In conjunction with the launch of our new game Design Thinker, we will post several real world examples of design thinking in action. Today’s post highlights the work of Embrace Global and one of its co-founders, Linus Liang.
20 million premature and low-birth-weight (LBW) babies are born every year. Of these, four million will die within the first month of life. Those that survive face severe long-term health problems like diabetes and respiratory disease.
99% of neonatal deaths occur in low to middle income countries. Why? The proven treatment – the infant incubator – is cost prohibitive. At $25,000 for a single unit, this life saving device is out of reach for the world’s poorest.
The solution seems obvious – design an affordable incubator. In 2007, Linus Liang and his team at the Stanford d.School were tasked with the ambitious objective of creating an incubator for 1% of the standard cost – a mere $250.
I recently shared this story with a friend who is an accomplished engineer and his immediate reaction was one of excitement. “It actually might not be that difficult,” he claimed, “incandescent bulbs, analog, combined with appropriate insulation would be a starting point.” A talented, visual thinker, my friend appeared to be working up the schematics in his head.
And perhaps he’s right – it might not be that hard. However as Linus and his team soon discovered, hard to design or not, an affordable incubator would have little impact because it solves the wrong problem.