How do you define innovation? Part IV

Innovation box-tight cropFrom the philosophical to the process-oriented to the curmudgeonly, here are more voices on innovation from our clinical and scientific community. Add your voice to the comments—or register for our National Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards (Sept. 26-27) and join the conversation.


Innovation is the materialization of the notion that imagination is more important than knowledge. –Dario Fauza, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Surgery, Boston Children’s Hospital

Innovation is the willingness to take the risk to embrace the unknown. –Clifford Woolf, MB, BCh, PhD, Director, F.M. Kirby Center and Program in Neurobiology, Boston Children’s Hospital

Innovation is the process of trying something new and the freedom to experiment—the antonym is to be stagnant. –Naomi Fried, PhD, Chief Innovation Officer, Innovation Acceleration Program, Boston Children’s Hospital

Innovation is much more than an incremental improvement or an accomplishment that requires creativity and risk-taking. When thinking about defining innovation, I immediately think of my mentor, Robert Langer, who always said: “Don’t believe everything you read, be willing to challenge dogma and recognize that you may pay a price for it in the short run, even if you are right.” –Marsha Moses, PhD, Director of the Vascular Biology Program at Boston Children’s Hospital; Julia Dyckman Andrus Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School

The question about any particular innovation is the degree of novelty, and how meaningful it is. Innovation has become a very hot topic recently, as if it, itself, were a new idea. This excitement has created strains in the concept of innovation, at the interface between humbug and fetishism. “Innovation” is now a very overused buzzword and is often, sometimes quite intentionally, conflated with flashy trendiness, chic or commercialization. Institutions, offices, agencies and investigators are falling over themselves to be labeled as innovative. In that context, innovation is sometimes somehow differentiated from traditional pursuits, such as boring old slow-and-steady science—which I believe is the main driver of a certain kind of innovation. While innovation is undoubtedly crucial, there is serious over-valuation of innovation for its own sake. The wedge has stood us in good stead for thousands of years. It may not need any apps. –Daniel Kohane, MD, PhD, Professor of Anesthesia, Harvard Medical School; Associate in Critical Care Medicine and Director, Laboratory for Biomaterials and Drug Delivery, Boston Children’s Hospital