Dreams and Innovation

Greetings. If you happened to read the New York Times last Wednesday, you might have noticed a fascinating article about a new idea that could save the lives of countless newborns in developing countries and significantly reduce the number of births by cesarean section in affluent ones. An idea that also tells us a lot about the process of innovation and role that casting a wider net and then making powerful connections plays.

The idea is called the “Odon Device” and it is designed as a tool for those times in childbirth when babies get stuck in the birth canal. But it wasn’t created by a doctor or a leading medical device company or research lab. Instead, it was developed by an Argentine automotive mechanic named Jorge Odon who was inspired, subconsciously it seems, after watching a YouTube video of someone extracting a cork stuck in a wine bottle. It was a simple trick that led him in a dream (or waking from a dream) to make a direction connection with the challenge posed by obstructed labor “when a baby’s head is too large or an exhausted mother’s contractions stop” and baby and mother are quickly at great risk. Using his device, “an attendant slips a plastic bag inside a lubricated plastic sleeve around the head, inflates it to grip the head and pulls the bag until the baby emerges.” It is a very promising alternative to the more traditional and potentially hazardous use of forceps or suctions cups or simply doing nothing in cases and places where C-sections are not an option.

You can learn more about this breakthrough in the NYTimes article. And you and your colleagues might also use this story as a powerful reminder that we all have the ability to be curious, make new connections, and put ideas together that at first blush don’t seem to belong. Ideas sparked by strangers in another aspect of life that might cause us to think in new ways about the challenges faced by us or others.

Ideas that matter.

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We win in business, healthcare, and life when make powerful connections…even when those connections are in our dreams.

Cheers!

Google vs. Humans

Greetings. There are many days when I worry that Google has become the “de facto” source of all knowledge. Students, including our own children, use it as the most essential “go to” place in doing homework assignments. They also use it as an easy first stop for answering most of the essential questions that arise in the rest of their lives including finding out about the best new artists, the latest movies, and things to do. Adults use it as a quick reference for insight on products and services, and to get referrals for the best neighborhoods to live in, the best schools to send their kids to, the best vacations to take, the best places to dine, and the best doctors to use. And companies of all shapes and sizes turn to it as the quickest and best way to research customers, competitors, and even prospective employees. Not that all the world’s information is owned by Google, but for most of us it has become the principal gateway for finding out about stuff that matters.

At the expense of humans.

Now I’m sure that there are humans at Google…very smart humans…but I’ve rarely had the pleasure to talk with them.

Remember the “epic” battle in 2011 between IBM’s Watson supercomputer and Ken Jennings, the exceedingly smart (or should we say “trivial” in a good sense) Jeopardy champion who had won on this gameshow an amazing 74 straight times? It was a battle to see if a computer was smarter at trivia than a well-versed human. Well Google has taken it a step further. Rendering all of us humans as somewhat deficient providers of knowledge.

And that has interesting implications for all of us.

Not that I find Google to be unhelpful. And, truth be told, I use it a lot of the time. But I’d like to think that I use it most often to find remarkable people and ideas to connect with and that it is simply the start of a process of being curious, learning new things, and then making new connections so I can start meaningful conversations with actual humans that increase my understanding, stretch my thinking, and enable inspiring collaborations.

Because in an era when all of us tend to rely on the internet and Google for more and more guidance, I still believe that real sparks and breakthroughs happen best when we challenge ourselves to engage new people…especially people with ideas, perspectives, training, and life experiences that are very different than our own.

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We win in business and in life when we get beyond the world that sits conveniently at our fingertips and connect with others in new and compelling ways.

Cheers!