Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Impressions of the Disruptive Innovations Conference in Boston - Part 2: The Event

Read Part 1 of my trip to Boston for the Disruptive Innovations conference.

Day one of the event kicked off with a breakfast from 7:45 - 8:30am but I was not present. I was next door to the hotel at FedEx Office store getting some business cards printed up. Now one might think, knowing I have been in printing and graphic arts all my life, that I would have come to town more prepared with a fistful of nicely designed, embossed cards printed on fine quality linen card stock. No. I came with one print out of a hastily designed card on 20# copy paper asking the good folks at the FedEx place to work a miracle and do so in under an hour.

There he is, oh so carefully whacking my cards
apart all crooked and off center.
They accepted my challenge and I got what I deserved. When I owned my own print shop I had a sign on the wall that stated "There are three ways to have your printing done: fast, cheap and good. Pick two. You can have it fast and cheap, but it won't be good. You can have it cheap and good but it won't be fast, or you can have it fast and good but it won't be cheap." I fell victim to my own rule only they had kicked it up a notch and I only got one of the choices: Fast. It was not cheap and they did a terrible job, but hey, I got something to hand out and didn't get a cramp in my hand scribbling it myself.

By the time I had found the ballroom where the crumbs of breakfast remained, I made my way to the tables set up before the stage and selected a seat in the back so I could take in all that was going on around me. I sat with Aaron Fleishman from and had a great time interacting with him.
Sitting in the back.

I started off by taking notes on the talks from several of the speakers. Then after a while I got that same fidgety feeling I used to get when taking notes in school and decided I didn't need notes on every speaker. If I spent the whole time looking down at my paper I might miss a visual aid. I decided to relax and soak it all in with no regard or pressure about recording it for posterity.

Please note: Craig Lipset is much better looking than that IRL.
So I can give you the gist of things, or I can make it even easier by giving you a link to all the great large scale visual notes taken by Jonny Goldstein . This guy was amazing. He stood with his easel at the left of the stage and denoted the essence of each presentation in graphic detail. At each networking break, his drawings would be on display for up close inspection. Here's one I captured with my cell phone camera.

 The presentations were all motivating, uplifting and hopeful for a future where the stodgy old traditions of science can someday catch up with the breakneck speed of technology and merge in a symbiotic relationship that means better medicine – faster – for all.

There were presentations about thinking outside the box (which has become an "inside the box" expression considering its over use). Examples like the ones Jon Platt gave dramatically illustrated the issues that need to be addressed. He spoke of the Five Monkeys, The Banana and the Ladder Experiment. In the experiment five monkeys were locked in a cage, a banana was hung from the ceiling, and a ladder was placed beneath it. When a monkey would climb the ladder to go for the banana, he would be sprayed with ice cold water. The other monkeys would also be sprayed.

Seeing any of the cell mates try to go for the banana, knowing they'd be sprayed, the rest of the bunch would attack the ladder climber. After a while, they all quit climbing the ladder. Then an original monkey would be replaced with a new, unsuspecting monkey. When that monkey attempted to go for the banana, the other monkeys would jump on him and beat him up. Eventually, all original monkeys were replaced and the banana wasn't even there any more, yet the cultural learning of how any monkey who goes near the ladder needs to be beaten by the rest of the mob remained. They obviously had no experience with the water spray or even the banana reward, yet they had done what they had learned "because that's just the way we do things around here."

Jon Platt, Director of ?WhatIf! Innovation Partners says that mentality no longer has a place in the science of clinical trials and needs to be replaced with more logical approaches that are intelligent, thought out responses to issues that face the world of research today.

He also demonstrated the power of positive thinking in the process of problem solving. We did some audience participation and learned how to steer conversations in a direction the facilitates positive outcomes.

One of the slides he used as part of his presentation demonstrated how an airline proposed to add more seats to the plane. As you can see, the seats are on the wing. He asked for us to shout out the good things about that and we heard "More leg room!" "Better view!" "Fresh air!" among the responses. His talk was very inspiring and uplifting.

Between each of the sessions, we had networking breaks and I had the most stimulating conversations with the smartest people I've ever met – and they cared about what I had to say. Someone pinch me and wake me up.

Stay tuned for Part 3. I'll share the conversation that I had on stage with Craig Lipset next.

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