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WHY’s role in Innovation

In the heat of the moment, when we’re in competition mode, it’s easy to forget why we are standing on the stage, microphone in hand, adrenaline pumping as we face the judges; our futures as innovators in their hands!

There are many reasons why, WHY, should be front and centre of our minds when we’re pitching innovative solutions to challenges, whose solving presents both societal and economic merit.

PnP Analytics is a medical device spin out from UCD Engineering School, focused on preventing pressure ulcer development in patients, through a movement based analytics tool that integrates into a pressure mattress and collects data in a non-invasive manner from the patient, identifying if they are at risk or not of developing pressure ulcers.

They were awarded the Commercial Feasibility Grant from Enterprise Ireland at the Universal Design Grand Challenge (UDGC) held in the Gibson Hotel on the 25th of May.  

The competition is run annually by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Dublin. This year they enlisted my support to deliver a program for participants of the competition.  I’ve called the program The Purpose Pitch and its goal is to distil participant’s design solutions into compelling pitches that give justice to all the work they’ve put into their solutions and enhances their performance in innovation focused competitions like the UDGC, as not just engineers, designers or technologists; but as skilled storytellers imbued with purpose.

PnP Analytics are now in talks with the lead pressure ulcer researchers in Ireland, to get their product into a clinical environment where it can be tested and refined until a commercial product is produced.

What did The Purpose Pitch teach PnP Analytics about Why?

Fiachra Doherty kindly provides his key takeaways from the program:  

““In the run up to the competition, we had the fortune of meeting with Janice Valentine who listened to our presentation and steered us in the direction of delivering a more purposeful and engaging pitch.  

In any pitch there are three aspects, the why, the what and the how. In the excitement of building our device, we had almost neglected to deliver on why we had started our research in the first place. This is where Janice helped us to focus our attention…..”

I feel that this realization is more significant than winning a competition. Of course it’s a wonderful boost to one’s sense of accomplishment and an indicator of being on the right track in terms of entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial aspirations, but, the significance lies in the ‘big-picture’ and ‘the greater good’.

Why is the greater good important for educators, governments and all kinds of business?

Because we’re on the cusp of the 4th economy. And this one’s fueled as much by purpose as it is by profit.  

At a lunch and learn recently with Pivotal Labs, I presented research about the purpose economy and it stimulated dialogue, amongst the 10 employees who attended, about purpose in the workplace.  

This lunch and learn revealed something interesting to me:  The novelty of purpose in business.   In 2014 Aaron Hurst wrote in FastCompany, that “We are approaching the tipping point, where the Purpose Economy has matured enough to move from the fringes of society to the heart of the US economy and increasingly around the globe.“     

Considering purpose will be a driver of the next economy perhaps it should be a word habitually paired with innovation and entrepreneurship.  

The benefits to this pairing can be seen in how well teams like PnP Analytics did in the UDGC.  

According to Fiachra, The Purpose Pitch program helped the team to not only understand the importance of why, but to apply it in their pitch:

“By focusing on the why, we were able to engage the audience with the story behind our work and show them the real purpose of our idea.”

By not only being clear about why they want to solve a problem, but by communicating the why in their pitch, young innovators have a much a stronger arsenal with which to win competitions like the Universal Design Grand Challenge; which may be the very first steps that they, our future innovators, will take towards their goal of….world domination!!

Hey, let’s empower them to aim high : )