Lorna Ross: Innovation is all about timing, not good ideas

10 Nov 2016

Lorna Ross, director of design, Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

The Mayo Clinic Center’s director for design, Lorna Ross, spoke about her experiences as a designer in healthcare and how it isn’t all about good ideas when it comes to innovation.

Dublin native Lorna Ross had no plans to get into healthcare as a designer, but as she said on stage at Inspirefest 2016, design is all about thinking of the future – but in a very optimistic way.

Having started her studies working with fashion and textiles at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, Ross moved to London, where she shifted from the physical to the digital, to develop her skills at industrial and computer-related design at the Royal College of Art.

Fast forward a number of years later and she is now the director of design at the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation – one of the world’s most prestigious medical institutions – where she uses her design experience to benefit clinical practices.

Previously speaking to Siliconrepublic.com, Ross cited a moment when she sat in on a meeting about issues in the NHS as when she became aware of the potential for design to improve healthcare.

In the following years, she admitted that as a designer, it can be really hard to break into healthcare if you are not a scientist or a medical professional.

However, upon entering the Mayo Clinic, Ross admitted that it was abundantly clear that change was not a welcome word there, as it had become a “hallowed space” and a “Mecca” of healthcare, which required a change of mindset.

Persistence is key

Among some of her accomplishments include Project RED, which identified a whole new set of tools to identify patients with the capacity to perform dialysis at home. This was to help overcome the discomfort that some patients felt about either receiving it at home or in a hospital.

But when it comes down to how innovation can be achieved – regardless of what sector it is in – Ross has said that while someone might have a fantastic idea, in reality, it is all about perfect timing in order to make it really successful.

Highlighting one example, she told us how she was the design lead for Motorola in the late 1990s on wearables called Project Jacquard, named after a famous loom.

A number of years later, Ross saw that Google teamed up with jeans maker Levis on a similar merger between fashion and technology with the exact same name.

“[When] working in innovation, you can feel like your ideas are really good and you don’t understand why it didn’t gain any traction, but it is all about context and timing,” she said.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Book now to get half-price Super Early Bird tickets before prices go up on 15 December.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic