Conceiving an Idea is Easy; it’s Nurturing it into Maturity that is Tough

By Mehdi Razavi, M.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist at Baylor College of Medicine and director of clinical arrhythmia research and innovations at Texas Heart Institute. He is also co-founder and faculty advisor for Saranas, a Rice University-based startup delivering novel therapies for cardiac disease.

Every poem or novel ever written, every symphony or ballad ever composed, every painting or sculpture ever crafted share in common requisite ambition. It is (probably) not only shared by all innovators, but is also (almost certainly) a defining feature of humans.

Mehdi Razavi

I suspect that innovators (sorry folks, but entrepreneurs are far from having the market cornered on “innovation”), however, cluster on the right side of the Gaussian bell curve when it comes to this necessary ingredient.

But though it may be necessary, it is far from sufficient. Peel back the innovator’s mind set carefully, and you will see an ingredient without which ambition is a hawk with its wings clipped.

What the great writers, musicians and artists share is not only ambition or creativity, but also life experiences. By this I do not mean they need to have climbed every mountain and scuba dived in every coral reef (an increasingly challenging feat, but that’s for another day’s discussion). It means they have lived sufficiently to have seen and felt through others’ eyes and hearts.

When it comes to ambition, if there is any group who can give innovators a run for their money it will be those of us who have registered for the medical profession. Given its intended/stated audience, it follows that the purpose of this post is not to provide a prescription for low ambition titers.

You guessed it: The goal today is to encourage physician entrepreneurs to pursue those nebulous life experiences. If ambition is innovation’s water and creativity its oxygen, then the experience of having cross-pollinated with other spokes in the wheel of medical innovation are the lungs and guts that utilize those ingredients towards the hardest task of all: Implementation. If you don’t know what engineers know, you will not be able to position yourself to rebound and will miss shots we all hurl with frightening regularity.

From left, Texas Heart Institute/Baylor College of Medicine fellows Brian Greet, David Burkland, Jordan Chaisson and Michael McArdle

Toward this end we at Texas Heart Institute/Baylor College of Medicine have created a one-month elective for our clinical cardiology fellows that allows them to become fully immersed with the teams and expertise at the Texas Medical Center. During this month, the fellows are exempt from all clinical duties except night call.

For the first time in their education they are able to see things as engineers and business professionals do; it offers them remarkable insight into how the other hand thinks and operates. It gives what the writer calls life experience,but in this context I refer to as perspective.

During this time, the fellows participated in intensive didactic courses followed by interactive brainstorming sessions, all elbow-to-elbow with those who have backgrounds spanning from engineering to business to law.

They learned that conceiving an idea is probably the easiest part; that nurturing it into maturity is the tough part. The feedback was uniformly and overwhelmingly positive, so much so that the next rotation has already shaped up to be a coveted tour amongst the fellows themselves.

Indeed, innovator and entrepreneur (but not most physicians) can be compared to a musician or sculptor in which life perspective sounds more apropos. In our case, though, it serves us best to make a more routine (but not mundane!) analogy.

For surely the key to a successful marriage remains — above all — perspective, does it not?