Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Two summaries on my panel on cross-pollination of ideas into Medtech

As I was thinking of getting to summarize, what I thought were some of the cool things I myself learned while being a panelist at MD&M Minneapolis, Amanda Pedersen over at MD&DI wrote a very neat summary of the panel, and I know she did it meticulously because she got one of my quotes very accurately. And that makes things easy for me. I don't have to repeat some of the very excellent points Dale, Alex and Bonnie made. I am going to focus on some key things I learned besides what you will find in Amanda's write up (article link below).

The "looks-like/works-like" prototypes

Dale Larson reminded everyone of the need to bring prototypes to healthcare professionals. I liked the idea of a "looks like" prototype, which is not necessarily functional, and the "works like" prototype that works, but may not look like the anticipated final product. I think these are important considerations and Project Managers, R&D leaders and Engineers alike should consider practicing.

Killing Projects Without Fear

Dale's advice is definitely one of wisdom. He suggested that once it looks like a project has no viable path to commercial success, it ought to be killed. In keeping with my wry wit, I suggested, "you will never get an engineer to agree to that". He responded, taking my comment in stride that life is short, and reminded us we are all here for a limited time and that we should look at spending that time efficiently. I am paraphrasing here. I really liked that line of thinking, and of course, jokes aside, I know that killing unviable projects is important!

Groupthink in the Devices Industry

Again, paraphrasing, in the sense that I am using the word "groupthink", but Alex did point out that it is important to make sure that you are not only expecting people with medical device experience to be on your team. This is something I will be writing about in much detail later, but I tend to agree with Alex. In fact, on the panel, I followed him up by agreeing that this is a huge problem. If you fill your room with a bunch of people who have spent "n years doing balloons/catheters/other lather/rinse/repeat run of the mill nonsense" will NEVER get you to a single innovative solution.

Groupthink is like a disease, and until culture change happens at the organizational level to include diversity of backgrounds and ideas, you can forget being able to innovate or bring out the best from other industries. This is truly one of the gravest shortcomings of the medical device industry.

Technical/Manufacturing Readiness Levels

Bonnie, our moderator, made several key observations. One of them was that the medical devices industry doesn't have a common language that talks about the readiness of technology. She referred to terms used in defense, such as Technology Readiness Level and Manufacturing Readiness Level. These were eye openers for me. And I always find it interesting, how you could go years without knowing something and then you hear it all over the place. This past Friday, I was at a bootcamp for a Space related Business Plan Competition in Austin, TX and I heard a NASA scientist turned entrepreneur define the TRL of his company!

The Medical Devices Industry, only appears to standardize around what the FDA and EU want and from a business/strategy standpoint, appears to have large gaps in using terms that other industries use. This is clearly something that needs remedying!

So, these are some of the key concepts I learned from the panel in Minneapolis last week. I may remember a few other things, and if I do, I will definitely write about them. Until next time..

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1. Amanda Pederson's article:

2. Image, courtesy Pexels:

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