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Residents of industrialized nations, specifically those with high net income per capita, are guilty of taking so many things for granted. As a result, citizens of affluent nations are unaware of the struggles of other less fortunate people all over the world. However, there are those who are willing to look beyond their present circumstances, and channel resources to help solve other people’s problems. One of the most commendable humanitarian acts is the utilization of innovation as a means to enhance the quality of life in economically depressed regions of the world. One of the best examples is the creative way to manufacture a low-cost warmer that saved countless infants’ lives in poverty stricken rural areas in India.
Jane Chen is the leader behind the creative team that developed an innovative product called the ThermPod. This product is a baby warmer. The inspiration for this groundbreaking work came to the team after they realized that at least 4 million babies die each year because they are malnourished due to the lack of fat in the bodies to keep them warm (Steen, 2011). In industrialized societies, this issue is not a problem because incubators are readily available. In poor countries, incubators are not only expensive, but their usefulness is also limited by the availability of electricity, which is a luxury in many parts of the world.
High Level of Creativity and Innovativeness
Chen’s ThermPod is a unique product and a great example of innovative thinking because it can solve an important problem. There are many problems in the world, some are of higher importance than others. Parents losing their babies because they do not have access to incubators is an example of a real problem. Thus, Chen’s group must be commended for creating a unique solution that enables people in rural areas to enhance the quality of their lives.
It is also a unique innovative product because it created a significant degree of social impact but did not require millions of dollars in expenses. Bill Gates through his foundation tried to duplicate innovative projects similar to what Chen and his team was able to do in poor countries. However, Bill Gates needs to spend millions of dollars in investment funds just to produce an innovative product (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014). In addition, there is no guarantee that everything Bill Gates could achieve would have the same level of success, as compared to what Chen and his team were able to accomplish in India.
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By considering the innovative ideas that were poured into the creation of the ThermPod, Chen and his team designed product that is easy to use. As a result, it was easy to implement and easy to teach others on how to use it. Some of the innovative ideas in the market today are impractical because the designer did not consider all the necessary steps to be taken to create an impact within a community.
Aside from the ability to develop a practical and well-designed product, Chen’s ThermPod should be a showcase for those who are advocating on the importance of innovation and ways to use it to improve the lives of people all over the world. The ThermPod is not only a cost-efficient solution to a serious problem, but it is also an example of what can be accomplished through collaboration.
The journey in the creation of the ThermPod started in a class characterized as the gathering of students and innovators that came from different backgrounds. In other words, it is a multidisciplinary group. It is imperative to look at the multiplier effect of working with a multidisciplinary group. For example, the team partnered with the sales force that the multinational company General Electric was building in the area (Steen, 2011).
Innovation in Other Countries
Aside from looking into the impact of working with multidisciplinary groups, it is also imperative to look at innovative practices in other countries. In the case of healthcare, there is no better way than to examine the innovative strategies being developed in European countries. An overview of information that is easily accessible online, one can find a developing pattern. These countries are improving their healthcare system performance through multi-stakeholder cooperation (“Redefining Value and Innovation in Healthcare”, 2014). Although multi-stakeholder cooperation is not new in the healthcare industry, the interesting aspect of the European initiative was the heightened focus on the participation of consumers.
It is imperative to work closely with customers not only to find out the best products that must be developed to cater to unmet needs, but also to gather more information with regards to drug safety issue and other similar concerns. In the past, pharmaceutical companies and other big players in the healthcare industry could afford to ignore customers. However, the same thing is no longer true today due to the pervasive nature of social media. One wrong move and the reputation of a company that required several decades to build can be eroded in one Twitter message or a Facebook post.
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One of the most inspiring products that was brought about by innovative thinking was Chen’s ThermPod. It is a good example of the power of innovation, because it provides a cost-efficient solution to a real problem. This product also enhanced the quality of life of poor families living in a poverty stricken part of the world. The lesson learned from Chen’s group is the value of a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving and creating innovative solutions to real world problems. It is also important to look at the trends of innovative thinking in other countries. Members of the European Union provided concrete examples on how the United States can improve the performance of its healthcare system by leveraging resources to produce more innovative products and services.