Those Who Suffer from a Problem, Can Invent to Solve It

(p. 1) Is it possible to extract blood from people without causing pain? For decades, this problem has stumped the medical industry. In an effort to replace the old-fashioned needle, companies are trying to deploy laser beams and tiny vacuums to draw blood.
In 2014, an engineer at Harvard named Ridhi Tariyal hit on a far simpler workaround. “I was trying to develop a way for women to monitor their own fertility at home,” she told me, and “those kinds of diagnostic tests require a lot of blood. So I was thinking about women and blood. When you put those words together, it becomes obvious. We have an opportunity every single month to collect blood from women, without needles.”
Together with her business partner, Stephen Gire, she has patented a method for capturing menstrual flow and transforming it into medical samples. “There’s lots of information in there,” Ms. Tariyal said, “but right now, it’s all going in the trash.”
Why did Ms. Tariyal see a possibility that had eluded so many engineers before her? You might say she has an unfair advantage: her gender.
. . .
(p. 4) Eric von Hippel, a scholar of innovation at M.I.T., has spent decades studying what seems like a truism: People who suffer from a problem are uniquely equipped to solve it. “What we find is that functionally novel innovations — those for which a market is not yet defined — tend to come from users,” he said. He pointed out that young Californians pioneered skateboards so that they could “surf” the streets. And surgeons built the first heart-and-lung machines to keep patients alive during long operations. “The reason users are so inventive is twofold. One is that they know the needs firsthand,” he said. The other is that they have skin in the game.

For the full commentary, see:
PAGAN KENNEDY. “The Tampon of the Future.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., APRIL 3, 2016): 1 & 4-5.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date APRIL 1, 2016.)

Pagan Kennedy’s book, that is related to her commentary quoted above, is:
Kennedy, Pagan. Inventology: How We Dream up Things That Change the World. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., 2016.

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