Tuesday, April 17, 2012



Imagination, inspiration, innovation + the intersection of science, technology, government, business, art, and education. 

TEDMED is a "great gathering of innovators and leaders who are passionate about the future of health and medicine." 

Imagination - an amazing cast of great thinkers, scientists, clinicians. There remains a sizable gap between the research/study/theoretical and effective practical applications, exceptions including Rebecca Onie, Mark Hyman, Bud Frazier/Billy Cohn, among others. What can we as industry do to close the gap between the theoretical to the practical, especially those of us in the health solutions industry where we have such an opportunity to positively impact people's lives?

Innovation - it may be difficult to look for immediate applicability from an amazing experience like TEDMED back to a company, but the 2 biggest opportunities I saw were in how we think and an indirect application on our organizational behavior. When you see the invention of aircraft with fixed wings despite almost universal evidence of moveable wings in nature, you can see remarkable evidence of people who thought about solutions differently. Or look at Bud Frazier & Billy Cohn - the durability of a man made pump has proven inadequate in the long term for heart replacements, so they have been working on continuous flow replacements. And their patients come in without a clinical pulse. It's about moving from "why didn't I think of that" to "why didn't I think like that?" 

Organizations can learn much from design & systems thinking, as well as other behaviors. For example, in the powerful talk given by Virginia Breen & Elizabeth Bonker, we see Elizabeth demonstrate the amazing power of listening. Profoundly autistic and unable to speak, Elizabeth portrays how it's not all about what we have to say that is important to learning and communication, but what we do with the ideas of others and what is happening in our surroundings. 

 We also see the enormity of the challenges created by researchers when they are unwilling to share their data, research, and findings. Having worked in large corporations my entire professional life, I have witnessed (and unfortunately practiced) the "knowledge is power" mentality. Silos are erected, barriers and obstacles are created, competition can arise, and the greater good suffers. This is evident in corporate cultures and organizational behaviors and disappointingly in clinical research, where the ultimate good can be jeopardized - our health & well-being. One example of brazenly knocking down these kinds of barriers is seen through Katie Couric's Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) foundation, where no one is eligible to receive funding unless they will commit to sharing their data and research findings. Forced collaboration, yes, but unfortunately necessary. 

Perhaps the most pervasive theme at TEDMED was that of inspiration. To witness first hand Ed Gavagan's near death story, to sense the energy among thousands noticeably rise as Todd Park speaks, to hurt as only a parent can when Virgina Breen speaks is to be inspired that we can indeed change the world. Working together for good of individual & societal health and well-being is noble, necessary, and achievable. Hopefully, none of us exposed to the wonder that was TEDMED 2012 will ever again succumb to the challenges, obstacles, or barriers that are thrown in front of us.


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