Monday, 8 February 2016

I have an Idea....

"I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones."
John Cage

I have 52,768 items in my mail.

I also have a file with the title: ‘IDEAS’. When I click on ‘IDEAS’ the following message appears:
 ‘We didn’t find anything to show here’.

Now before you conclude that I have never had an idea in my life, sadly, many of my ideas are scattered amongst the 52,768 items in my mail; the remainder are orbiting Pluto just waiting to touch down. 

I hasten to add that my ideas that have touched down are in the SENT section, not the IN BOX, so they are my ideas. They reside in SENT because I have a habit of testing them on others before maturing them into a discussion paper or something a little less ephemeral than an email (or discarding them!).

I really must get organised, especially as I do not want my successor as CEO to discover how I ‘managed’ my mail!

 There are good ideas and bad ideas.

What is an ‘idea’?

John Locke said an idea is:  "that term which, I think, serves best to stand for whatsoever is the object of the understanding when a man thinks, I have used it to express whatever is meant by phantasm, notion, species, or whatever it is which the mind can be employed about in thinking; and I could not avoid frequently using it."  

There you go….now you know! 

‘’The capacity to create and understand the meaning of ideas is considered to be an essential and defining feature of human beings. In a popular sense, an idea arises in a reflexive, spontaneous manner, even without thinking or serious reflection, for example, when we talk about the idea of a person or a place.’’

In his book, 100 Mistakes that Changed History: Backfires and Blunders That Collapsed Empires, Crashed Economies, and Altered the Course of Our World  Bill Fawcett talks about bad ideas:
‘’From the Maginot Line to the Cuban Missile Crisis, history is filled with bad moves and not-so-bright ideas that snowballed into disasters and unintended consequences. 
Japan bombs Pearl Harbour. The Caliphs of Baghdad spend themselves into bankruptcy. The Aztecs greet the Conquistadors with open arms. Mexico invites the Americans to Texas - and the Americans never leave. ‘’

The Slinky: Inventor: Richard Jones, a naval engineer
Then there are the ideas that didn’t work but which succeeded as something else, including penicillin, the pacemaker, X-rays, post it notes, popsicles, potato chips, silly putty, the Slinky and Velcro.

Typically scientists, including those who deliver healthcare, share their ideas. That is what publishing in journals and presenting at conferences is all about. We stand on the shoulders of those who went before us in order to make progress. I remember well when CEO of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons mounting a legal challenge to an attempt by a surgeon to patent a particular variation on a long standing surgical procedure…we won!

Festivals of Ideas
A Festival of Ideas is a space where an intelligent public can engage with some of the best thinkers across a wide range of intellectual endeavour. 

I like this idea (oops). We have music, book, flower, comedy and other Festivals so why not one for ideas. In fact there are scores of these Ideas Festivals held around the world and they come up with a whole heap of thought provoking stuff AND….they can lead to positive change.

Take the 2015 Battle of Ideas at the Barbican, London. It explored a range of issues in which we as healthcare professionals have a keen interest including a topic I have been writing and presenting on a lot lately and one which occupies the minds of the ISQua Innovations Group – Ageing.

Topics such as these were tossed around:

‘Can technology solve the ageing timebomb?

From scandals over the quality of elder care to predictions about the burden that greying baby-
boomers will place on future generations, it is easy to lose sight of the success story of individuals living longer and healthier lives. And amid the discussion of how we pay for an ageing society, there is much less debate over what that care looks like. Policy-makers stress the importance of preventative medicine to reduce the need for care, as increases in life expectancy provoke angst about the loss of autonomy as our bodies age. As Oliver Sacks has argued, however, there is a growing perception that ‘we have come to medicalise aging, frailty and death’, rather than focus on how to provide ‘a life with meaning, as rich and full as possible under the circumstances’.

Research in this field has tended to be high-tech, focusing on such things as designing robots to provide nursing care or ‘smart’ homes in which embedded technologies monitor people’s physiological state. Such advances offer significant opportunities for semi-independent care. In theory at least, technology also offers the prospect of more than just physical support, with experimental ‘robot seals’ providing emotional support for dementia-sufferers alongside a variety of tools that help retain mental agility and provide a connection to the outside world. But there are surely ethical questions about outsourcing compassionate care to gadgets. What kind of society is it that has neither the time nor the interest to provide care to its elderly? More prosaically, much of the care needed by older people with chronic degenerative illness is ‘high touch’ – of the kind provided by incontinence teams and district nurses – not ‘high tech’.

Do assisted-living technologies offer a radical transformation in quality of life for the elderly or merely a distraction from the unglamorous challenges of adequate care? Can such advancements challenge our pessimistic view of ageing in society? Will society – or the market - inevitably produce the right solutions to cater for an ageing population, or do we need a shift in cultural outlook? What should be the focus of assisted-living technology if we are to help the elderly to enjoy as full and active a life as possible for as long as possible?’


With the world's elderly population growing rapidly, scientists are suggesting that robots could take on some of the burden of providing care, support and - most surprisingly - companionship.
                Alex Hudson, BBC, 16 November 2013

With the proportion of over-65s on the increase, Britain is facing a crisis when it comes to care of the elderly. Is technology the answer?
Andrew Griffiths, Telegraph, 13 April 2013

Sensors installed in nursing homes and even individual residences are helping nurses monitor seniors' health, but questions remain about cost, and privacy.
Michael L Millenson, Atlantic, 11 January 2013

Soon there will be three pensioners for every child under 15. Now, Patrick Collinson reports, the Land of the Rising Sun is going back to the future …
Patrick Collinson, Guardian, 20 March 2010’

Then there are Commissions for the Future.

These have tended to be subject specific, such as one on the future of Hospice care in the UK, but Australia established a generic body in 1985 with a wide and open remit. It turns out this Commission did not have much of a future itself and it closed in 1998. The Aussie Commission of the Future attracted much criticism during its life but it published commentaries on the future of many things and one general text: 

Melbourne: Commission for the Future and Australian Bicentennial Authority 1989

Despite its critics, it did some good. The offices of the Commission were just around the corner from my offices in Melbourne and I used often take my lunch there and enjoy the company of these ‘futurists’. 

SO, do not fear to think outside the box, even if our ideas emerge because we are standing on the shoulders of those who went before us….we are where we are because those who went before us did that too!

Peter Carter
Chief Executive Officer
February 2016

Mistakes That Worked – May 1, 1994 by Charlotte Jones (Author), John OBrien (Illustrator)