Turning Problems Into Products
Here at The Innovation Institute, most of the ideas that our Innovation Lab has received have originated from a problem that someone wanted to solve, mostly within their own line of work. It often starts with the innovator thinking, “There must be a better way.”
For example, Hoag Hospital Emergency Department physician, Eric Alcouloumre, MD, noticed that contaminated sharps—like scalpels and needles—were everywhere in the hospital setting, and there was no easy-to-use system for safely disposing of sharps at the point of care. These exposed sharps placed clinicians, nurses and other hospital staff at risk for serious injury and life-threatening infection. So Dr. Alcouloumre set out to create a simple device, called Sharpshell, to protect healthcare staff from being stuck by sharp, contaminated medical instruments.
When you see a problem in your day-to-day work, start by asking yourself the following questions:
What is the problem that I see?
How do existing products on the market claim to solve the problem?
How, why and where do existing products fail to solve the problem?
How can I design a new product or improve an existing product to better solve the problem?
Clearly understanding the unmet need and verifying that others are experiencing similar problems is a critical first step. Albert Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
Once you’ve nailed down the root problem, it can be fun to then grab a cup of coffee and sketch out product concepts to start the brainstorming process. The World Intellectual Property Organization also recommends that you conduct an initial Internet search once you have identified a need or problem and a potentially innovative solution to find out if there is something similar already on the market. If you are ready to submit your idea for further research and development, please go to our Got an Idea submission page.