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The Need For Innovation, Especially In A Crisis46:53
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Illustration picture shows the VUB FabLab which is working on a prototype of a ventilator to help in the Coronavirus crisis, Tuesday 07 April 2020. (NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)
Illustration picture shows the VUB FabLab which is working on a prototype of a ventilator to help in the Coronavirus crisis, Tuesday 07 April 2020. (NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

The coronavirus pandemic has jump-started America’s innovation engine as companies, institutions and entrepreneurs step up to the challenge.

Guests

Scott Cohen, co-founder of New Lab. (@Newlab)

Fiona Murray, professor of entrepreneurship and associate dean of innovation at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Co-director of MIT's innovation initiative. (@Fiona_MIT)

John Kao, chairman of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation. (@johnkao)

Interview Highlights

On innovators coming together to tackle the pandemic

Fiona Murray: “What I think is so striking at the moment is the way in which the entire community here at MIT, in universities, startups, large organizations around the country and frankly around the world, have really rallied to COVID-19 and this need for crisis innovation with such passion and purpose. I think it's that: It's the building bridges and the connecting and making sure that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which has really been powerful.”

“... What's so fascinating is that in this moment where we're all very socially disconnected in some ways because we're all sitting at home in all different living rooms and makeshift offices and what have you, in fact, we're all feeling very connected as a community around a shared purpose. And I think that is actually both important in a very practical sense, but it's also very important psychologically and emotionally, because we can all really start to do something around that.”

"In this moment where we're all very socially disconnected ... we're all feeling very connected as a community around a shared purpose."

Fiona Murray, Co-Director, MIT Innovation Lab

On why collaboration between large and small companies is key to innovation

John Kao: “Large companies by definition have to worry more about their current status. They're more laden with bureaucracy and legacy and their core competencies can become core rigidities, their expertise can become a set of blinders. And also, you know, small companies are more agile precisely because they are able to mix the key ingredients of innovation together much more rapidly. That has to do with talent and ideas and resources. Whereas in companies, there are lots of mechanisms for controlling the combination of those resources and therefore you get slower progress, you get the need for bigger bats, you get careerism. I mean, the list of issues is very long. But at the same time, incumbent organizations have people, they have resources, they have intellectual capital, they have market position, they have market intelligence. They have lots and lots of assets. So to me, it’s not an either or, it's a both and. And in the era of networking and innovation, ecosystems or ecosystem thinking, it is about how small and large can collaborate.”

On balancing speed and safety when responding to a crisis

Fiona Murray: “One of the things that we have to do is we have to be fast, but we also have to be safe. And we have to, I think, understand the difference between rules and procedures that are basically there that have sort of built up in a cultural way over time, versus those that are actually really important to keeping us safe. And so we always try to make sure with everything we do on campus that we are being as safe as possible. We have tremendous faculty expertise on campus and at the hospitals and how to work within appropriate medical regulations. But we also need to know when those regulations can be done much more quickly and effectively, where we can reduce paperwork but not compromise safety.”

On the need for innovative responses to socioeconomic changes

John Kao: “If we look ahead to the medium and the long term. I think some of the impact is going to be about the dramatic unfreezing of the way we do our basic life activities. So how we collaborate from a work perspective, how we spend our leisure time, how we educate ourselves, how we participate in political processes. They're all up for review at this point because we've had to learn a whole bunch of new habits and inhabit a new set of tools… That, of course, creates a tremendous opportunity for innovation, and for the entrepreneurs who can drive the innovative new concepts to some level of fruition.”

"I think some of the impact is going to be about the dramatic unfreezing of the way we do our basic life activities... That, of course, creates tremendous opportunity for innovation."

John Kao, chairman, Institute for Large Scale Innovation

From The Reading List

STAT News: "In long essay, Bill Gates says time and innovation needed before coronavirus lockdowns end" — "Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates on Thursday warned that the world’s emergence from coronavirus lockdowns will be slow, and cautioned that it will take innovation before people feel safe enough to attend large public events or flock to restaurants."

New York Times: "New York Needed Ventilators. So They Developed One in a Month." — "The nudge came in an email in early March from an Italian friend alarmed by how fast the deadly coronavirus was spreading in his country."

Connecticut Public Radio: "Connecticut Innovators Take On COVID-19" — "As Connecticut approaches its peak in hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases, health systems continue to prepare so they can keep patients alive."

CNBC: "These are the new hot spots of innovation in the time of coronavirus" — "The Covid-19 pandemic has nearly instantly and very dramatically pivoted the priorities of some makers, start-up founders, entrepreneurs, researchers and doers — the innovators — to solving problems related to the pandemic and preparing for any in the future."

Washington Examiner: "Opinion: Good news: Coronavirus is causing an innovation renaissance" — "As the father of three girls, I sometimes get a little overwhelmed when thinking about COVID-19 and social distancing. They, as many are, are losing out on school, birthday parties, playing with friends, and just the basic social interactions that are so transformative at their age. However, what gets me through is that despite the very real threat and consequences, there is also a silver lining."

Chicago Tribune: "Commentary: The key to beating the coronavirus? Innovation." — "We call ourselves a nation of innovators. As one who has taught and written about the innovation process for more than 30 years, I believe it can be a lens that provides a strikingly different view of all that is being done to fight COVID-19."

Wall Street Journal: "Shoes to Masks: Corporate Innovation Flourishes in Coronavirus Fight" — "True Value Co. heard from its more than 4,500 affiliated hardware stores last month that hand sanitizer was flying off the shelves, leaving store staff with none for themselves."

New York Times: "Fears of Ventilator Shortage Unleash a Wave of Innovations" — "As the coronavirus rages across the globe, ventilators that pump oxygen into the lungs of critically ill patients have been embraced as the best hope for saving lives."

Newsday: "Opinion: The key to beating the coronavirus? Innovation" — "We call ourselves a nation of innovators. As one who has taught and written about the innovation process for more than 30 years, I believe it can be a lens that provides a strikingly different view of all that is being done to fight COVID-19."

Harvard Business Review: "Understanding the Economic Shock of Coronavirus" — "As the coronavirus continues its march around the world, governments have turned to proven public health measures, such as social distancing, to physically disrupt the contagion. Yet, doing so has severed the flow of goods and people, stalled economies, and is in the process of delivering a global recession. Economic contagion is now spreading as fast as the disease itself."

This program aired on April 24, 2020.

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