By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
Innovation is unpredictable. Like the grocery cart inspiration that came to Sylvan Goldman or the parking meter idea that came to Carl Magee, the seeds of innovation can come from anywhere.
Although there is no precise formula for innovation, there are indicators that make innovation more likely.
One of those is the willingness and ability to pivot — that’s what we in the business of entrepreneurship call it when an innovator’s initial plans for the application of an invention don’t pan out and he or she faces giving up or trying something new.
Consider the You-Version Bible app. In 2006, Bobby Gruenwald, founder, stood in an interminable TSA line at O’Hare airport in Chicago when it hit him that technology could change how people engage with the Bible — just as Gutenberg’s printing press and the resulting Bibles sparked the 1400s version of mass communications.
YouVersion started out as a website, but not many people came. People didn’t want to plan their Bible-reading around their time at the computer screen. Around that time, Apple opened the door for iPhone apps. YouVersion pivoted and was one of the first 200 apps in the iPhone store.
Since then, this app, which offers a library of 1,588 versions of the Bible in more than 1130 languages, has been installed more than 300 million times.
Two more predictors of innovation are education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and people who constantly seek better ways to do their jobs. Ryan Dennis, MD, hospitalist, and founder of Linear Health Sciences, typifies both.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to keep an open mind walking through the hospital to bring value to the system,” said Dennis, a graduate of the Oklahoma School of Science and Math. “I can only see a certain number of patients in a day, but, through invention and innovation, I can affect many more patients in many more places, far beyond the places where I live and work.”
An observable occurrence in any hospital is medical professionals managing IVs, central lines, or peripherally inserted central catheters that have become accidentally dislodged when they are caught or pulled too far.
The team at Linear Health Sciences has developed the Orchid, a breakaway valve that separates when the medical tubing in peripheral are caught or pulled too far. The valve creates a sterile seal and prevents the tubing from being pulled out.
“The idea of being able to invent something that fills a gap and solves a problem and that has the potential to be applied to every patient around the world means I can potentially make things better for patients and health care professionals everywhere. I can leave a lasting effect,” Dennis said.
From shopping carts, to Bibles, to breakaway valves, Oklahoma’s innovators continue to serve markets, solve problems, and create jobs across our state.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.