There was method to the madness, but the feedback for John Hockenberry, host and moderator of this year’s Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation Transform Conference at the first night reception was that the keynote was a bummer.
Will Steger, a lifetime adventure and outdoorsperson and founder of Climate Generation, kicked things off with a dire warning that it was no longer possible to make a living running sled dog tours because the Arctic is melting. This was followed by Karen Watson who talked about the successful DrinkUp campaign to combat the challenge that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated from consuming sugared beverages instead of water. The campaign was focused on driving people to reach for bottled water instead of soda, and while this seemed counter to the first session on climate change, she cited that 22 million Americans have no access to potable water so bottled water is a good choice for them. Next up George Halvorson from First 5 California and former CEO of Kaiser Permanente talked about programs the state of California and KP have created for early childhood health and education, noting that the years from 0-3 were crucial for childhood development, and that a child of a working mother is read to for 1,500 hours during this period while the child of a typical Medicaid mother (who could be working) is read to for 30 hours during this period. This year 51% of children will be born to Medicaid mothers.
While both DrinkUp and First 5 provided solutions to the problems they raised, the overall impact of the keynote was depressing. While the intention was to catalyze people to change the schedule left us had the tools for making change delivered in sessions on days 2 and 3, which left us to drink our sorrows at the opening night reception (and not with bottled water).
Moving into days 2 and 3 of the conference, we did get tools for thinking differently, and the first session on day 2 provided richly in this area with Roger Martin, former dean of the Rotman School making the case for using both scientific method and rhetoric, and in particularly pointing out the short comings of scientific method if you want to innovate, in particular that it only looks at past data and does not imagine a future. Denny Royal of Azul 7 asked us to get out in nature for creativity, inspiration, pattern matching, by using biomimicry to use nature’s solutions for pressing problems, like how Sharklet used the natural antibiotic properties of sharkskin as inspiration to create a substance that naturally repels bacteria, or considering how to create adhesives that work better when wet, like the silk of the Cadis Fly, and could be used internally during surgery instead of our crude methods today like stiches or stapling. Teri Pipe, of ASU led us on a meditative path by asking us to notice what was happening in this moment, and apply these skills to build compassion and reduce stress in delivering care.
The day 2 keynote provided us with tools for imagining things that don’t exist, have the courage to quiet our own cleverness and learn from nature, and be resilient and empathetic. Given the day 1 keynote, this was just the antidote to embark on the rest of the conference.