Low-tech innovation (1/2) – Focus on the experience

Changing perspectives

Too often innovation is seen as the equivalent of high-tech solutions. In reality, innovation is far more than just embracing the latest cool gadgets and using advanced machinery. Sometimes the opposite – a low-tech approach – can deliver far more value.

As an industrial designer for GE Healthcare, Doug Dietz had been designing medical equipment for more than 20 years. When he heard that his MRI scanner was being installed, he felt so excited that he decided to look it up in its actual environment; the hospital.

While visiting his machine, Dietz saw a frightened 7-year-old girl standing in the hallway. For the first time, Doug realised how scary his machine was for young patients. Children were often so terrified by the idea that they had to lay down inside the big and noisy machine, that almost 80% of them had to be sedated to go through a scan.

This observation dramatically changed the way Doug saw his work. After this experience, he made it his personal objective to improve the situation. He assembled a team of people that were dedicated to solve the problem and started designing.

Doug and his team ended up creating the “adventure series”. By painting the floor, the ceiling, the wall and the equipment, they transformed the scan experience into a kids adventure story, with the patient playing the main part.

The prototypes included, among other things, a pirate ship (where patients could pick up a treasure from the pirate’s chest at the end) and a spaceship (the banging of the machine simulating the shuttle going into ‘hyper mode’).

The number of patients needing to be sedated was reduced to almost zero.

The “adventure series” is a beautiful example of using creative thinking to improve a situation without immediately looking for the latest technology to solve the problem. It is low-tech innovation at it’s best.

Doug knew that he wouldn’t be able to get a fund to redesign the MRI machine from scratch, so he decided to focus on the experience instead. This might well have led him to a much better and cheaper solution than he would have found otherwise.

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