Jimmy is an energetic 6th grader who loves soccer, video games, and (secretly) a girl one year ahead of him in school. He also has asthma attacks and often gets wheezy at night—so much so that he has trouble concentrating on his homework. His family has a cat, but he’s allergic to it; spending too much time near the cat often causes him to have a major asthma attack that lands him in the hospital.
Jimmy’s mom reminds him each morning to use his inhaler, but sometimes she leaves for work before he goes to school and he forgets. He has a reliever in his school bag that his teacher reminds him to use, but sometimes it runs out. Jimmy’s soccer coach often has to bench him because he’s out of breath.
At a workshop on designing next-gen medical devices at MD&M Minneapolis, attendees were tasked with designing a new device to help Jimmy manage his condition.
Leaders Andrew Diston and Serge Roux, of design consultancy Cambridge Consultants, set the stage with a crash course on innovation, which Roux defined as bringing together things that are seemingly unrelated. He and Diston encouraged attendees to consider the following concepts during the workshop:
To design the device for Jimmy, Diston and Roux first asked the group to think of the actors in Jimmy’s life who interact with him and are in contact with his condition (e.g., his mother, his friends, his coach, his teacher, his crush, even the cat). They then asked the group to think selfishly about what each person needs from Jimmy.
The group was then tasked with thinking of features for a new device that would help Jimmy fulfill those needs. The group came up with some interesting solutions:
Some ideas were wildly out of the box, including one suggestion for a cat-shaving service to prevent people from having an allergic reaction to their pets. The idea drew chuckles from the group, but won praise from Roux.
The point of the exercise, Roux said, is to understand that when you’re designing a medical device, “you’re not tackling a condition, you’re tackling the effects of this condition on a person’s life."
Doing that, Diston and Roux explained, means putting “square pegs in round holes” and looking not just at the single device you’re designing but at the larger picture.
“Think system, not product,” Diston said.
Apply that to innovation, which Roux said is really just creativity that ships.
Jamie Hartford, managing editor, MD+DI