February 28, 2023
“Several ideas fail in the mind before they succeed in reality.” How true and sad is this? This could be true as one stops thinking about it all the time because they either think that the problem doesn’t exist or doubt their ability to solve it. This remains an illusion; it’s beautiful but never exists.
The stages of ideation, creativity, and innovation are a process that all innovators have gone through. For children, the home ecosystem often nurtures the idea stage, where experiments in daily chores are one way to look at it. Schools assist tinkering minds by developing skills that may spark creative outcomes. Higher education and the workplace are places where innovation can occur. If this is true, then what triggers make innovation difficult?
According to inStem Lab scientist Dr. Praveen Kumar Vemula, creativity is an attitude that leads to innovation. Innovation triggers fall into one of the following categories:
Me-Too-Technology’s outcome is based on process improvisation. This is a repeated process to optimise the existing process. For example, a blood storage system that is kept at 4 degrees Celsius to maintain efficient blood transfusions is vital because blood can be stored for a maximum of 42 days. Developing another blood storage system that is equivalent to the existing system is the Me-Too approach.
Me-Better-Technology’s outcome is based on finding a better solution than the existing ones. For example, it was found that stored blood after 21 days has lesser transfusion efficiency. This led to the identification of different storage methods through additives, and different combinations of additives continued to be experimented with. Developing another system that is far better than the existing one is the Me-Better approach.
Me-Only-Technology’s is based on newer approaches that may be non-linear and unrelated. The strength of innovation is reflected through intellectual property and patents. A newer approach, for example, was to capture the damage-causing extracellular components with nanofibrous sheets and remove them during blood storage. The damage-causing components are known as DAMPs, or damage-associated molecular patterns. This ensured the stored blood for 42 days was as good as freshly collected blood and increased the shelf life of stored blood to 51 days. Developing a completely new system using an innovative new approach is the Me-Only approach.
Me-Too and Me-Better rely mostly on an idea and comparative ideas, whereas Me-Only relies on ideas and creativity, which are non-linear and unrelated. In Dr. Praveen’s innovation, that idea emerged from an unrelated idea from the funniest Fev Kwik ad (click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMZ45fSOr1k)) where two protagonists are fishing. One uses an approach that is popularly used for fishing, while the other uses a non-linear and unrelated approach to fishing. By connecting the dots, Dr. Praveen’s team used a newer approach to eliminate DAMPs from the stored blood and thereby improve the shelf life of the stored blood.
If this is true, how can one progress towards Me-Only? There are several DAMPs in the education system; for example, students from Grade 9 through Grade 12 are often barred from several activities and are forced to focus on board exams. Another well-known DAMP is rote learning. DAMPs are caused by a lack of activities that were relevant until the eighth grade, as well as parental expectations. Often, this pattern continues into higher education, leading to a higher number of DAMPs.
Santosh Avvannavar, Education Journalist QtSTEAM & Mentor QtPi Robotics