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Scuba Masks and Reverse Innovation

Hello friends, Students today are educated in 'collecting dots'. Almost none of it spent teaching the
Scuba Masks and Reverse Innovation
By Mustafa Sultan • Issue #8 • View online
Hello friends,
Students today are educated in ‘collecting dots’. Almost none of it spent teaching them the skills necessary to connect dots. The magic of connecting dots is that once you learn the techniques, the dots can change but you’ll still be good at connecting them
Seth Godin
What do mosquito nets, shampoo bottles and scuba masks have in common?

Credit: Jeremy Bishop
Credit: Jeremy Bishop
Events in from the past few weeks beg the question — the UK has the world’s fifth largest economy and is home to our national treasure:  ̶D̶a̶v̶i̶d̶ ̶A̶t̶t̶e̶n̶b̶o̶r̶o̶u̶g̶h̶ the NHS — arguably the world’s most comprehensive public healthcare system. So just where is all of the PPE? And what is Matt Hancock insinuating with his comments?
This week, I spoke to Ryan Kerstein — a plastic surgeon and innovator. His team at Oxford are battling the PPE shortage in a unique way. They’re creating a PPE mask out of leftover scuba masks.
Available on Apple, Spotify and everywhere else.
‎Big Picture Medicine: Scuba Masks and PPE 🤿 — Mr Ryan Kerstein Oxford Inspired on Apple Podcasts
Ryan’s a serial innovator and MedTech junkie. He spent a few years working at one of the big three management consulting firms — Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
I’m always curious to find out what sets these people apart — how they come up with ideas and make them come alive.
When asking for Ryan’s advice on innovation, he mentioned a mantra that had been instilled in him: Always Be Connecting the Dots (ABCD). Whilst most people ignore a stack of scuba masks on the clearance aisle — Ryan (and his team) think differently.
All the scuba mask/PPE idea needs is the connection of three dots: scuba masks, filters and a 3D printer. It’s easy to get serendipitous about a specific series of events — but innovation seems inevitable in anyone who’s connecting dots.
Credit: Josh Riemer
Credit: Josh Riemer
Necessity Breeds Innovation
Whilst connecting dots is the internal part of the puzzle — there’s an external part as well.
Take the example of some innovative Ugandan surgeons. They use sterilised mosquito nets instead of built-for-purpose surgical mesh in hernia repairs.
The price of a mosquito net? $0.0043
The price of surgical mesh? $108
The outcome? The same
Why don’t we use mosquito net mesh? Deeper pockets? British exceptionalism?
Other examples exist — shampoo bottles made into Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines, Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) and Sayeba’s Method are all examples of reverse innovation.
Reverse innovation refers to a product or service that is developed in a resource-poor setting and then exported to more industrialised nations
As the current situation brings with it—a survival pressure akin to that faced in developing nations—what other innovation will we see?
What I'm Reading
Skin in the Game: The Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
All the best,
Did you enjoy this issue?
Mustafa Sultan

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