Illustration by Christine White

Analog Innovation

Innovation permeates. Health tech ideas emerge on a daily basis that help predict, prevent, and even control health in new and unexpected ways. Artificial intelligence personalizes relationships in ways we’ve never imagined possible and provides data that can be leveraged to link patients, healthcare providers, and communities to their health outcomes, and so much more. Wearables will continue to grow to help drive routines and keep people accountable for their health. AR and VR allow customers an empathetic experience and are now available in a group setting. And voice-activated devices will take our healthy living to whole new levels.

With all these technologic advancements in healthcare, one has to question other types of innovation. Technology may be the foundational source of innovation, but as the definition dictates, innovation is the introduction of something new — whether it’s a new idea, method, device, or novelty.

This year, two poignant examples have shown that technology-based ideas are not the only way to innovate. No one’s denying that the health tech innovation trend will continue to evolve, but we’ll also see the re-emergence of analog ideas, which can be equally effective. And when a “big” analog idea is activated, we see a shift in which technology now plays a supporting role.

The famous “Fearless Girl” statue, which stares down the Wall Street Bull on behalf of female leadership on Wall Street, was installed on the evening of International Women’s Day to make a bold statement. This powerful proclamation fueled conversations around female leaders in all kinds of business, and this activating idea gained international fame. It became symbolic of the “empowered woman” and was so broad in its rallying cry that it impacted our future leaders. “Fearless Girl” took hold with a brilliant PR play and naturally went viral because it moved people. It was a big analog idea that was so simple, so bold, and yet so powerful that it drew worldwide attention. This idea set out to make a statement and change behavior, but its impact was far greater and more meaningful than even imagined. Now that’s innovation.

See the video.

In healthcare, another brilliant analog idea, “The Immunity Charm,” was incredibly innovative and filled an unmet need in Afghanistan. It’s a simple bracelet, similar to other lucky bracelets traditionally worn in Afghanistan to protect children from evil spirits. This idea harnessed the deep-rooted cultural beliefs to save lives in Afghanistan by creating the immunity charm bracelet, which keeps records of vaccinations. It mashed culture and tradition to create an idea that would naturally assimilate into the lives of Afghanis. Another simple yet powerful idea that captured the attention of an entire nation and could potentially impact future generations.

See the video.

These ideas really brought home the need to think of innovation differently. Innovation brings a new, unique idea or method to market and these two examples showcase the need to be mindful of the problems we’re trying to solve while considering the most surprising or even organic way to answer these problems. And, lastly, we need to recognize that ideas can be equally powerful whether they’re technologically based or analog in nature.