Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

Here is another great talk from the TED conference. In it, Steven Johnson unpacks some of the great ideas of history and tries to trace them back to where they actually originated. At first, this may seem like a tangent of a project, but one of his examples in particular shows how critical this is. Johnson talks about a problem in developing countries where they were given a $40k piece of medical equipment, like a baby incubator for premature babies, that work fine for a couple of years but then usually break somehow. Because the developing country can’t afford the replacement parts, and doesn’t have people trained to know how to fix them, these devices were rendered useless. But then someone came up with the great idea to build one of these out of car parts, since cars are readily available even in poorer countries. Thus the neonurture car-parts incubator was born and has been saving countless lives since. neonurture car parts incubator Here’s how the National Design Triennial described the invention:
“Four million babies, mostly from the world’s poorest regions, die within a month of birth every year. Many of these deaths could be prevented if a working incubator were available. Currently, neonatal incubators donated to developing countries last less than five years, some due to electrical surges or brownouts, others from lack of training on how to use them. The nonprofit organization Design that Matters teamed with the Center for Integration of Medicine & Innovative Technology, a global-health consortium, to address this urgent need to produce Neonurture, a durable, low cost neonatal incubator and isolation unit. Understanding the system in which the incubator would be produced, used, maintained, and distributed was fundamental. Doctors in the field noted that the small trucks, cars, and motorcycles used by aid agencies could be found in the remotest of locations, along with distribution chains for replacement parts and the mechanics to repair them. A modular prototype incubator was developed using these vehicle parts: headlights to generate heat, filters for clean air convection and filtration, alarms to alert caregivers, and a motorcycle battery for power. Plans are to train mechanics to be medical technologists and to conduct clinical trials with the next-generation model, with the ultimate goal to create regional manufacturing systems to build local infrastructure and clinical skills.”
What good ideas are you working on?

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