are many simply instruments to use and there is a whole body of educational approaches encompassed in the Orff music teaching methods.
Many of us, especially from the boomer generation like me, faced a music education that got bogged down quickly in technique and theory instead of letting us have a ton of fun messing around making music. The result was that we gave it up young. Hang on a minute didn’t that also happen with all those wonderful creative things we used to do as kids and have now given up – there’s a theme here….
The beauty of improvising music as a group is that within minutes of starting to play it will become apparent to you how powerful non-verbal communication can be in creating something. You can’t talk to your fellow performers but you’ll often end up going in new directions together, you’ll build to an intensity and then lay back slowly all without uttering a single word (and often without the need for any overt gestures either). It’s all about anticipation, expectation, surprise etc all these qualities (often contradictory) will inject something into the improvisation to make it unique and interesting. Of course jazz relies on this form – but it’s by no means the only music to do this.
In fact if you liked the stuff earlier on left-brain right-brain then this is another activity that is a very pronounced right brain skill. When I play music with others I am incapable of talking, although of course it’s easy to sing along! The act of improvising with others truly takes you mind to a different place – but of course like many of the topics we’ve discussed today, you’ve got to let go to get something back.
A drum circle is the easiest way to try it. At this point I have of course gone beyond the pale – I am from California, I’ve worked on you to do all this touchy feely stuff like drawing, creative writing and embarrassed you with improv and now you want me to drum? Pleaaase…. You’ll be breaking out the absinthe next (which by the way is legal in Canada but I don’t recommend it.)
I warned you that creativity was a messy business.
For those reluctant to join into an intimate musical event they have invented the perfect safety-in-numbers version. The Giant Drum Circle.
With sometimes as many as a hundred participants you can have a fairly-low-risk-of –embarrassment experience. Shown here is a drum circle typical of what you might find at Carnivals around the various Latino communities. A good leader (and you need a great leader to bring out the best in any team) will organize the percussionists and slowly introduce the various rhythmic patterns that you’ll be using. You really don’t need to know anything about drumming or music. The leaders will use call-and response techniques straight out of the roots of music in many ancient tribal events. (see on this video). From the mother singing to the swaddled baby to the farmers working in the fields calling out rhymes, the call-and-response is the easiest way to learn.
A typical drum circle will build a base rhythm over perhaps 5 or 10 minutes and then give people room to improvise on top of this. It gives you a chance to get comfortable with the “pulse” so you can stretch out and play some rhythmic counter points on top of the basics. You may not be comfortable at first, but as the words of the proverb and country song go, “You got to dance like nobody's watching.” Especially in smaller groups you will be amazed how much the music breathes, changing gradually with a distinct form that was never written down and never verbalized to change – yet the group is somehow able to react to each other’s contributions and create something greater than the sum of the parts. Your best music will be when you let go and let the group’s music take you with it.
Brainstorming is a form of creativity that is very close to improvising or “jamming”. A successful session has very similar characteristics. It may be verbalized or not. It is possible to “riff” on someone else’s ideas (to steal from musical jargon). A person might suggest a humorous and not very practical idea that injects some laughs, and with the right group of people who are good at not being critical, one of the group members might immediately create a more serious response that “riffs” on the humorous idea but is new in a way that might be more practical. Who owns the ideas? Didn’t the band create the tune? That’s the whole point of good brainstorming, it truly is the group’s idea. Ask the patent lawyers what they think of that one!
It is actually possible to teach people to be better at brainstorming - and I do that from time to time and have written of my experiences here…
Play improvised music with other people – and learn the power of non-verbal communication in creativity and life.
The final lines of this come from a song called "Come From The Heart" recorded by Kathy Mattea, written by Susanna Clark & Richard Leigh.
You got to sing like you don't need the money
Love like you'll never get hurt
You got to dance like nobody's watchin’
It's gotta come from the heart if you want it to work.
There is theme here:
Creativity and innovation are risky but potentially rewarding activities that are very paradoxical:
You risk rejection –to get accepted
You’ve got to let go – to catch something
There isn’t a day goes by where I don’t find that some of the skills I’ve picked up at being creative don’t help inform and improve what I do – whether in my personal or business life.
I was teaching a new researcher the skills of interviewing healthcare professionals just this week and remembered what my improv workshop had taught me about listening.
I watched a bronchoscopist at work with a tricky new interventional procedure when the whole room was riveted to the endoscope video screen I was looking at his hands – observing carefully the nuance of the motion and noting where he was getting frustrated and what his fingers were doing when all around were pointing to the video screen.
In writing a field report about how we could design a new painkiller pump that reduced medical error I pondered hard a paragraph trying to explain how the interaction between human nature and technology could be made more forgiving to the human side of the equation and figured out how to communicate this complex analysis with few words and great clarity, so an upper manager with little field experience could see why it might be worth spending half a million dollars to create software to improve this situation.
As I sat interviewing a person with a chronic disease explain how they lived with their condition I paid closer attention to their body language to better understand what parts of living with their disease made them the most anxious.
All skills I have homed through practicing some creative arts, I hope you find them as useful as I do.
Don’t forget the promise you made at the beginning. Is it to be one or two of these suggestions you try? Please email me with your experiences or feedback – I’d love to know how you get on. Thank you for listening to me today.
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Innovation is important to companies' competitiveness and their ability to create medical products that will improve the lives of customers. In the last 15 years, medical manufacturers have seen many trends aiming to improve their products. But total quality or six-sigma environments sometimes feel more like regimes. Design has also been touted as a savior, and OEMs are often beseeched to listen to the voice of the customer. Such trends attempt to give companies tools, processes, and management structures to improve their ability to innovate.
Company culture is one of the main reasons well-meaning eff o rts to innovate have failed. In many ways, being innovative is a state of mind that must suffuse throughout an organization. Obviously, leadership that allows this state of mind to thrive starts at the top. Sometimes midlevel managers cannot affect the top as quickly as they might like—but they can nurt u re their development teams. The cultural factors within a company that are most likely to lead to innovation include many things that make most people uncomfortable: taking risk, the possibility of failure, bucking conventional wisdom, and the democracy of ideas. Innovation is an inherently risky process. To innovate, manufacturers need to explore ideas and potential solutions, and sometimes that exploration takes a direction that inevitably leads to failure .
But it does not matter that there are occasional failures; in fact, it is inherent in the creative process. What is important is that the members of the development teams are encouraged to put new and sometimes radical ideas out in front of the team.
We have all met an R&D engineer who is a perfectionist, who labors for weeks to get an idea right before sharing it with other team members. Certainly great ideas can come from this approach. However, it is just as likely that valuable time and resources will be wasted pursuing a specific solution with an inappropriate amount of engineering sophistication. Regardless of how crude or polished a prototype is, it can easily be sunk by a faulty premise about what is right for the market.
Who Is to Blame for That Great Idea?
Shifting a business from a blame culture to a healthy, risk-taking culture is difficult. Doing so is all about another important dimension of company culture: the people.
It is inevitable that a team leader will ask for a few miracles and, as the joke goes, these will take a little longer. But when the entire team understands the bigger project goals both technically and from a business perspective, and it is plausible that with a little extra effort these goals can be grasped, people rally to meet the objective.One thing that helps a team’s motivation is to be in touch with customers. This can be achieved by talking to them, watching them work, reading their journals, going to their trade shows, and hiring some of them. The team then becomes aligned with the customers’ needs much more fluidly. Don’t restrict this contact to a select few; it should be spread around. Also, it’s important to include the cost and time of customer contact travel into a project.
Get Critical of Criticism
At a more personal level, management and team leaders must eliminate the tendency to be critical of both themselves and other team members when ideas initially come up. This opportunity certainly arises in brainstorming sessions, where team members are exhorted to suspend criticism. In that context, discipline is easy to enforce.
For example, imagine new, bright technical hires that join the project team and get exposed to such critical remarks. They quickly learn what it takes to fit in. They either conform and lose that desire to push for the new and risky, or eventually seek more fertile pastures elsewhere.
Thinking of those bright new hires brings up the question of who will have the best ideas and how much weight should be given to each person’s opinions and ideas, considering factors such as experience, seniority, and education. The best ideas can come from anyone, and in trying to break the mold, team leaders must beware the so-called wise expert.
Do not dismiss ideas from team members who are either inexperienced or not technicians (such as marketing people). Instead, critical thoughts should be turned into insights about how to build on the seeds of the good ideas that often come from nontechnical people. It is really the whole team that creates the product.
Japanese industry from the 1970s onward showed the power of the democracy of ideas. Driven by its relentless pursuit of quality with methods taught by W. Edwards Deming, the country demonstrated that everyone who is involved in the creation of a p roduct has the power to influence it positively. The quality circles made famous by the Japanese automotive industry allowed the traditionally unheard production workers a voice in product improvements that led to globally competitive and highly reliable automobiles. Even though one rarely sees these circles written about today, there is still much that the average product development team can learn from the core idea: those closest to the problem are often the best able to suggest solutions.
The type of people who are hired for development teams is also crucial. What is perhaps surprising is the notion that some highly innovative and focused individuals might have had checkered academic success, degrees from diff e rent areas (liberal arts and technical majors), or résumés with unfamiliar jobs or extended foreign travel experience.
For management positions, companies often hire people who have had a very linear and predictable path. Certainly such people are talented and have worked hard for their success. However, they may never have really grappled with adversity. Organizations staffed this way are often highly risk averse and poor at innovation.
Innovation is nonlinear by nature. People who have experienced hardships and have learned how to multitask and deal with adversity are often able to think cre atively. Individuals who had diverse interests at school may bring more breadth to a project team. Time spent traveling abroad in different cultures may give people a head start in understanding differing customer and cultural practices, which would be expensive and timeconsuming to learn about otherwise. Famously, both Bill Gates and Michael Dell dropped out of school. In the medical arena, Thomas Fogert y, a cardiologist and prolific medical innovator whose first invention was the angioplasty balloon, worked his way through his early medical education in an auto repair shop. He made his first angioplasty balloon from the finger of a rubber glove tied to a thin tube with knots gleaned from his fly-fishing abilities.
Insiders versus Outsiders
Lastly we come to the importance of NIH. This is not the National Institutes of Health, but the much more common dampener of innovation: the not- invented- here syndrome. Increasingly, progressive companies realize that they need to seek innovation both near and far. This means consulting with outsiders to gain insights, technologies, and new processes to help reseed their idea pastures.
Medical device companies often think of themselves as being focused on their core technologies. As a result, they sometimes ignore or are reluctant to enter new markets because they lack important pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes they know they are missing the pieces; sometimes they don’t. Outsiders have different vision. If chosen carefully, they can help a development team find the necessary pieces.
Some medical manufacturers are now using external advisory boards to help guide product design by better connecting the technical team with trends in the marketplace and providing frequent reviews of the developments in progress. Other companies are seeking outside help to tune their innovation process.
Creativity is a muscle. It has to be exercised to make it more effective. Thinking outside the box requiresteam members to get out of the box called the office more often. Changing company culture begins with individuals, but it is greatly improved if an organization feeds its employees the proper creative juices. It’s important to cast wide for inspiration and look for it in new places. Seek input from people both senior and junior to you, and pick your next team hire with slightly different criteria from the previous one, looking more closely at the extracurricular activities portion of a résumé.
People who create innovative ideas never come to work in the morning and say, “Now I’ll begin the innovation process for today.” Most of them never stop thinking creatively, fro m their hobbies to their approach to parenting. As management guru Peter Drucker said, “The greatest praise an innovation can receive is for people to say, ‘This is obvious. Why didn’t I think of it?’” In the right culture, you will think of it.
1. M ary Walton, The Deming Management Method (New York City: Putnam, 1986).
2 . H e n ry W Chesbrough, Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Te chnology (Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing Press,
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How does a medical device company create a new product for a well-established market when a handful of competitors seem to have sewn it up? This was the problem facing Smiths Medical MD, (Minneapolis USA) who had recently successfully entered the diabetes market with an insulin pump and were looking to create a new infusion set for the same market. How could this new infusion set be made compelling enough to move customers entrenched with the competitive offerings over to a new product?
This article uses the case study of the design of this infusion set to illustrate how designers and engineers can best refine their design process to create new products that both benefit consumers and make their companies more competitive in the global marketplace. Although it is focused on a new medical device,the design process described here can be used across many product types that have a high degree of human interaction, ranging from consumer and automotive through a wide variety of industrial and scientific equipment markets, ensuring that a product is beneficial for users without sacrificing the company’s competitiveness.
Living with Diabetes
To understand this product challenge it is necessary to understand how patients currently manage their diabetes. Type 1 diabetes, also previously referred to as juvenile or child onset diabetes, is a condition where people stop producing their own insulin. Insulin is a hormone that controls humans’ ability to regulate the flow of glucose in their blood. If a person looses this control, their blood sugar oscillates wildly according to many factors including what they eat, how they exercise and if they are sick. Such a lack of control over blood glucose leads to many life threatening complications such as loss of limbs and sight, and leads to shorter life expectancy for the millions of people with diabetes. Although much research is centered on finding one, there is currently no cure available. In the meantime people with diabetes have to control their blood sugar by taking regular doses of insulin, often in the form of multiple daily injections using simple hypodermic syringes.What is an Insulin Infusion Set?
Increasingly, diabetes professionals and patients are recognizing the value of using a small programmable pump to infuse regular amounts of insulin directly.The programmability of the pump and the user’s ability to routinely adjust, or titrate, the dose of insulin allows people much greater control over their blood glucose levels. It also has the added advantage that users do not have to stick themselves multiple times with a needle. Instead they insert a small plastic tube, known as a cannula, into the midriff region of their bodies and let the insulin be pumped in exactly when needed. This connection, known as an infusion set, is typically worn 24 hours a day held on by an adhesive patch, and is disposable, with changes necessary about every 3 days. The cannula has to be introduced into the body with a small needle to help it reach the region of fat just beneath the skin (known as subcutaneous fat). After insertion the needle is withdrawn and disposed of. A thin plastic tube then connects this infusion site with the pump.
How can we make the new product compelling?
To really cater to a user, you have to understand exactly what it is like to live with the disease. This is the premise with which Smiths approached the design of their infusion set. They asked the question “How could this new infusion set be made compelling enough to move customers entrenched with competitive offerings over to a new product?” Just doing a “me-too” product in the £XM diabetes infusion set market was not likely to win customers over or help the management at Smiths justify the significant R&D expense of a new offering.
Smiths immediately set about creating a small core team of about eight people to begin the development. This was a cross-functional team with mechanical and manufacturing engineers as well as product marketing people. Smiths medical also partnered with an industrial design firm, Bridge Design, at the very beginning of the project to ensure the team was rounded out and to take advantage of Bridge’s previous experience with developing Smiths market winning Insulin pump (Cozmo). The project started with all members on board and a team leader, Tim Bresina, who, although from a manufacturing engineering background, had a broad perspective on what it takes to develop successful medical devices and a real appreciation for what the various disciplines in his charge could do collectively to allow innovation to flourish. Team members often bring preconceptions or pet solutions to the problem they are trying to solve. This is inevitable, but before any serious work began on this project the team set about calibrating their understanding of two crucial things; what diabetics want and to benchmark the competitive landscape.
The “Deep Dive” into the Customers Mindset
To understand users, Smiths had three exploratory submarines in its fleet, all of which were important in taking a “deep dive” into the customer’s mindset. Firstly, its connection and understanding of its present customers was a valuable data point. Smiths had a nascent Diabetes business and a maturing understanding of its customers that were currently buying an OEM infusion set that Smiths branded and sold. The marketing people on the team normally worked in this marketplace, and were thus able to bring this perspective. Secondly, Smiths had assembled a couple of external advisory boards consisting of various types of healthcare professionals such as Endocrinologists (the medical doctor specialists for Diabetes) and Certified Diabetes Educators (CDEs) who are the nurse practitioners who work directly with patients to help them get better control of their blood glucose levels. Regular meetings with these advisory panels helped the team understand emerging trends, providing a forum for rapid feedback on product development ideas. With a patient’s purchasing decision influenced by a mix of doctor, CDE and peer referral, as well as the medical insurers or healthcare systems willingness to cover the cost of specific products, the market for infusion sets is complex. As Smiths was targeting a global market, they used ethnographic research to “get under the skin” of what people with diabetes really desired in the ideal infusion set –and this proved extremely important. Ethnographic research is a technique of observing and interacting with people to gain a deep understanding of their needs, including needs that the users might have a hard time articulating. There are many ways of doing this research and they vary according the nature of the problem. Smiths enlisted the industrial designers from Bridge Design to do the ethnographic research for Cleo but also made a point of sending along a few of their engineers and marketing people to observe. Bridge recruited about 50 people with diabetes of various backgrounds and ages all of whom were currently using infusion sets. To ensure a good spread of feedback three different geographic regions of the USA were chosen.
Briefing the Team – Getting the Voice of the Customer into the product design process
A few core members of the team then set about preparing for an intense two day team briefing and brainstorming session where about eight team members from all the different disciplines would meet off-site for focused idea generating sessions. The focus of the sessions was not on solving a narrow set of technical issues. Instead it was on understanding the users’ needs for the product and using that insight to focus the whole group on a series of questions that were carefully crafted to elicit design ideas that attempted to meet those user needs.
Prior to the two-day session, various team members also did some preliminary brainstorming around a sub-set of technical issues. The mechanical engineers from Smiths developed some interesting ideas for sprung mechanisms to assist with extracting the needle from the cannula after it is inserted through the skin.
Bridge Design went out and did some shopping for the project, spending about a day scouring the aisles of supermarkets, drug stores, toy emporiums etc. The designers found many interesting products that could be used in the brainstorming to stimulate the team. Bridge design hosted the meeting in San Francisco and compiled a two-hour briefing presentation for the team. This briefing gathered all the research, including the ethnographies, benchmarking of competitive products and inputs from marketing and the advisory boards. All team members were encouraged to contribute their own experiences and research to the briefing–exposing the entire team to diverse opinions and interpretations of what the customers wanted. However, with a large patent estate already surrounding infusion technology, the team also had to consider what solutions would be out-of-bounds due to pre-existing intellectual property.
The team then set about debating what the customer requirements were. It is important to understand that users will not always articulate fully their hopes for what a new product might be like. People are very good at judging products and solutions that are already created; they are not good at imagining “What could be”. Therefore in debating the customer requirements the group was trying to get to the very basics of what customers want as well as what they need, which is why it was so important to involve a diverse group who had all had some kind of customer contact. In the case of a medical product, such as the Cleo, the customer is broader then just a typical user, as the opinions of healthcare and insurance professionals also need to be considered.
To organize and prioritize the list of requirements, which were deliberately stated very simply, a scoring system of 1, 3 or 9 points was used. This scoring system was set up to polarize the scores around some big number differences as arguing about whether a feature merits a score of 4 or 5 does not force a team to make bold decisions about what really matters to the users.The team also debated other factors such as the users’ current satisfaction with these types of products and the potential impact of meeting a particular requirement to improving sales. For instance users expect a medical product to be reliable so this would have a neutral effect on sales, whereas creating a highly integrated device (insertion, adhesion, needle safety etc) would be a big plus for sales so is scored more highly. The purpose of the customer requirement ranking exercise was not to get the scoring ‘exactly right’. Instead it is an exercise that takes about two hours and is about the team debating,arguing and reaching an understanding of what these requirements actually mean to users.
This technique is a highly simplified adaptation of a system for product development known as QFD (Quality Function Deployment) that is often used in six-sigma types of product development environments. In practice this author feels that although QFD may be of value on very complex product development processes it is too cumbersome and frankly a very boring way of getting a development team excited about the product possibilities. But stealing a few of its techniques and simplifying them are useful. (For a more detailed explanation of this brainstorming process see the article “Beyond Brainstorming” on http://www.devicelink.com/mddi/archive/04/09/013.html)
What the team learned from users was that they valued good old convenience and reduction in the steps to use the product. Children and some adults also expressed a dislike of handling the needles required to help insert the set. The requirements in this chart capture the essence of what the team felt customers wanted and importantly give some dimensions to the criteria rather than just blandly stating things like "convenient to use”. This is a much more useful place to launch into a creative brainstorming session than trying to plough through a detailed 50 page customer requirements document.
Setting up the Brainstorming Questions
Next the team set about creating a very pointed group of about six questions that would be used to focus the idea creation process. This is a skilled task as the questions have to highlight the customer needs without limit or suggesting possible solutions.
The brainstorming itself consisted of about six half hour intense ideation sessions spread over nearly a whole day. Each mini-brainstorm was structured around a particular question centered on an essential customer requirement; ie “How can we reduce & speed steps in the insertion process?” The whole process of being immersed in the design issues off-site over a two-day period really focused the team’s efforts. Keeping the actual sessions as short sharp bursts of creative energy with rest periods of at least ten minutes between sessions also helped keep the team fresh. Rather than using large white boards or cumbersome flip charts the group used small easily manageable “idea sheets” to sketch or write down their ideas and share them with the team before posting them on the wall. All the usual rules of brainstorming were applied and the team was encouraged to turn any critical thoughts they may have into new insights, building on both other team members’ ideas as well as generating new ones.
One Idea a Minute
The result was that the team created about 200 idea sheets with innovative solutions focused by the careful preparation. The Smiths engineers shared mechanism ideas with the team and it further stimulated ways of using the mechanisms with a very user-centric appeal. A smaller group of designers at Bridge Design then took the group’s efforts and sorted the ideas into three categories – Hot, Maybe and Not. As many readers are aware, successful brainstorming tends to focus on creating a large number of ideas rather than fewer higher quality suggestions. This session produced a solid collection of ideas that were truly “Hot” with an equal number that were mediocre. Once the best ideas were sorted through it became clear that there were a number of innovative solutions that could be synthesized into different product concepts.
The Whole is Greater than the sum of the parts
In all, about 6 different concepts were explored and the one that offered the most advantages was pursued and engineered by the Smiths team.
The design attributes are:
• Users told us that step reduction was an important goal so the final product is the first all-inone system: sterile packaging, inserter and needle safe disposal container and reduces the insertion steps from about 15 to only 3. The adhesive patch does not require stripping as it is protected inside the disposable. The user simply unscrews the cap and gently presses the unit into their skin at a speed convenient to them. At the end of the insertion stroke, a spring returns the insertion needle up inside the container into a needle safe location.
• Cleo hides the needle from sight for ease of mind and perceived pain reduction.
• The “on-body” part was made smaller and adjustable to fit any infusion or pump location.• Cleo is a discreet non-medical looking product that uses a classis bottle “rip-top” appearance to help cue users that this is a disposable product.
You can view a short video of the insertion process here. You can find more consumer information about the Cleo here.
Often engineering education focuses on the functional aspects of a product. In medical product design this is often thought of as how medically efficacious the product is. Unfortunately, in practice this view tends to disregard a broader user perspective – “How can you make this product easier for me to use”. In this context “easier” can mean many things. New medical procedures often require users to change their habits, ergonomics and visual cues, instead of making a new procedure seem like a logical progression from something that they are already familiar with, which can really make adoption easier. An attractive product which appears non-threatening is also effective when trying to help children better manage diseases like diabetes.
The process that Smiths adopted for Cleo was really focused on getting these softer, user desired qualities into the product. It is possible to go back through the project history and see user comments that asked for certain attributes and then follow a trail through the design process to see how those insights really motivated the team to turn their technical skills in the most useful direction. It is also possible to say that everyone on the team contributed to the design. Ideas were built upon; inspiring technical solutions came from the process. And, if a technical block was met along the path to implementation, the engineers at Smiths were highly motivated to overcome them as they had a good understanding of what their customers wanted, providing them with a sense of satisfaction of knowing that when they got the job done they would have made diabetes just that little bit easier to live with!
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