It seems like not long ago that I was sitting in the library at the University of Kentucky completing the first of what would be many challenging tasks during my Health for America (HFA) at MedStar Health experience. In this instance, I was being asked to describe an innovation that inspired me and to explain why—in 500 words or less. Admittedly, my first instinct after reading the question was to google a list of the greatest innovations of all time. As I read countless lists of historic innovations, I found myself wondering:
What makes these innovations more notable than others?
Are there any shared characteristics across these historic innovations?
With these questions in mind, I began additional research on the field of innovation, while developing my own list of the greatest innovations of all time. As a starting point for my research, I challenged myself to define innovation. A simple search of the definition resulted in the two options below. The first definition? Somewhat unhelpful. The second? Getting closer.
Definition source: "Innovation." Google. Web. 09 July 2018.
500 characters or less
Using the two definitions above as a starting point, I began brainstorming a list of noteworthy innovations that I use on a daily or weekly basis. My list was primarily comprised of products that were innovative (versus innovative methods or ideas). To help narrow my list, I removed products that failed to elicit the “aha!” moment that I associate with inspirational innovations.
In the end, I had my answer:
“Inventions can be created in a moment of haste and practicality. In 1956, Nicholas McKay used wire, a paper roll, and tape to remove lint from his suit before a dance. That day, McKay invented the lint roller. While McKay did not create the wire, paper rolls, or tape, his ability to imagine and combine three common items into a household essential is what makes his creation inspirational. McKay’s invention inspires me because its simplicity elicits a ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ reaction.”
Innovation at MedStar
With a lint roller in hand, I relocated from Lexington, KY to Washington, DC in September 2017 to start the HFA fellowship. On day two of the fellowship, co-fellow Renee and I attended an overview presentation on MedStar Health and the MedStar Institute for Innovation (MI2). The presenter was Jeff Collins, administrative director & director of external alliances at MI2.
As Jeff advanced to the 10th slide of the presentation, I thought back to when I pondering the question of how to define innovation. The slide referenced MedStar’s definition of innovation:
Innovation in Telehealth
Over the course of the HFA fellowship, I have worked with the MedStar Telehealth Innovation Center on various telehealth projects. On countless occasions, I have returned to MedStar’s definition of innovation to help guide my project planning and vendor evaluation. Aligning my project work with MI2 and MedStar’s interpretation of innovation helps ensure that my work will be scalable and sustainable across MedStar’s internal innovation landscape.