Sunday, August 29, 2010

Come join me for a workshop on "The Rules of Brainstorming"

Preface: Again, I apologize to everyone for the paucity in posts. As some of you might know, I have been working incessantly on a project and that has kept me from being able to gain any traction on blogging here. As the blogging gets tougher, I have decided to add a tweet specific to the blog so that I can still share quick updates on devices and such.

You can follow "devicology" on twitter:

Follow devicology on Twitter

Of course, there are not many tweets there yet, but watch the space for more.

Looking for innovative ideas?

Ideas, they say are dime a dozen. Well, who is to say what the current exchange rate is? If you are looking at a start-up or even a project that needs you to design a device, a mechanism, a set of mechanisms and/or processes and methods, you need innovative ideas. Many times you need to be innovative to beat your competition, and sometimes, simply because the solution demands creative thinking.

But, how do we get good ideas? Some people seem to have a practiced way of getting to ideas, so is "ideation" something that you are born with?



Brainstorming is the best way to open up your creativity and come up with innovative ideas for your projects, your companies and so on.

While there are many opinions floating around, the baseline is simple - encourage creativity and "out of the box" thinking, do not judge while the session is still on and do not "direct" the meeting.

Of course, I have a few other ideas that I would like to throw in - keep the topics broad first, narrow them later, or in later sessions, provide avenues for creative exploration through colors, toys and such, and feed your people!

Brainstorming is an exercise - so the more you train appropriately that is, the better you can get at it. Take it from me, I have seen this lead project ideas to great success in many different situations - this is the point of the workshop - practice, exercise!

Set at the Crossroads Cafe in San Francisco on September 13, 2010 thanks to the efforts of Eri Gentry, the founder of BioCurious ( ), we will discuss the rules for a couple of minutes, brainstorm a broad topic as a group exercise and then given enough interest, we will break into smaller groups and discuss further topics.

Here is the link for the event:

I hope you can join us!

About BioCurious:

BioCurious is THE DIYBio group for Silicon Valley and in general, the Bay Area. Currently the group is seeking funding to find a near permanent home. You can find out more about them here:

Yours truly's previous FDA regulation class and pitch appear in the video as well...

Monday, August 02, 2010

A prototyping tip & a quick update

Hello everyone!

First, the update:

Yours truly is engrossed in more than one project, and has taken quite a break (I haven't posted in almost 2 months if you haven't noticed). I kept telling myself I will get back to blogging, but I have decided that isn't happening anytime soon. So, I thought I am going to jump in and start blogging again. I am also going to announce the "Summer of Blogging" shortly, but enough with the egotism...

Prototyping Tip - Don't throw away your failures!

Yours sincerely (thought I will try a variation on the previous paragraph, ahem) has recently had a chance to do a lot of prototyping - you know strutting around the lab, hurting yourself with things that look nothing like what your final product is going to be?

Anyway, cynicism aside, prototyping is always so much fun, next only to storming the brain for ideas of course. Part of the pleasure of prototyping is that you are typically breaking new ground, so many mistakes may occur.

20,000 non-bulb materials - the Edison cliche

Edison was arguably the biggest patent troll according to some people, intimidating peers and stifling innovation. However, he left a lot for us to delve in terms of cogitating about persistence, prototyping and such.

Though we may never know exactly what he said about never giving up on the path to inventing the light-bulb, but persistence in innovation is necessary. One has to stare failure in it's face and move on!

However, do we simply record our failures and discard them?

No! From your failures, you can learn a lot:

1. What exactly is the definition of failure in your prototype? Did it not fail to turn out at all? Did it fail to appear unlike what was expected out of it? Did the prototype fail in terms of functionality?

2. If your prototype failed under process/manufacture/putting it together, can you repeat it? Can you identify the flaws in your development process?

3. If your prototype failed functionally, what led to the failure? Is your failure related to how you built the device/application etc., or is it related to how you used it?

Record it anyway!

The very first thing you should be doing is answering those questions and recording those answers. These answers should go in your lab notebook. Two weeks from now, or six months from now, you don't want to be asking yourself what was going on.

Patent it anyway

A couple of years ago, I attended a meeting of the "Bio2Device" group locally and Karen Talmadge, the wizard of Kyphoplasty mentioned something to the following effect: "Don't simply patent your way of doing it, patent all the ways that could cause the same effect". In a simple sense, if you are thinking about using radiofrequency to burn the tumor, don't stop there - think of microwaves, photo therapy, embolization and so on...I hope you get the point. You may not get everything granted, so make sure your claims are constructed properly and you try to reduce things to practice appropriately.

The reason I brought this up, is because your prototype may not work because at the moment, you may not have the right method of building it, or the right set of steps to accomplish the functionality required of your device - and you can fend off someone else who might want to compete with you using one of your discarded ideas!

Lather, Rinse and Repeat

Finally, try to re-work your prototype! Don't take one failure as the final answer. If you made enough effort, maybe you will get it to work, or you will find out why it won't work...very valuable information!