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Making the Right Connections - Innovation Resource

Making the Right Connections

imgresby Ruth Ann Hattori

Do you remember when suitcases did not have wheels? (For those of you who don’t remember…head down to the antique store and check them out!) Years ago, this nifty, back and shoulder saving invention was one of my examples of “making new connections” when I taught creative thinking. The wheel has been around since cavemen and the suitcase since the 1930s. Hard to imagine it took another 40 years for someone to think of putting the two together!

I was reminded of this “connection” example when I saw a CNN story called Tool Can Plug Gunshot Wounds in Seconds. Before you click on the link to see it, ask yourself: if the person sitting next to me got shot and was bleeding, what would I do? In movies, we see that they compress the wound – often holding a scarf or towels or anything handy over the wound to try to stem the bleeding. That seems like common sense.

Now there is a way to stop bleeding many better and faster that utilizes a concept opposite of compression. The medical technology company RevMedx has invented a revolutionary way to stop gunshot or shrapnel victims from bleeding out. And, this concept is much like the rolling suitcase – taking two commonplace items and putting them together in a new way.

Company co-founder Dr. Ken Gregory says he had a “light bulb moment” when he was walking through Williams Sonoma and saw dried, compressed kitchen sponges.

“Through a series of iterations, the concept was turned into XStat, a dose of tiny sponge-like discs that are injected into an open wound with a syringe. The sponges, which have been treated with an anti-hemorrhagic substance, expand to 10 times their size in seconds, both plugging the wound and providing needed compression to stanch the bleeding.”

Gregory’s account of his big “Aha!” should sound familiar to all of us. We’ve all had great ideas that, in hindsight, seem so simple. So, what prevents us from having those Aha moments every day? The reasons are endless, right? We’re too busy, I need to stay on task, creative thinking is hard and time consuming, creativity is not my strong suit, big ideas are just lucky accidents…and many more.

The kind of creative thinking that spawned the Xstat can be at your fingertips at any time. All it takes are a few simple tools (and some practice) to make new connections. One of the simplest tools is “thinking opposite.” Xstat’s concept is the opposite of compression – which has been the conventional solution for the bleeding problem. So, how do you apply this? It’s as simple as looking at your current product, service or process and asking yourself, ”What if we could re-design this in a way that it would do the opposite or have the opposite outcome?” You could also take one small part of your product or process and imagine that to be opposite – what would be the result? The “result” you imagine may be terrible, but the process of thinking in this contrary way should give you some new insights and ideas.

I also often use a tool I call “Take Away.” You can easily use this one with products, processes or ideas on your job. Start by listing the attributes of your subject. Then, cross off one or two critical elements. What can you make/do with what is left? Let’s say you’re studying a manufacturing process and you have just eliminated a conveyor system on your list of attributes. So, how do you now move your work in process from one station to another? How might you change the product to make this easier? How does this affect who does the work or the sequence or the materials? This line of thinking could result in many new connections – you might even stumble upon a transformational idea.

Analogies are another favorite technique. When I’m trying to find a solution to a problem, I often pick an unrelated object, image or idea and apply the principles of that design to my problem. Here’s a very simple example: Recently, I heard a talk by an advertising agency and their client Salt Lake Comic Con which was wildly successful in its first year. As the marketing chief of Comic Con talked about how they cultivated “fans,” I had an epiphany. I realized I could apply the fan concept to a new product that I’m developing – a therapeutic garment for kids with Autism. I wondered what we might do differently if we thought of our customers as fans. This led to a whole new line of thinking and many new ideas for launching and promoting this product.

There are many tools you can learn to help you make new connections or prompt new thinking – many of which have been around for over 50 years. You don’t have to be artistically creative to be a stand-out creative thinker. All you have to do is build a toolbox!

Tune into CNN’s story on Xstat – you can read about it and see video at:  Maybe you’ll find a new connection for your own business.

Ruth Ann Hattori is a senior consultant in the TIR network who specializes in creativity exercises. Details: (805) 682-1012imgres