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A few years ago, I attended a seminar at a local but nationally famous architectural firm entitled, “The LEAN Plan for Health Care Design”. At this seminar I learned that this group had collaborated with a local health care giant to create a landmark study about designing hospitals. It turns out they captured an award for creating intuitive designs that put the user needs at the core of the criteria, but the plan also accommodated the health care staff.

I was very impressed with the report at the time, very innovative and it make me think.

Today, more than two years later, I found my notes from that seminar and I thought, “So what?”, this just seems like common sense.  Wait a minute;  What was cutting edge and dramatically helpful two years ago, is old news today?  What set you apart in 2008 is it now main stream, base line, “assume you do it” stuff now?

Looking over my notes, I concluded that I had learned two lessons from the seminar; 1.) there was great excitement generated by putting together the concept of LEAN into non-manufacturing design processes 2.)  innovation that is truly helpful, sticks and becomes part of required and accepted cultural norms, until it is replaced with the next idea. Innovation expires.

Example; smoke signals, morse code, telegraphs, telegrams, telephones, fax machines, internet, cell phones, e-mail, iPads, etc. 

Nothing stays the same, other than the root problem that created the first innovation. In the case of smoke signals is was the need and desire to communicate across distances. That need has been constant but our world and its technology allows us to send smoke signals over the internet now.


From a Webinar I attended today, what stuck with me was the statement, “The customer changes their expectations every 5-7 days”. OK, so does that mean if we did an exhaustive survey and customer research project two months ago, with a presentation 30 days from the completion of the project, will our findings still be relavent?

Going back to the smoke signals, I reminded myself to keep thinking of the root problem, not on the last solution or research.