Forget everything you’ve ever learned about innovation and invention. According to Stephen Shapiro, the brain is not created for innovation, but rather for survival.
“Don’t think outside the box, find a better box,” said the hall-of-fame speaker while delivering the second keynote on Thursday, Day 2 of the second annual R&D 100 Conference in Washington, D.C.
Shapiro said that we’re predictable as human beings and therefore we think of things we’ve done before, which prevents us from innovating. One of the secrets to improvements in invention is phrasing a question in a way that gives solutions to a problem.
“Don’t look in the wrong place for the solutions, change the solutions,” he added.
He used the example of passengers complaining that airport luggage takes too long to arrive post-flight. But no matter how much the time was decreased, the passengers were still not satisfied. Then airport management came up with the idea that instead of speeding up luggage arrival, make walking distance from the flight to baggage claim longer. Problem solved.
“Instead of focusing on speeding up bags, how do you reduce wait time at airports (is the right question to ask),” he concluded.
The keynote speech was followed by two general sessions, and nine regular presentation sessions, including Bradford Goldense’s speech on “10 Techniques to Achieve Breakthroughs through Innovation,” Amy Belton’s “The Impact of STEM and Diversity in the 21 century and Beyond,” and Joy Goswani’s “University-Industry Relations: Nurturing a Culture of Partnerships.”
The conference activities of the day were followed by the 54th Annual R&D 100 Awards Ceremony, a black-tie event that honored 100 most innovative technologies and services in the past year. The evening also recognized 16 winners in four Special Recognition categories—Market Disruptor Services, Market Disruptor Products, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Green Tech.
The formal event additionally recognized the 2016 R&D 100 Scientist of the Year—IBM Chief Scientist Dharmendra Modha, Ph.D., and Innovator of the Year Anthony Atala, M.D., a practicing surgeon and researcher in regenerative medicine.