One of the "Ten Faces of Innovation" described in Tom Kelley's recent must-read book is that of the cross-pollinator, who "can create something new and better through an unexpected juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts" and often innovates "by discovering a clever solution in one context or industry, then translating it successfully to another".
During a recent discussion at IDEO in London, the design firm of which he is general manager, Tom mentioned as an example "taking a group of US emergency room doctors to see how Nascar racing-car pit-teams work". Doctors "realized that time is of essence both in the ER and in a car race, and were impressed by the high level of preparation and coordination of the pit team", which prompted them "to change the way they work in the hospital". Tom explained that while the Nascar teams are perfectly synchronized and approach the car from planned directions and carrying all the necessary tools and parts on them, doctors often enter the ER just to start asking nurses to gather, every time anew, the necessary tools and machines and drugs. Of course there is at least one major difference between the two situations: pit teams can prepare and rehearse for a known situation, while the doctor has first to figure it out. But after the visit, Tom said, at least one hospital started designing ER procedures differently, creating prepackaged toolkits for the most common situations, designing new procedures, and trying to rationalize and better synchronize the movements of medical personnel.
Today the Italian daily newspaper Il Giornale has a story on the same topic involving a hospital in Britain, London's Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, and the pit crew of Italian FormulaOne team Ferrari. The paper has Martin Elliott, a surgeon, tell how after a "particularly bad day" at the hospital he surprised himself watching a FormulaOne race on TV with a colleague and marveling at the many similarities between the movements of the pit-stop mechanics and the routines in the operating room. Elliott got in touch with Ferrari
"The post-operation phase is probably the most sensitive, and until a couple of years ago it was chaotic: there was alot of noise, everyone moved around with no coordination with the others: we've totally redesigned our way of working", he says. The Ferrari people filmed the doctors at work, then dissected the images with them. "For years we've been convinced that we were doing things pretty well, but seeing the tape it was shocking to notice our lack of coordination", says Nick Pigott of the intensive-care unit.
The Ferrarists gave suggestions on people's training, disposition, synchronization, and how to codify effective and time-saving procedures. Elliott told the journalist that the cross-pollination "has transformed the intensive-care unit in a center of silent precision" where "the complications of operations have been substantially reduced".
Cross-posted on the TEDblog